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« Open Thread | Main | TIFF: "Gravity" & "Eleanor Rigby: Him / Her" »
Saturday
Sep142013

Burning Questions: War of the Five (Nerd) Kings

Hey everybody, Michael C. here. There are certain phrases entertainment writers are fond of throwing around until they lose all meaning. If pop culture pundits are to believed at any given moment there are around a dozen “Best Shows on Television” and twice that many “It Girls”. 

One phrase run into the ground this past summer was declaring such and such person “King of the Nerds -every week saw a new monarch crowned by the media. So in an effort to save everyone the confusion I propose we settle the matter here and now:

Who is the current King of the Nerds?

If we were to put things into Game of Thrones terms (and why wouldn’t we?) George Lucas is the Mad King who used to be the unquestioned ruler but had to be deposed when he lost his mind and started dragging his own films out onto the throne room floor to be destroyed. Peter Jackson would be the Robert Baratheon who was swept into power on the glory of the Lord of the Rings trilogy but whose subsequent projects became increasingly bloated until he was but a shadow of the leader he was when he first took the crown.

Now into the power vacuum wades these potential heirs to the throne and their fervent armies of fans:

JOSS WHEDON – The Popular Favorite

Hand of the King: Nathan Fillion

Claim to the Throne: Tough to beat his combination of mainstream success and cult adoration. Currently at the helm of The Avengers franchise, which, in case you failed to notice, was box office champ of the summer for the second year in a row. Its television spin-off Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. debuts a week from Tuesday. Fans don’t come more loyal than his legion of followers. 

Achilles Heel: Does he desire the title? Low-budget black and white Shakespeare adaptations? Internet musicals? Talk of doing a ballet? He seems more like a theater dork at heart.

 

SIMON PEGG – The People’s King

Hand of the King: Nick Frost

Claim to the Throne: Listen to him talk for 5 minutes (or glance at the cover of his book) and it’s clear that he is the real nerd deal. When he isn’t improving mega franchises with his presence, he is spearheading the Cornetto trilogy, the cult success of the last decade.

Achilles Heel: Can't really break out of cult status as a leading man, but then again, maybe that’s a plus for a Nerd King.

 

BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH - The Knight of Flowers

Hand of the King: Martin Freeman

Claim to the Throne: Provokes the opposite of Affleck casting tantrums. Welcomed with open arms every time he shows up in a new geek-friendly franchise, which lately feels like all of them.

Achilles Heel – Sic Transit Gloria. In a year or two his roles in the The Hobbit, Star Trek, and Sherlock will all be in the rear view mirror.

 

JJ ABRAMS – World Conqueror

Hand of the King: A Pile of Money

Claim to the throne: All your franchise are belong to him. Accomplished the obscene fantasy of landing both the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises. Who can top that?

Achilles Heel: He has the power but does he have the love of the people? Star Wars and Star Trek aren’t what they once were and he his films have the habit of leaving vocally disgruntled fans in their wake. The masses could rise up against him.

 

GUILLERMO DEL TORO – The Connoisseur’s Choice

Hand of the King: Ron Perlman

Claim to Throne: One of the few guys creating original visions for the screen instead of rebooting and rehashing old ones. Lackluster response to Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, a project he was originally attached to, has only increased his cred, “If only Guillermo had done it…”

Achilles heel: Pacific Rim suggests he loses some of his mojo when reaching for mass appeal. More suited to work on the fringes than to sit on the throne.

 

It doesn’t feel right for me to make such a momentous judgment on my own, so I leave it to you. Declare which army you would join below or make a case for a different candidate altogether in the comments. 

 

 

 

Previous Burning Questions
You can follow Michael C. on Twitter at @SeriousFilm. Or read his blog Serious Film

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Reader Comments (15)

Judd Apatow is the king of the nerds. His spawn continues to output geek product while winning at it.

September 14, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Michael: My five answers of "nerd royalty" would be stuck solely to writers or film directors (actors don't count (too visibile)) and not solely to "cinematic" talent. My answers:

1. Joss Whedon (TV and film writer/director)
2. Edgar Wright (TV and film writer/director)
3. Gail Simone (comic book writer)
4. Pendleton Ward (creator of that bizarre show Adventure Time. I'm not really a fan, but a lot of other people ARE into it.)
5. Guillermo Del Toro (I don't think he's lost his mojo, (the worldwide gross on Pacific Rim is still GOOD, after all), but a consciously globalist effort was p

September 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

To complete that incomplete thought: "Probably never going to catch immediate box office fire in the States."

September 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

haha I like your George Lucas and Peter Jackson comparisons - although I have not lost hope on Jackson yet!

AND I think Christopher Nolan should definitely be in contention. Has a HUGE cult following after Memento, Inception, and the Dark Knight Trilogy. His next film coming out next year is another sci-fi film - Interstellar which will no doubt get the nerds talking.

Joss and Simon will be nerd kings forevermore. I'd say Del Toro is a Queen. Abrams and Cumberbach are pawns in the Nerd kingdom at this point and I don't see them moving beyond their current stations.

September 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Anonny: Three years ago, there'd be almost no argument on Nolan being in the royalty, but three years ago, Adventure Time had only had one full season, the contentious films The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel hadn't dropped and Gail Simone hadn't had that big confirmation of how loyal her fans are by getting kicked off a book and then getting reinstated due to the fan backlash. If you're not limiting yourself to film talent, Gail and Pendleton Ward are fairly clearly in the current nerd royalty.

September 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Cumberbatch's fame somewhat confuses me. He is not a bad actor but not somebody who should shoot to A-list and his sex appeal has gone from befuddling to amusing, personally. Plus his persona, like telling tabloids to become Syria/Egypt experts and attacking Jonny Lee Miller for doing Elementary does not make me think he is approachable like a Tom Hiddleston where I can at least see the appeal.

JJ Abrams feels like a major studio's idea of a nerd but aside from the glasses, I see nothing nerdy and the trends he has led with his collaborators in Orci/Lindelof/Kurtzmn to me has hurt sci-fi more than helped. This sounds cruel but I just think of him as the poser fake nerds who cashed in when the going was good. AKA The Chris Hardwick wing of nerd-dom (though I like some of the podcasts on Nerdists).

Whedon's fine because his nerd-dom crosses into Shakespeare and musical theater which to me makes perfect sense because there were plenty of theater kids that I knew into comics. Plus, he did a run on X-Men and his fandom resurrected a canceled show to be a movie BEFORE Avengers. Legit Nerd King.

Team Pegg/Frost. I prefer those influenced by John Carpenter than George Lucas. No need to make stuff complicated. These are the descendants of midnight movies and video stores. Same for Guillermo Del Toro. All three of these guys have in common are perceived box office failures and not entirely connecting to the mainstream. To me that is a feather to their cap and case.

Team Gail- She created something forever in the parlance of comic book speak and it's depiction of female characters. She is always allowed in the kingdom.

Write-ins:

Vince Gilligan- Come on. Let's not limit this to the big screen. He made a show where chemistry is central, blew up the anti-hero trend in TV, has had some of the best action directors (Rian Johnson and Michelle MacLaren) working on Breaking Bad, and his last big show he worked on was The X Files, nerd TV pantheon. Plus Badger's Star Trek theories on the show are better than any Abrams, Orci, and Kurtzman Star Trek.

Dan Harmon- He is so easy to hate but it is one of the nerdiest shows on TV, had a pretty gender even writers room, and had Levar Burton say on TV, 'More fish for Kunta'. Plus he has a podcast where he plays dungeons and dragons.

George R. R. Martin- No question.

It now just occurred to me how much of a white sausage-fest this. Let me throw in Justin Lin. He did something impressive in today's Hollywood by taking a movie franchise on life support and turned it into something actually respectable. You know how hard that is to do the campground theory in Hollywood? Plus he is attached to the next Temrinator movie, which means I will love him or hate him in a few years time.

September 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

CMG - Badger's Star Trek fan fiction on Breaking Bad would've been better than Into Darkness

September 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

All hail Whedon. That is all.

September 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Ugh, Cumberbatch. I hate it when I can't stand the it-person who is all over the place. Jennifer Lawrence and him (and especially their fans) terrorize my nerves whenever they appear.

September 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTheis

I'm over this nerd trend like I'm over the twerk trend (meaning, I'm over the 'trend' part, not the thing, people can be nerds and/or twerk, I'm tired of them talking and feeling 'special' about it).

September 15, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

Def Kevin Smith!

September 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterG.ShaQ

G.Shaq: In 1998-2005? Definitely. (Though in the tail end of that probably more on the back of those Daredevil and Green Arrow comics he wrote.) Now? Eh, he was never really a great filmmaker, his comics work has become A LOT worse (The Widening Gyre, anyone) and when handed something not from his own pen (Cop Out) his filmmaking flaws get thrown into sharp relief.

September 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Not too sure about the argument that "The Hobbit" would have increased Del Toro's nerd cred. I remember the criticism the first chunk received last year for (among other things) being "too dark", which was not in keeping with the spirit of fun which many ascribe to the book. I can only imagine how dark the tone of the film would have been had Del Toro directed it.

September 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

Can I nominate Anna Kendrick for current Queen of the Nerds? JLaw has the franchise, but she's got the adorable Twitter presence.

September 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrian W.

Brian W: I think including actors almost invalidates a list like this. An actress, however talented and twitter active, versus Gail Simone, who coined the term Women in Refigerators and eventually backed up her intelligence with strong runs on Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman and Batgirl? Yeah, point goes to Simone.

September 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

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