Geeks weigh in on the best movies of 2004

The past year was a good one for the types of movies that technophiles love, and geeks everywhere say 2005 and beyond promise to be even better.

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A lack of movies about Middle-Earth and time-traveling cyborgs didn't stop 2004 from being a great year for the types of far-out films that technophiles seem to love, and geeks across the land agree that 2005 and beyond promise to be even better.

By far, Spider-Man 2 tops the list of IT pros' favorite films of the year, according to a highly unscientific random poll of a handful of such viewers. Folks also enjoyed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Hellboy and a host of animated movies, including The Incredibles, Shrek 2 and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.

Looking to 2005 and 2006, IT pros said they're highly anticipating films like the upcoming Tim Burton remake of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory; Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, which is set for release next May; Electra, a spin-off of Daredevil; and Batman Begins, a prequel to the Batman saga.

Anytime you get the geek who sort of becomes cool, even if it requires a secret identity, we latch onto that.
Joey Di Girolamo
ProprietorJoeyTheFilmGeek.com

But just what is it that draws highly intelligent techies to visually dazzling films about unlikely superheroes, wizards and futuristic computers gone haywire? One self-professed "film geek" said it has a lot do to with high school.

"High school is basically where everyone sort of becomes who they are. If you're the geek, you're the geek. And if you're the jock, you're the jock," said Joey Di Girolamo, webmaster for the Miami Dade County elections department and proprietor of JoeyTheFilmGeek.com, a labor-of-love site devoted to movie fodder. "And when you're the geek, you tend to be attracted to things that are I guess a little unusual, whether it be science fiction or fantasy and other stuff like that."

Newly cool geeks rule the big screen in 2004

The phrase "geeky movies" undoubtedly conjures up images of spaceships, superheroes and animated characters. And with movies like Alien vs. Predator, I, Robot and Shark Tale, there was certainly no shortage of this type of fare in 2004.

But IT geeks said some less technological 2004 releases featuring the classic "geek-turned-cool" scenario (e.g., The Girl Next Door and Napoleon Dynamite) also gave them a fair bit of guilty pleasure.

It's not surprising then that the movie most often cited by techies as the best geek film of the year combined state-of-the-art special effects and out-there scientific concepts with the story of an understated young genius forced to deal with the everyday pressures of being a super hero.

"Spider-Man 2 has got everything that geeks can relate to. I mean, the main character is a geek," Di Girolamo said. "Anytime you get the geek who sort of becomes cool, even if it requires a secret identity, we latch onto that."

Indeed, technophiles everywhere loved Spider-Man 2. Some have even gone as far as to call it "the best superhero movie since Superman II." In the world of geek entertainment -- where sequels reign supreme -- that's a pretty strong statement.

Surf this Web!

Despite the immense popularity of Spider-Man 2, a significant number of Spidey purists feel that certain aspects of the movie aren't true to the classic Marvel comics on which the movie is based. While most said they like the film very much anyway, they are quick to point out discrepancies.

For a closer look into this heated controversy, TechTarget consulted a different kind of geek -- one who makes his living outside of IT, but who had something to add to this particular discussion.

"I got a little tired of the fact that every time you turned around Spider-Man was losing his mask," said Steven Myers, owner and manager of World of Comics, a comic book store in South Daytona, Fla. "And revealing himself to [love interest] Mary Jane. I could have lived without that."

The most glaring difference surrounds the web slinger's ability to, well, sling webs. Just about anyone who knows anything about the comic book version of Peter Parker (Spider-Man's secret identity) knows that the brainy young scientist and photographer created his web-slingers in a lab. But in the movies, Parker gains the ability to spin webs organically, after being bit by a radioactive spider.

As for Spider-Man's inherent web-slinging ability, Myers, a fan of comics since early childhood, said it takes away from the fullness of the Peter Parker character.

"The whole point of Peter Parker was that he was really smart as a scientist, smart enough to create the web-shooters," he said. "But Peter Parker in the movie is such a geek that you get no idea he's really intelligent."

Animation is for grown ups, too

The phenomenon of funny animated movies that seem to attract young and old alike continued in 2004 and shows no signs of waning. IT pros said the key to the success of films like The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and Shark Tale is that they seamlessly integrate grownup humor with child's play.

At the top of the list of this year's animated favorites is The Incredibles, the story of a family of superheroes who get back into the crime-fighting game after a long time on the sidelines, and who find that they've grown a bit rusty along the way.

"I really liked the Incredibles," said Larry Davis, a grownup and the CIO at Sterne, Agee & Leach Group Inc., a retail brokerage house based in Birmingham, Ala. "It's always a treat when the [animated movies] have topics in them that you can relate to, but they're wrapped up in enough silly that the younger kids just think it is funny."

Davis went to see The Incredibles with his wife after his two teenage daughters recommended it. Besides the funny jokes, he said he really liked the movie's family-friendly themes, which he said truly reflected real life.

"If you're a dad, at some point in your kids' life, as they're smaller and they're growing up, you are a superhero," Davis said. "And then you get old and fat, and that brings up that other problem."

The future is geeky

Don't expect an end to the fun anytime soon. IT geeks and movie fans said 2005 and beyond promises some great things in the world of entertainment.

Star Wars fans who didn't get enough of their favorite characters in a recent ESPN commercial can look forward to the upcoming release of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, which tells the story of Anakin Skywalker's descent into evil, which eventually turns him into Darth Vader.

If that's not enough, Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise are hard at work putting together a remake of the classic Orson Welles flick The War of the Worlds, in which extraterrestrials descend on Earth, bent on taking over the planet.

"Your initial reaction might be, 'I liked this movie better when it was called Independence Day,' but I personally have high hopes," said David Pye, another self-professed movie nerd, an Internet blogger and the senior account manager with SpiderSplat Consulting Inc., a search engine optimization company in Boston. "The original version is still creepy 51 years later, and with Spielberg at the helm, anything is possible."

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