From Tarantino to 'Shazam,' fourteen more impressions from Comic-Con 2015
There were a number of things I did and said in San Diego this year that are not going to be covered as separate articles. In some cases, someone else at HitFix was in the room to write the thing up. In some cases, it's just about time. Whatever the case, though, here are some random impressions to help round out my coverage of the single biggest nerd hype event of the year.
1. Rob Kazinsky should be our new Shazam
I met Kazinsky on the set of "Pacific Rim," and while I thought he was solid in that film, his Australian accent was a nightmare. One of the things that I found most engaging at the Entertainment Weekly "New Warriors" panel was the way he offered that accent up as his greatest career regret so far. "You don't have to stop me on the street and tell me," he said. "Believe me. I know."
More than that, though, Kazinsky came across here as a guy who looks like the characters his inner nerd grew up loving, a comic-book fan who decided to become one of the drawings on his wall. He is very funny, and enormously self-deprecating. He told a story about an early moment in his career when someone tried to trade sex for the promise of work, and it was not offered up to make Kazinsky look cool or sympathetic. It was just an honest observation of one of this business's ugly truths, and the way he told it made Kazinsky seem like a straight shooter, clear-eyed and unafraid to tell the truth about how things work.
Comic-Con panels are about selling things. I'm not dumb. I get it. But one of the things they end up doing is humanizing these people who fans normally only see up on movie screens or on their TV. For me, the thing I watch most closely is how people reveal themselves or how they retreat and double down on the make believe. I don't judge people either way; I think both are valid reactions to fandom when you come face to face with it. But with Kazinsky, I think the guy who showed up for these panels is a guy who some filmmaker would do well to get onscreen. Might I suggest that Shazam, a little boy who is given a superhero's body to drive, might be the best use of this particular energy? It's "Big" in a cape, right? That seems like Kazinsky would fit that like a glove.
2. "The Hateful Eight" looks great
David Eckstein wrote about the panel for the Tarantino movie, and did a damn fine job with it, but the two things I would offer are this. (A) If you can see the movie in 70MM, you definitely should see the movie in 70MM. (B) I am super-excited about Ennio Morricone's brand-new score for the film, but the temp track for the seven-minute clip was the Morricone/Carpenter score for "The Thing," and it was an awesome use of temp track. Especially when Kurt Russell says, "Someone here is not what they seem to be." And (C) Bruce Dern does not gush often, but he gushed about how much he loves Quentin. That was amazing.
If you want more thoughts on "The Hateful Eight," you should check out this piece I wrote about the live-read he did of an earlier draft of the script.
Also... Tarantino says he wants to make at least one more Western. That's news, right?
3. "Kung Fury" has the best fans
When I was heading into Comic-Con this year, I was contacted about a few different possible panels. The one that sounded like fun to me was to present the cast and crew of "Kung Fury," and here's why. First, have you seen it?
So much of Comic-Con is about selling you something, and this panel simply wasn't. It was about something people have already seen and enjoyed, and they just wanted to come meet the people who did it. David Sandberg brought most of his cast, and it was pure joy. Every audience question was funny and fun and full of love, and even the most nervous person on that panel ended up having a good time. I spent most of the hour just laughing, and even without the promised appearance of David Hasselhoff (he was waylaid by emergency knee surgery), it felt positively celebratory. Sure, there was a big "Star Wars" concert I could have been at during that panel, but it was no mere sense of obligation that got me up on that stage. It was a pleasure, especially when they announced to that crowd that there's going to be a feature film version, and a reminder that Comic-Con is so much more than just what's happening in Hall H.
Speaking of which…
4. Hall H cannot continue this way
I'm sorry, Comic-Con. I know you try to figure it out every year, and I don't think the answers have anything to do with moving to another city. When you have almost 150,000 people at your event and less than 7000 seats in the main event hall, it just doesn't work. It's miserable for press trying to work the event, it's brutal on fans who just want to enjoy things, and it seems like the conditions outside have become almost intolerable. Sure, it's great when Zack Snyder drops by driving the Batmobile or when JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy hand out free donuts, but that's not the experience that most people have at this point.
I know Comic-Con wants to try to keep that experience in that room, but I think that time has passed. Consider a press room where press can sit and see everything without taking a single seat away from the fans. Consider a spillover room where people can see the event and not feel left out. Consider a streaming Twitch channel where people can subscribe and watch the presentations.
And at this point, studios have reached the zero sum game. If they bring something they genuinely don't want to see leak, it will leak. If they bring something they release to the Internet immediately, people complain that they didn't see something special. And if it leaks and they don't hammer every single example of it offline immediately, people get cynical about it and say it's all just a stunt. The "Deadpool" footage evidently wowed the room, but the music they used wasn't cleared for use online. The same is true of the "Hateful Eight" clip, and I doubt Tarantino would want that online since so much of what he's pushing this time around is the theatrical experience. "Star Wars" did it right, but Disney knows full well that the buzz of Comic-Con is simply the fuse they use to light the global launch of something.
5. The "Fantastic Four" team should just stop talking
You're not canceling the 3D post-conversion because Josh Trank wants to keep the experience "pure" for the audience. You're canceling it because you just locked picture a few days ago.
Come on. At this point, release the film you're going to release. Stop playing the game of disinformation. And don't spin it. Just don't say anything if you've got to lie about it. The film is what it is, people will like it or they won't, and when you put out these kinds of statements, it makes it impossible for me to quote anything the filmmaker says at all.
I hope it's good. I really do. But I don't like this part of the game at all.
6. One zombie film per panel is enough
"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" or "Patient Zero," Screen Gems. One or the other.
7. People want to see "Deadpool"
I wasn't in that room, but that's all anyone seems to be talking about now.
8. People aren't sure what they think of "Spider-Man"
I must have had 20 different conversations with people who love the character, but at this point, until they see what Marvel does with him, they just aren't able to figure out their feelings about another reboot. I'll say this… the comments that Denis Leary made at Comic-Con where he said part 3 of "The Amazing Spider-Man" was going to be about Peter Parker somehow getting the power to bring the people he loves back to life terrifies me. Talk about a bad idea. Marvel made the right move, and so did Sony. It could have gotten so much worse than it did.
9. People got baggage with Zack Snyder.
If someone doesn't like what Zack Snyder does, I get that. I can respect that. I like his work, but I am more than willing to concede that he makes some big choices, and those choice can easily drive audiences away just as much as they draw them in. But what I'm tired of is hearing that he's a "bad filmmaker."
If you insist on saying that, then I insist you don't know what filmmaking is. His choices are not his filmmaking craft. He has a remarkable ability to craft an image and to wrestle the impossible up onto the screen. There are very few filmmakers who can do what he does on a regular basis, simply on a technical level.
If we're going to have a real conversation about things, let's get more precise about things. There are plenty of filmmakers whose work I don't like, and I don't have to make preposterous claims about their basic technical proficiency to make my points about what it is I dislike.
10. Comic-Con can start and kill rumors at lightspeed
So, uh, Colin Trevorrow and Hall H. That didn't really pan out.
And while that sort of rumor would sometimes linger for weeks, here it was a very specific prediction (rescinded before the panel even started) that had a half-life of less than 24 hours.
I expected to hear more news break on more panels, but this year seemed like it was only about discussing things that had already been announced. We may have seen new images, but there was very little in the way of "news" that I heard at all. People are at parties with people from studios and various companies, and I heard a ton of rumors. Any that I'd print? Nope. Just because someone got loose with a bit of free booze in them does not mean that I'm going to take those things as fact.
11. Gwendolyn Christie is the new future Mrs. Drew McWeeny
Or, if it works better, I'm happy being Mr. Gwendolyn Christie. Fine by me.
I kid, but what I took away from seeing her on both the "Game Of Thrones" and "Star Wars" panels is that she is a force of nature. She's delightful and self-aware and completely in charge of how she approaches these intensely physical roles she's playing these days. Like Rob Kazinsky, I feel like we haven't yet fully seen her personality represented on film. Unlike Rob, she seems to be finding great roles one right after another right now, and filmmakers appear to have figured out just how awesome she is. I hope her character makes it through to the very last frame of "Game Of Thrones," and I hope she's not a one-and-done bad guy a la Darth Maul in the "Star Wars" universe. If we're looking for strong women in film, Christie seems to be an icon for our age.
12. People have the wrong idea about the Playboy party
I know quite a few younger people who RSVP'd eagerly for the Playboy party, and I heard some of the things they said about what they expected.
Oh, fellas. No. Uh-uh.
And trust me. Comic-Con is better for it.
Whatever the world "Playboy" means to people, that age has passed, and at this point, they're just one more corporate sponsor trying to keep their brand relevant. Comic-Con is an experience that is for everyone, and some of the most ardent and amazing fans I meet are young women. This is an event that is trying to bring new faces and new voices in all the time, and that's not going to happen if Comic-Con brings in events that are all about that sleazy predatory culture that used to be accepted and even encouraged.
There's a nasty clip making the rounds today of Bill Cosby snickering with Larry King about how he used to take a dose of a drug "no bigger than the head of a pin," and use that in a can of Coke to render a woman helpless. I don't think the phrase "Hellloooooo, America," has ever sounded more sinister or repulsive. What makes me sick is not just the Cosby side of the conversation, but the Larry King response. He rolls with it, adding to the laughter. It doesn't remotely shock him or upset him. I've seen that one before, and I've seen a few others, and in each case, Cosby and the person he's talking to seem to share this cultural reference point. There was a generation that believed "Spanish Fly" was something that was perfectly fine, something to be sought out. I suspect this story is going to continue to evolve, and recent events have started to point at Hugh Hefner being a big part of that scene. If that story gets written and Hefner ends up painted with the same brush, that Playboy name will vanish from the Comic-Con landscape completely.
Maybe it's time?
13. Congressman John Lewis won Comic-Con
I saw a lot of cosplay during Comic-Con.
We've published all sorts of collections of great cosplay from Comic-Con.
But Congressman John Lewis, who dressed as himself during the legendary march on Selma, won the event completely by leading a group of kids on a march through the convention center.
I had the opportunity to recreate what I wore on March 7, 1965 and march with some amazing young people. pic.twitter.com/0zjGj4jv86— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) July 12, 2015
14. You people are the best
How can I wrap this up without saying how much it means to me each and every time I run into one of you in public and you take the time to tell me that you enjoy what I do? That's not vanity talking… that's one of those things that any writer will tell you makes a difference. We work in solitude. Even with comments sections, it's hard to really get any idea what your work does for or to someone.
I walked into Comic-Con this year angry and irritated by having to be there. I leave renewed once again by the idea that you are out there, and some small part of this stuff means something to you. More than that, I was renewed by how much joy and happiness I saw, and I was reminded that this is not just hype and salesmanship. At its very best, Comic-Con is a place for people to come together and reassure one another that all of this means something, and that audiences aren't just looking for sensation. I met so many people who have had their lives impacted in so many ways, and it is clear that this week in San Diego means everything to them.
There were people I saw who I always love seeing in San Diego, and just as many people I did not get a chance to see but would have loved to have made time for, and I can't even begin to tell you how much it all meant. It's easy for me to be cynical or grumpy about things, particularly right now, but time and time again, when I do finally face my public, the rewards are overwhelming.
Thanks, folks. Let's do it again in a year.