'Lego,' 'Warcraft,' 'Apes' and Tom Cruise round out our Comic-Con 2013 coverage
Plus we recount the single most serious and awesome moment of the Con
THE LEGO MOVIE
Chris Miller and Phil Lord are very silly people.
I'm not going to transcribe the panel for "The Lego Movie" because there's no real point. This looks like it's going to be one of the most surreal movies to ever emerge from a corporate deal with a toy company. They've got tons of licenses that they're playing with, but they're not saying who yet. I think it's safe to assume this is going to feel like a "Robot Chicken" mash-up free-for-all with a more family-friendly sense of humor and the official support of the owners of all the various trademarks. This is the perfect gig for Lord and Miller, who are proving themselves to be delightfully silly filmmakers overall.
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Matt Reeves was playing it as cool as he could on the stage of Hall H on Saturday morning, but there is no disguising a certain sort of nerd energy. Reeves was old enough to be a "Planet Of The Apes" super-fan when the films were first being released, and he said he had a huge fanboy moment when he saw "Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes." He felt like it was the first time he ever truly felt things from the ape perspective, and he found himself absorbed by the performance work by Andy Serkis. I get it. Serkis is like some amazing sorcerer who manages to give souls to these ones and zeros, and he's starting to pass that along to other actors, both as a co-star and as a filmmaker actually developing projects like an all mo-cap version of "Animal Farm."
In the new film, about a decade has passed since the events of "Rise," and there have been human leaders who have stepped in preaching war (Gary Oldman seems to represent that side of things) and those who are preaching peace (Jason Clarke, who was on the panel, seemed to be advocating for us to share the planet), but thanks to a simian flu that is sweeping the planet killing massive numbers of humans, it may just be a waiting game for Caesar (Serkis) and his increasingly large army of followers. The one shot they showed us, which is where the photo on this story came from, was enough to demonstrate that they've made progress in realism even in the time between "Rise" and now. I hope this one's awesome.
WOMEN WHO KICK ASS
The final thing I want to write about is a panel that they scheduled mid-day on Saturday, right in the middle of all the other giant movie panels, because it seemed to me like the one genuinely subversive moment of the entire event, and I'm not sure it was planned that way.
Danai Gurira (Michonne from "The Walking Dead"), Tatiana Malany (star of "Orphan Black"), "Nikita" star Maggie Q, Katee Sackhoff and Michelle Rodriguez all appeared on the panel, ostensibly to discuss their work in action films with moderator Sara Vilkomerson leading the conversation. That's not what happened, though. Within a few questions, it was obvious that the panelists weren't interested in telling a few funny anecdotes, posing for photos, and then walking away.
Instead, for roughly an hour, the panel turned into a frank and unapologetic discussion of role models, the idea that only women who do stunts can "kick ass," sexism in the industry, harassment on the set, and how the only way to really change this business is from the inside. Rodriguez in particular was amazing, fired up about the idea of taking control of her career by writing and producing instead of waiting for the industry to write the roles she wants to play.
I get tired of certain pop culture pundits who attack fandom and genre movies based on stereotypes, but it is important to talk about the worst side of what happens when you put fans together, whether it's on a message board or in a convention center. I think most of the individual fans that I've met over the years are decent people who are open-minded and who mean well. I think as a group, fandom tends towards their worst natures, and there is homophobia, misogyny, and racism a-plenty still. The women on this panel probably represent a very particular type of fantasy to many of the young men in the room, and when they immediately started talking about the very real problems with this business and how women are treated in it, the fantasy dissipated, replaced instead with what I consider real strength. Gurira strikes me as a very passionate artist who wants very much to tell stories about what things are like for women in emerging nations and in her home of Zimbabwe. Maggie Q seems like she's made some sort of peace with what she gets offered to play, but Maslany, like Rodriguez, seems determined to constantly push for the mainstreaming of everyone, queer or straight or male or female, eventually hoping to reach a place where everyone feels like a participant in mainstream culture.
Asked to talk about their ultimate role model if they could design someone for young women to react to, Sackhoff became very emotional talking about her mother, a schoolteacher for 35 years. Gurira talked about how Susan Dey in "LA Law" seemed like an idealized power figure to her when she was young. What was clear is that all of these women had a wealth of experience to share as soon as they started talking about their place in this business, and one of my favorite moments came when someone in the audience asked who would win in a fight between Maggie Q and Rodriguez. "We should be working together to balance out all that destructive male energy." As with anyone these days, the way to change this business is to prove that there is a market that will support your vision. Rodriguez is smart enough to realize that no longer means you have to find an American audience who will support you, and that globalization of our entertainment media creates new opportunities for artists.
If that panel made some of the fanboys who were there to see whatever their particular favorite power fantasy is played out on the big screen uncomfortable, or if challenged the attitudes of people in that room, then that is genuinely the most important thing that could have happened in Hall H. So often, that room is used just to sell things, and certainly most of what I witnessed was marketing, pure and simple. But for that one hour, things got real in that room, and I wish Comic-Con would schedule more of that, daring its attendees to expand their world view instead of just reinforcing it.
So what do we have now… 352 days till the next Comic-Con?
Should be just enough time to recover.