By Jerry Chandler
2016 is in the rearview mirror, we’re well on the road into the New Year, and 2017 has some solid offerings on the horizon for geeks of all stripes. From little, seemingly out of the way projects to the big screen, this is a year that’s going to either be geek nirvana or a repeat of a lot of 2016’s missed opportunities. Hopefully it’s a lot closer to being the former than the latter with what we’re going to look at here.
I will start this with a brief bit of negativity though. The UFC’s first fight of the New Year (UFC Fight Night 103) is Sunday, January 15. Sure, it’s not a PPV, but it’s still the first fight card under the UFC banner for 2017. As a fight promotion, you’d think they’d want to set off on the right foot to open 2017. Instead, we’re getting the main event of Rodríguez vs. Penn.
Now, I’ve got nothing against Yair Rodríguez being in a main event, so nothing to complain about there. But B.J. Penn not only being on a UFC fight card in 2017, but returning after a long absence to fight in a main event? B.J. Penn, a fighter who hasn’t been in a fight since July 2014 and hasn’t won a fight since November 2010. B.J. Penn, a fighter who has a record over his last eight fights of 2 wins, 5 losses, and one draw and kept talking about retiring after every loss before finally doling it in 2014, got flagged for a USADA IV violation one his first scheduled return in 2016, and hasn’t looked like he’s taken his fight training seriously (or as seriously as he ever did) since 2009. Plus there’s the nature of the losses he suffered. B.J. Penn did not simply lose his last few fights, but the beatings were becoming so one sided that it looked like he was about to get murdered on live television.
I’m a fight fan. I’m a UFC fan. I was even a fan of Penn back in the day. I have no interest in watching B.J. Penn get outclassed in a one sided massacre in the octagon by the new generation of fighters one more time. I get that the UFC may feel like it needs a big name for ratings, but Penn shouldn’t be fighting- and certainly not in a main event fight -in 2017. Maybe Penn- having a problem many competitors have -doesn’t know when to stop, but the UFC should damned well know after his last several performances that he has no place in their octagon as an active competitor any longer.
Now on to better things…
Kong: Skull Island
Slated for a release date of March 10th; Kong: Skull Island is one of those films that had me shaking my head when the news first broke but has now made me cautiously optimistic about its quality. I wasn’t a big fan of Peter Jackson’s King Kong, and early word on this project was that this version of Kong was being put into production pretty much just to set up a remake of King Kong vs. Godzilla using this Kong and 2014’s Godzilla. They were doing it seeming for no other reason than everyone at the studios wants everything to be a “shared universe” these days.
While I may have huge reservations about the studio’s ultimate endgame here, everything we’ve been seeing related to Kong: Skull Island is making this one look like it’s going to be a popcorn munching good time in theaters. The cast is solid, the story looks like it’s avoiding the usual remake’s story trap of thinking it has to bring Kong to civilization, and so far it even seems that they’ve come up with a legitimate reason to not have our humans just be able to leave.
Now, one thing about Peter Jackson’s King Kong that had me rolling my eyes more than a few times was Jackson’s overuse of CGI to show on the big screen literally anything he could think up. Whether it was Kong juggling Ann Darrow while fighting off a couple of Tyrannosaurus rex, the dino stampede, the crew machine gunning bugs off of each other, or a host of other things, Jackson’s film should be a textbook example of what you should avoid when it comes to overuse of CGI or thinking that since you can show literally anything in any way that you should. Most of what we’ve seen so far looks like this film will avoid that, but a few scenes in the trailers have a whiff of this about them. I’m really hoping that’s more a result of the fast cut nature of the trailers than it is from the actual style used for those scenes.
But other than that one caveat, Kong: Skull Island looks like a great monster movie/adventure film, and with luck it will deliver on the promise it’s hinting at having.
July 7th delivers a film that, again, I’ll be all too happy to eat crow over with regards to my initial misgivings. Spider-Man: Homecoming is going to be the sixth Spider-Man film released into theaters since 2002, and it marks the second full on reboot for the Spider-Man franchise. After watching Sony interfere with the third Toby Maguire film to the point of screwing up the film and killing off the franchise and then essentially making the same mistakes with the second Andrew Garfield film, I was a little worried that even Marvel’s hand in this wasn’t going to keep us from seeing a Sony cock-up three-peat. Then Captain America: Civil War happened.
Spider-Man’s appearance in that film may have been the highlight of that film. One thing that made him feel like the highlight of the film more than anything else was that it felt more like seeing the classic comic book Spider-Man on the big screen than any Spider-Man before this one. The manic energy- or more accurately the nervous energy –of the teenage hero was on full display. Also on display was wide eyed wonder and fun that the original Spider-Man stories conveyed. Peter Parker’s life was stressful and a downer, but when he donned the suit and was in the middle of the action, he was a character who reveled in using his powers to do good. Plus, you know, he won’t shut up.
Spider-Man’s bit wasn’t just throwing out the odd wisecrack while fighting. He was a teenager risking his life. The level of nervous energy he had in those moments was off the charts, and it manifested itself in talking nonstop; a stream of consciousness commentary in the middle of the fight with humor to cover his anxiety. That’s what we saw during the airport scene in Civil War.
This Spider-Man looks like it’s going to be the truest to the classic character than any before it, and, even more importantly, it looks like it’s going to be fun.
Oh, and, web-foil gliders!
God Particle (Cloverfield 3)
It was revealed back in October of 2016 that God Particle was in fact the third film in the Cloverfield Universe. Currently slated for an October 2017 release, the story follows a crew onboard a space station that make a reality altering discovery that has them fighting for their lives.
The concept for the Cloverfield Universe is one that I find intriguing as a viewer- a series of stories told in a universe that’s connected with only the barest noticeable threads and will have a vibe to it not unlike The Twilight Zone. It’s also interesting looking at the ways they try to connect the films and how far in advanced they’ll place a tease for it.
This video was a part of the viral campaign for 10 Cloverfield Lane. It made little sense to anyone when they first heard it. It made less sense to many after they saw the movie. Some speculated it was connected to the alien invasion, but it comes across now as being a very early tease for God Particle.
There are other things that connect the films, including the past employment of a key 10 Cloverfield Lane character, but that’s all after the fact fun. The last two films were both solid and enjoyable films playing in two different subgenres of horror- the monster movie and the human predator. God Particle sounds like it could be a solid science fiction horror film, and it will be fun on top of that to see how it further fleshes out the Cloverfield Universe.
Jerry Chandler follows geek stuff. When not found writing here he can be found writing for Gruesome Magazine and his own blog. He has a Twitter. He can also occasionally be heard talking pro wrestling with the amazingly talented crew at of the ESO Pro: The Pro-Wrestling Roundtable podcast.