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SAN DIEGO - Comic-Con was missing three big movie studios this year from its lineup of special sneak peeks, Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios and 20th Century Fox, but overall their absence didn't diminish the buzz that was flowing from San Diego by Sunday. This was partially thanks to Focus Features and The Weinstein Company picking up some of the slack with panels for "ParaNorman" and "Django Unchained" respectively, but also because most of the films that sneaked made sure to bring the goods. That being said, there were as many losers as winners at the annual pop fest in 2012. Here's a rundown...
Winner: Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures
No studio had a more talked about presentation than Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures. Stunning the Hall H crowd and their studio peers, the two companies spent a pretty penny to expand the traditional Hall H screen with two side screens tripling the audio visual projection. It was a master display of showmanship and was assisted by the fact the studio partners' films ("The Hobbit," "Pacific Rim," "Man of Steel," "The Campaign," "Godzilla") delivered the goods during the panel. When Marvel Studios followed their presentation seemed noticeably smaller and less impressive by comparison (and that's with Robert Downey, Jr. charming the crowd as usual).
Loser: Stephenie Meyer
Author and "Twilight" creator Stephenie Meyer did not have a good Thursday at Comic-Con. First, she stumbled over a fan's question regarding a long-in-the works parallel novel "Midnight Sun" during the "Breaking Dawn" panel. Obviously sick of the inquiry, she basically came out and said she'd been writing vampires for years and needed a break. That message would have been fine, but the fact she said it in an almost exasperated tone didn't help. After the "Breaking Dawn" panel, Meyer returned to the podium to introduce the director her next adapted novel, "The Host," Andrew Niccol. She called the director a "visionary" and heaped more praise on him than any of her award winning "Twilight Saga" helmers (which must have made Catherine Hardwicke, Chris Weitz, David Slade and Bill Condon feel good). Industry reaction aside, Meyer and Niccol then showed at least 7 minutes of scenes from the unfinished film which were nothing to write home about. Yikes.
Winner: 'Django Unchained'
There were some competing publicists and even journos who dismissed the scheduled panel for Quentin Tarantino's latest thriller at Comic-Con. Was the revisionist Civil War era Spaghetti Western really meant for the Comic-Con crowd? An hour later, a triumphant Tarantino (making his first Hall H appearance), Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Kerry Washington had charmed the audience and the 8 minute preview (which was also shown at Cannes a few months earlier) elicited one of the best reactions from the Comic-Con faithful all week.
Winner: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Who got the biggest round of applause in Hall H on Friday? It wasn't Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Milla Jovovich or Kate Beckinsale. Instead, it was none other than Joseph Gordon-Levitt who stopped by to promote his September release "Looper." His growing popularity could be due to his roles in "500 Days of Summer" and "Inception" or anticipation over his participation in "The Dark Knight Rises." Still, the former "3rd Rock From the Sun" star got a roar that must have given reps for Sony Pictures and FilmDistrict some relief knowing their unconventional Sci-Fi thriller has a genre fan favorite top lining it.
Winner: "Pacific Rim"
No film probably left with more geek buzz than Guillermo Del Toro's "Pacific Rim." This pundit still isn't completely sold on it, but the reaction from the crowd during the Warner Bros. and Legendary Panel was exactly what the filmmakers and studios were hoping for. If you've ever day dreamed of giant robots fighting giant monsters (and lots of giant monsters) this tentpole should have you salivating. And, helping keep the hype up is the fact a teaser trailer for "Rim" won't appear until December.
Loser: Attack of the Douchebags
For the past few years, Comic-Con hasn't been able to substantially increase the number of attendees at the convention with attendance maxed out at around 130,000 per year. At the same time, the convention's notoriety has continued to grow thanks to more significant coverage from major press outlets. And with more hype come more party crashers. In a trend eerily similar to the craziness that besieged the Sundance Film Festival during the first half of the 00's, more crashers are coming down to San Diego to try and see a star or find a way into any of the increasing number of parties or events surrounding the convention or the Gaslamp. This year, more than ever, it's lead to an odd mix of douchebags mixing with hardcore nerds and geeks. The Gaslamp in particularly hardly felt like a "genre fan's chance to celebrate" this year and in 2013, it will likely be worse.
Loser: Hall H Men's Ballroom Cleaning Crew
Yes, the bathroom situation in Hall H has always been bad. One airport size men's restroom is never going to be adequate for 6,500 attendees of which 60% are likely men (at least by HitFix's estimation). However, the disgusting mess the restroom became on a daily basis during this Con strained the lines of event credibility. I've never seen a sports area or baseball park (most of which hold 20,000 plus seats) look this bad. It was as though you were stepping into a bathroom at seedy club that had no reason to clean up unless closing time or until a health inspector was on the way. Describing it as disgusting is an understatement.
Winner: Robert Downey, Jr.
The Marvel Studios hour-long panel may not have offered the surprises many were hoping for after news of an "Ant-Man" test and "Guardians of the Galaxy" announcement leaked weeks ago, but when you have arguably the biggest star in the world it doesn't matter. Downey, Jr.' made a kick-ass entrance for the "Iron Man 3" portion of the panel by dancing his way from the back of the Hall H crowd to the front with an Iron Man glove on to boot. Once he got on stage he was as charming and hilarious as ever which had to be a thrill for the attendees who had waited in line and in the Hall for up to 10 hours for their chance to see Tony Stark in person.
Semi-Winner: Chris Hardwick
Comic-Con has had its share of good and bad moderators over the years, but 2012 was dominated by Nerdist co-founder, Talking Dead host and former Singled Out co-host Chris Hardwick. The good looking geek certainly knows how to run a panel, but at times he seemed to forget he wasn't one of the "guests" and the audience's attention should be on the panelists and not the moderator (take it as constructive criticism Chris). Still, Hardwick was very entertaining at times and it would be shocking not to see him dominate the panels in 2013.
Winner: Kristen Stewart
Four years ago, the cast of "Twilight" received a rock star welcome in Hall H. At the time, Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner were hardly household names and the reaction of the crowd overwhelmed them. Stewart, in particular, was so skittishly uncomfortable many of us in the audience wondered if she was having a panic attack. Fast forward to 2012 and the trio are seasoned pros. You can argue about the artistic merits of the "Twilight Saga," but Stewart in particular charmed the crowd with off the cuff one-liners and thoughtful responses to fan's questions. That was no small feat considering a good chunk of the crowd was there for the Disney panel immediately after. It goes without saying K-Stew: you've come a long way baby.
The intentions were good, but MTV's sponsorship of free Wi-Fi at the convention didn't work out so well. It was spotty at best, impossible to get working a good chunk of the time. Granted, MTV's tech team didn't set it up, they likely just paid for the sponsorship. Doesn't matter though as everyone who couldn't log on is just going to remember the "MTV TEEN WOLF" WiFI network name they couldn't get on to.
Losers: 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures
If you're a fan of "Game of Thrones" and "The Walking Dead" you were likely thrilled that Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox didn't have a presence at Comic-Con this year. It made it easy for the popular series to get in the larger Hall H for the first time. But if you were a movie fan it just felt like something was missing. No tease from Fox for "The Wolverine" which is beginning production in just a few weeks? How about a "Life of Pi" moment with Ang Lee? And while Paramount has troubled pictures on is slate such as "G.I.Joe: Retaliation" and "World War Z," wouldn't bringing some footage from either flick help allay fears? Or, maybe a quick "Star Trek 2" tease from J.J. Abrams like an official title reveal? Everyone in Hollywood knows you need to bring your A-game to the Con, but even a smaller presence like Universal had for "The Man with the Iron Fists" seems like a missed opportunity for either of iconic studios.
Loser: Hall H Food Vendors
First off, it's great that Comic-Con has a concession system set up for attendees who spend hours throughout the convention taking in the sights. Unfortunately, the food in Hall H is of the most smelly variety possible. You can almost feel the fake nacho cheese smell and oily hot dogs in the air. And if that thought grossed you out, well…'nuff said.
Winner: IMAX and 'Skyfall'
IMAX had their first official Comic-Con event ever this year and it was an imaginative presentation at the IMAX screen at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. DJ Glenn Morrison presented a "remix" of dance music timed to footage from films previously released in IMAX on the Science Center's the planetarium like screen. That was followed by a sneak peek of a superb new extended trailer for Sam Mendes' "Skyfall" that will just be shown in IMAX theaters. Considering there are no plans to release the preview online you'll have to see it in front of "The Dark Knight Rises." For IMAX it was a solid start to creating an annual presence at the Con.
Loser: James Franco
It was great to see Sam Raimi's teaser trailer for "Oz: The Great and Powerful" on the big screen and the presence of the gorgeous and talented Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis didn't hurt either, but where was Oz himself? How can you have a tease for the movie without Mr. James Franco in the room? Considering that Kunis and Williams got out of the films they are currently working on for the quick day trip, it seemed very strange the man of the hour was noticeably absent.
Did you make it down to Comic-Con this year? How would you rate this year's panels? Share your thoughts below.
Everything: Comic-Con 2013
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