See the moment that made Andrew Garfield a star in Hall H
SAN DIEGO - With no Batman or Superman or Avengers in sight, there was one title that seemed to be the most anticipated of Comic-Con, but the release of the first teaser trailer for "The Amazing Spider-Man" took some of the wind out of the Sony sails on the eve of this week's event. They had something to prove with today's panel, and I'd say based on the footage they showed and the conversation with the filmmakers that happened onstage, they may have walked away having turned the opinion of most of Hall H around.
Sony's one of the only studios to throw what felt like a conventional Comic-Con panel this year, with four different films all given the star treatment back to back to back to back. They were smart to bookend the panel with their two superhero titles because that meant the captive audience sat through presentations they might not have otherwise, and overall, it was a confident display that seemed to accomplish exactly what they set out to accomplish.
The big question for most fans about another "Ghost Rider" film is "why?" After all, the first one is one of the stranger Marvel misfires, and he's always been a character that is known primarily for how he looks, not for any particular storyline. I remember talking to Nicolas Cage on the set of "Kick-Ass" about the possibility of a sequel, and at that point, his big idea involved Johnny Blaze going to work for the Vatican as a demon hunter. I have no idea based on what we saw today whether that's still an element of the film or not, but one thing's for sure. The new "Ghost Rider" movie is going to be absolutely barking mad.
A great hour spent with two genre titans
SAN DIEGO - Say what you will about the merits or demerits of an event like Comic-Con, but the first-ever appearance by Steven Spielberg in Hall H was a genuinely stirring way to kick off a Friday, and moments like these make a strong case for this as more than "just" a promotional event.
Comic-Con took advantage of the moment with Paramount to play it up, awarding him the Inkpot that I've seen them give to other legends like Hayao Miyazaki the year he brought "Ponyo." Before they brought the legendary director out, they ran a clips package cut to various pieces of John Williams music composed for those films, and it's one of those things that you can't get wrong. When you're pulling images and moments and iconic beats from "Jurassic Park" and "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" and "E.T." and "Temple of Doom" and "Close Encounters" and "War Of The Worlds" and "A.I." and "Sugarland Express" and "Duel" and "Munich" and even "Hook" and "Empire Of the Sun" and "Always," you're going to find way more than enough material to work with. The music, the images, the memories they evoke… this is a career you can't argue with, and it always amuses me when contrarians try to take something away from Spielberg's reputation. Few filmmakers, living or dead, have ever worked with this kind of focused skill for as long or in as many genres as Spielberg, and the images he's created are a roadmap through the pop culture of the last 40 years.
A promo stop for his upcoming DVD turns into a love fest
SAN DIEGO - Since Disney decided not to bring "The Muppets" to San Diego to help promote their new movie this fall, my guess is the most direct hit of bottled childhood available to Comic-Con attendees walked out onstage today to thunderous applause in a familiar grey suit and red bowtie.
Ostensibly, Paul Reubens appeared to promote the upcoming home video release of "The Pee-Wee Herman Show On Broadway," which appeared on HBO, but it really felt more like he showed up just to say hello and answer some questions. They opened the panel with a clip from the show, the opening few minutes of the special, and then Eric "Quint" Vespe walked out to start the panel with no announcement or preamble from anyone else.
That's appropriate. When I went to see "The Pee-Wee Herman Show" in Los Angeles at LA Live with my wife and my son, Eric was also there that night. He and another friend flew in expressly to go see the show, and talking afterwards, it was obvious that the night meant quite a bit to him. To see him sit onstage in Hall H steering the conversation with Pee Wee is a great pleasure, and it came across much better than a more polished promotional thing might have.
Some very funny clips suggest the 'Wallace & Gromit' creators are in fine form
SAN DIEGO - It was a relaxing, enjoyable day in Hall H, and no one is more shocked to type those words than I am.
"Twilight" fans lined up for days, literally, to get into the first panel of the morning, and I was worried about how that would impact my ability to get into Hall H for the panel afterwards. Turns out it was incredibly simple, and I was able to just stroll right in, early enough that I ended up seeing about half of the "Twilight: Breaking Dawn" panel. It's still strange to me to see Bill Condon up there in the midst of all of this, and I'm not going to write about the film at this point. I will say that the guy sitting behind me with Tourette's made the entire experience much more surreal, though, and the only person who dropped the F-bomb in that room more times today was Guillermo Del Toro.
Speaking of which, once the "Twilight" panel ended, but before the Sony Animation panel started, we got an unscheduled sneak peek at Morgan Spurlock's new Comic-Con documentary, and it looks like a very heartfelt and genuine portrait of fandom, not a movie that makes fun of geeks. Some familiar faces like Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith, and Seth Rogen show up as talking head interviews, and there are lots and lots of costumes and fans on display as well. I thought the money quote came from Del Toro, who said, "Comic-Con is like a Russian doll. There are many Comic-Cons within Comic-Con." Very true. I may spend my time focused on Hall H and the film events, but it's possible to come here and never once set foot in that room and have an amazing time. It all depends on what you want to get out of the con, and I look forward to seeing "Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope" this fall.
Plus details on 'In Time' and more 'Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes' footage
SAN DIEGO - By far, the biggest of today's Hall H panels in terms of anticipation had to be the one thrown by 20th Century Fox, and they wasted no time in making sure people got what they came for when Damon Lindelof, the moderator of the panel, walked out to discuss the new movie "Prometheus."
He thanked everyone in attendance for choosing the Fox panel over the "Game Of Thrones" panel which was going on at the same time, and then teased us a bit by suggesting that he might be able to produce a real knight to talk to us.
"I was driving in my car a year ago and my phone rang and someone said, 'Ridley Scott will call you in five minutes. Are you available?' So after I crashed my car and dealt with the aftermath of that, Ridley Scott did call me, and he told me he was going to send me a script and he wanted to know what I think of it. I read that script, and at the time, the question was 'Is this an ALIEN prequel?' That was the start of a process where I got to sit across the table from him and really go to work with this guy whose work inspired me so much in the first place." That really is a dream scenario, and Lindelof's enthusiasm for whatever they ended up building together was palpable as he introduced the first footage from the film.
How did they get from Blade to the Beatles of superheroes in just over a decade?
It was over a decade ago, and my writing partner and I found ourselves seated in a conference room across a table from Avi Arad and Kevin Feige. We were at Lionsgate, and the reason for our meeting was to pitch our version of "Deadpool." At the time, Lionsgate had struck a deal with Marvel to make movies based on their lesser-known characters, many of which they had inherited from Artisan.
We ended up not getting the job, but that was my real introduction to the team who were determined to turn Marvel into a viable movie studio, and in the years since, I've watched as they have slowly but surely pulled off what I would have sworn was impossible as I was growing up.
Now, as "Captain America: The First Avenger" opens in theaters and next summer's "The Avengers" wraps up shooting, it's time to look back at how Marvel got here, what they did right, what they did wrong, and where all of this could be headed next.
How does this last step on the road to 'The Avengers' stack up?
- Critic's Rating A
- Readers' Rating B+
"Captain America: The First Avenger" is one of the finest movies yet from Marvel Studios, and a big departure in tone and storytelling from most of the films they've made so far. It is a strong indicator that the more willing the studio is to experiment, the more exciting the payoffs can be. In this case, there's no clear precursor to this one in anything else Marvel's done, and it feels like branching out and trying something this different freed them up. It helps that director Joe Johnston shot the film like he had something to prove and Chris Evans appears to have been born for this role. Everything came together here in a way that I'm not sure anyone could have predicted, and that indefinable chemistry is one of the things that makes this feel so special.
The first and most immediate difference between this and the other movies Marvel has made so far is the time frame over which the story plays out. The film starts in the present day, then flashes back to the early days of WWII. The main story plays out not over days or even weeks, but over years. It is, in essence, a look at the entire WWII career of Captain America, and his origins as Steve Rogers. It isn't structured like a typical superhero film, either. It focuses on two main arcs over the course of its running time. First, there's the story of Rogers, a skinny weakling with a lion's heart who is chosen to be the test subject in the Super Soldier program headed by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) and how he learns to handle the power he's been granted. At the same time, we follow the efforts of Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), aka The Red Skull, whose HYDRA is starting to outgrow its origins as the dark science division of the Nazis thanks to his discovery of a strange glowing cube that once resided in the vault of weapons kept by Odin in Asgard. The collision between these two story arcs is what keeps driving the movie forward, but there is plenty of room built in for digressions, and the end result feels like reading an entire collection of issues of the same book.
We discuss how to be a strong woman in the Marvel Universe
My favorite television series of all time is Patrick McGoohan's original "The Prisoner," which is why I never ended up seeing the new AMC version of the show. I just couldn't bring myself to watch and subject myself to something that would, at best, suffer by comparison and, at worst, infuriate me beyond reason.
What I think I missed by avoiding the series was an introduction to Hayley Atwell.
I've seen earlier films she was in, but in smaller roles. It's TV where it appears she's had her biggest parts so far, like "The Prisoner," "The Pillars Of The Earth," and "Any Human Heart." Haven't seen a one of them, though, so when I sat down for "Captain America: The First Avenger," it was basically my introduction to her, which actually worked for the character she's playing, Peggy Carter.
Turns out mockingjays are surprisingly fire-resistant
There is a danger in playing to the fanbase on something like "The Hunger Games," because ultimately you don't need to convince the fans. You need to convince people who have never read one of the books, and when you're kicking off a campaign, first impressions can be very important.
Lionsgate premiered the motion poster for "Hunger Games" today, and it's an interesting first image to share with an audience. Obviously, if you've read the series then you understand the importance of the Mockingjay pin, and you know what it means to Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the lead character in the series. But if you haven't, I'm curious what you'd make of the image.
Lionsgate has some time to start to really teach people about the world of Panem and the idea of the annual contest between the 12 Districts that make up the country, each of them forced to hand over two young people as tributes who will fight to the death. This first film is the easiest to explain because it's all focused on that contest. Over the course of the next two stories, the story becomes something far larger and more sprawling, and Lionsgate will be able to build onto whatever foundation they lay this time in selling those movies.
Plus we geek out over the idea of a 'Boba Fett' movie
Even after a disappointment like "The Wolf Man," I find myself excited to sit down with Joe Johnston. As I said to him when I walked into the room for our interview this weekend, it's hardwired into me at this point because of "Star Wars." Johnston's design work is so much a part of my overall aesthetic sense of what is good that it's impossible for me to imagine a film world he wasn't part of.
It's particularly exciting to sit down with someone after you see a film you enjoyed, and in the case of "Captain America: The First Avenger," this may be the most purely enjoyable film Johnston's ever made. I like several of his films, like "The Rocketeer" and "Jurassic Park III," but I don't think he's ever quite put it all together in as satisfying and consistent way, and this is exactly the moment you want to sit down to talk to a filmmaker.