An amazing production serves to give the best look so far at what Jackson's done
SAN DIEGO - Gollum dropped some f-bombs, Elijah Wood made a surprise appearance, and the slightest glimpse of Orlando Bloom dressed as Legolas elicited shrieks of pleasure from the J.R.R. Tolkien fans who packed into Hall H today specifically to catch a glimpse of footage from part one of what may yet grow into a full trilogy of films based on Tolkien's enduring classic, 'The Hobbit."
In short, it was a perfect Comic-Con moment.
Before I recap what happened, let's talk about what didn't. There was no demonstration of the 48 frames-per-second process that will be used for special engagements of "The Hobbit" when it opens this year, and the footage wasn't even shown in 3D. I think it was a poor decision all the way around to avoid revealing the process here, but I think Jackson's stated reasons are right. He knows that almost any conversation about the footage would focus on the technical if he did bring it, and good or bad, that's not really the point of bringing the material to show to the faithful. These are fans, and what they're concerned with is the content of the movie, not the mechanics of how it will be shown to them. Disappointed as I was, and frustrated to still have not seen a demonstration of the process, I do think it probably served them well in the end.
Warner Bros went all out this year, bringing a real sense of showmanship to their presentations. Obviously, one of the most anticipated moments for many people was a detailed look at what Peter Jackson's been up to with "The Hobbit," a two-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved book, and they were rewarded with over twelve minutes of footage. The way the panel opened, though, was immediately immersive. Warner put in two screens flanking the stage, extending out into the audience, and as the lights went down, the song of the dwarves filled Hall H and the various images from the recently released banner filled the screens, surrounding us with characters both familiar and new.
It immediately set a mood, and then, in the center panel, a new "Hobbit" production diary began to play. You'll see it soon, I'm sure. Basically, it covered the last five days of the production, and it was carefully cut because much of the work in those last five days is for material that will appear in the second film, which is still well over a year away.
A rowdy panel turns out to be as much a celebration of success as hype for next year
SAN DIEGO - There was little doubt left after Robert Downey Jr. danced his way triumphantly through Hall H to the sounds of Luther Vandross singing "Never Too Much" as to who the King of Comic-Con truly is.
Marvel's victory lap to celebrate "The Avengers" becoming the highest grossing superhero film of all time was capped off on Saturday afternoon by the appearance of the man who could well be credited with setting the tone for the entire interconnected universe that Marvel is building from film to film now, and Downey seemed winded but exhilarated by the time he finally reached the stage, one hand encased in an Iron Man glove with a glowing palm.
"I have three questions for you," he said, and the crowd roared at him, cheering.
"First, how much do I love you?" The wave of noise that came back at him was huge.
"How much do you love me?" he asked next, smiling as he said it, and if anything, the noise was even bigger.
What did the director bring to make his first impression with the franchise reboot?
SAN DIEGO - One of the last things I would have expected before the panel began would be the amount of emotional impact that Zack Snyder's 'Man Of Steel' presentation seemed to have on the fans who were assembled for their first look at this new version of one of the most famous superheroes of all time.
Warner's set-up this year featured three huge screens that created a feeling of surrounding the audience, and it was definitely one of the most impressive technical set-ups I've seen in this room in any year I've been here. As a break between the segments of the panel, the Superman logo began to fill the screens, as if the camera was rolling over different parts of it, eventually filling all of the screens with the recognizable "S" logo.
Zack Snyder, who has proven in years past that he understands exactly how to play to Hall H, took the stage, and immediately dropped his favorite word in describing why he signed on to make the film. "Superman's pretty awesome, as you know."
That made me cackle, because "awesome" is a word that Zack uses often, and in this case, it should be true. You should feel a sense of awe when you see Superman. He can't be just another superhero at this point, or the film won't work, and I think Snyder knows that. "Superman is a big responsibility," he said, "and I felt like Superman needed to be reintroduced to a new generation, and so that's why I did it. We finished shooting, and now we're working on turning what we shot into a movie."
The oldest son of Sylvester Stallone was only 36 years old
As with many things, the news of Sage Stallone's untimely passing today took me back to my days working at Dave's Video, a laserdisc store that was a major industry stomping ground back in the early '90s.
Sage had an account with the store. Not his dad, but Sage. At the time, he was around fourteen or fifteen years old. He would arrive at the store with his big-ass bodyguard in tow, a guy who also served as his driver, and he'd shop for hours. He was a voracious film fan, and his interests definitely tended to the obscure.
What blew me away was just how adult he was, even at that point. It wasn't that smarmy over-precocious kind of adult, either. Sage carried himself like he was much older, and in conversation, he was just a rabid film lover, someone who had seen at least as much as the older film nerds I knew. He was constantly on the hunt for some rare title, and any time he could cross a film off his huge list of "things I want to see," it was a major accomplishment.
Neill Blomkamp's first since 'District 9' looks like another mind-bending treat
SAN DIEGO - The first year that HitFix covered Comic-Con, one of the highlights was an early screening of "District 9," which we absolutely adored. Small wonder one of the most anticipated moments of the convention for us came today when director Neill Blomkamp made his triumphant return to the event with seven minutes of next year's science-fiction action film, "Elysium." As a sign of just how far he's come in a mere three years, in addition to Sharlto Copley, he also was joined by Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, both new to Comic-Con this year.
Based on the footage he put together, fans of "District 9" have reason to celebrate.
Blomkamp took the stage first, joining KROQ personality Ralph Garman, who hosted Sony's entire event today. Blomkamp sat down and addressed the audience directly. "I'm here to debut some footage. I have this thing where I try to be as honest as I can. I feel like I belong out there with you guys. I feel like I'm a fan. There's an element of salesmanship that makes me feel a little distanced as a fan. The idea of launching footage here feels honest. I like it because it's fans. I'm okay with it." He paused, looking around at the 6000 people packed into Hall H, and smiled. "You guys want to see it… right?"
Creepy new family stop-motion film from Laika has style to spare
SAN DIEGO - Things may have gotten started with a few communication glitches, but once "Entertainment Weekly" writer Dave Karger took the stage to moderate the "Paranorman" presentation, everything else ran smoothly, resulting in a frequently funny and raucous glimpse at the new stop-motion animated film from Laika Studios.
It seems appropriate that the Friday the 13th programming would begin with this odd hybrid of horror and comedy aimed squarely at a family audience. Karger brought out a full panel of guests, including producer/lead animator/president/CEO Travis Knight, the co-directors of the film, Sam Fell and Chris Butler, and three of the actors who contributed their voices to the movie. Kodi-Smit McPhee, who voices Norman, was last onstage at Comic-Con when I moderated the "Let Me In" panel a few years ago, and he's changed a lot since then. Anna Kendrick plays his older sister Courtney in the movie, and she was very sharp and funny during her time onstage. Finally, Chris Mintz-Plasse got cast against type here as Alvin, the school bully.
Chris Butler was the one who initially imagined this project, and he says he did so almost sixteen years ago. The actual production of the film got underway a little over three years ago, and in that interim, Butler's been continuously playing with the idea of the film, a zombie movie for kids. He's one of those filmmakers of a particular age who is looking to pay tribute to the films he grew up with like "The Goonies" and "Ghostbusters." He originally pitched it as "John Hughes meets John Carpenter." It all grew from there.
Could her second Marvel movie be the one that puts her over the top?
Jessica Biel was, frankly, made to play a comic book character. She transformed her physique when she signed on for "Blade: Trinity," and she gave a dedicated performance in what was unfortunately a weaker movie, but that performance wasn't enough to make it work. It seems like a given that some smart producer would find the right comic book role for her, and now it appears she's once again dipping into the Marvel Universe with a role in James Mangold's upcoming "The Wolverine."
Her character, Viper, is also known as Madame Hydra at times, and she's had a long history in the various comics published by Marvel. She's been a Captain America bad guy, and at once point she even stole the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier. One of her most famous storylines involved characters who we already know are part of "The Wolverine," so it makes sense she would also show up.
Acclaimed animation director Rich Moore shows off his passion project
SAN DIEGO - The final movie that Disney did a full presentation for during their Hall H panel at this year's San Diego Comic-Con is one of the most ambitious films they have on their schedule for this year, and based on the material they showed here, they should feel good about what they're trying.
Chris Hardwick, aka The Nerdist, seemed completely comfortable moderating the panel, and at the start of this final stage of the event, he mentioned that he had recently been talking to some friends about "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and how that film could never happen today because of corporate lawyers and IP battles. Almost as soon as he had that conversation, he saw the first trailer for "Wreck-It Ralph" and realized that he was, in fact, completely wrong.
Director Rich Moore walked out to join Hardwick onstage, kidding as he walked out. "You said it was just going to be you and me."
As he settled in, he talked a bit about the premise of the film. "Ralph thinks there is more to life than wrecking, and he sets out on a journey to become more than just an 8-bit bad guy." When Hardwick pointed out that Moore was a director of "The Simpsons" for five years, Moore was quick to point out "That was 22 years ago."
A spirited Q&A showed Burton at his best
SAN DIEGO - In the half-hour before the Disney panel began in Hall H of the San Diego Comic-Con, Tim Burton stood upstairs in the green room, laughing, smiling, completely at ease and comfortable. Anyone who sat through the presentation he made for his new stop-motion animated film "Frankenweenie" knows, though, that Burton wasn't always that relaxed in his own skin, and many of his real childhood anxieties, especially about school, served as fodder for the film.
"What did they do to you in that school?" the panel moderator Chris Hardwick asked at one point.
Burton just shook his head, shuddering, and answered, "The lawsuits are still pending."
At the start of the presentation, the first of three films promoted as part of today's Disney event, Hardwick talked about how seeing "Beetlejuice" on the bigscreen was a major event for him as a kid, and how it taught him early on that films did not all have to look the same.
Raimi talks about walking the fine line beween homage and creation for this one
SAN DIEGO - Chris Hardwick, better known as king of a podcasting empire under the handle The Nerdist, was practically giddy as he introduced the second film at today's Disney panel in Hall H at the San Diego Comic-Con. He said he'd never had a chance to meet the filmmaker he was about to bring out, but that he considered himself a huge fan, and confessed, "I peed just a little bit when I found out this next guy would be here."
The highlight reel that they showed featuring clips from "Evil Dead 2," "The Quick and the Dead," all three "Spider-Man" movies, "Darkman," "Army Of Darkness," and "Drag Me To Hell" made a strong case for why Hardwick might be so excited. Taken as a thrilling kinetic whole, the clips not only featured some huge, iconic pop culture moments like the upside down kiss in the rain from "Spider-Man," but geeky beloved beats like Bruce Campbell's "groovy" and "Hail to the king, baby." Sam makes images that you can instantly recognize as Raimi images, and he is justifiably adored by many film nerds. He took the stage to enthusiastic applause and settled in next to Hardwick to discuss his latest film, "Oz The Great and Powerful."
"This is my home away from home, Comic-Con. I love it here," Raimi said, talking about how his favorite parts of the convention are "where they sell the comics," which he considers the heart of the event.