The Best & Worst At Comic-Con: Which Films & Studios Had Good, Bad Or Middling Reactions

Features
by Oliver Lyttelton
July 16, 2012 3:34 PM
5 Comments
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Well, Comic-Con is done for another year. The San Diego Conference Center is currently getting a thorough hosing down, hungover cos-players have done their awkward walks of shame, and film press are returning to their various corners of the world longing, like ourselves, to watch and write about something difficult, European and subtitled.

While some studios skipped the four-day festival entirely, those who were there came out in force, with some of the biggest films of this year and next wowing the crowd, from Neill Blomkamp's "Elysium" to Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." But not everything went down a storm, with a few films disappointing, or at least underwhelming, in Hall H and elsewhere. So what film and studios had a good Comic-Con, and who left San Diego with their tails between their legs? Read on to find out, and you can find links to most of our coverage from the past week below as well. And many thanks to our roving reporters Jeff Otto and Todd Gilchrist for their San Diego coverage; we hope they’re sleeping it off as we speak.

Good

"Frankenweenie"/"Wreck-It Ralph"/"ParaNorman"
Animation was pretty much a home-run across the board this year at Comic-Con. "Dark Shadows" may have been a bit of a wash-out, but Tim Burton seems to be back on form with "Frankenweenie," which looks like his most complete and emotional film for a while, and went down well with crowds. You can catch up with the special Comic-Con trailer here. Disney's other big animation of the year, video-game pic "Wreck-It Ralph," was just as popular, unveiling an impressive ten minutes of footage that gave the impression that the Mother Mouse might actually outdo Pixar this year (although we'd like to hear reactions from a crowd that wouldn't give a standing ovation to a Zangief cameo before we're completely sold). Focus and Laika's "ParaNorman" perhaps suffered a little from coming a day after "Frankenweenie," but still got a warm reception, and could be a very pleasant little August surprise.

Television
With genre shows increasingly crossing over to the mainstream on TV ("The Walking Dead," "True Blood" and "Game Of Thrones" are pretty much the biggest shows on cable at this point), more and more small screen offerings moved into Hall H, and drew crowds that could rival even the biggest movies. Few revealed anything particularly scene-stealing, but it's enough for fans of these shows (and "The Big Bang Theory," and "Glee," and "Community," the latter of which gave a little hope that the new season might not be a disappointment following the departure of the show's creator Dan Harmon). And few moments all weekend seem to have been more emotional than Joss Whedon's reunion with the "Firefly" cast, even if breathless reports of a revival are misplaced. It's clearer than ever that genre fans can get their kicks on the small screen, although it remains to be seen if any of the shows that debuted pilots at San-Diego, including "Arrow," "Revolution" and "The Following," can amass enough fans to fill Hall H next year.

"Looper"/"Elysium"

Since most stuff unspooling in San Diego is based on existing properties, displaying more original sci-fi fare can come across as a breath of fresh air, and Sony certainly landed a win with footage from September's "Looper" and March's "Elysium." The former, Rian Johnson's film, is starting to look like a real cross-over hit, with a series of increasingly confident trailers and a warm reaction to footage, although Sony will have to focus on getting the word out to the general public from here on out. And any worries of a sophomore slump for "District 9" helmer Neill Blomkamp were put to rest by a highly promising reel for "Elysium," which seemed to display the same mix of original sci-fi design, political undertones, extreme gore and hardware, but with a bigger scope and cast, led-by A-listers Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. Here's hoping the full thing delivers next March, but that Sony showed a good seven or eight minutes of the film (with incomplete effects) this far out suggests they're confident in what they have.

"Django Unchained"
Coming to Comic-Con with a western with no fantastical elements is a fairly ballsy thing to do, but when that movie is directed by Quentin Tarantino, you know you're playing to the home crowd, and eight minutes worth of "Django Unchained" blew the roof off in Hall H. Getting one of the bigger reactions of the weekend, Tarantino, accompanied by stars Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Don Johnson, Kerry Washington and Walton Goggins, had a major homecoming, and it looks like the geek audience are in the bag for this one. The clip seems to have been pretty much the same footage that showed at Cannes a couple of months back, but there likely wasn't much audience crossover. It does, however, perhaps indicate that Harvey Weinstein (who was there too in the shadows) sees the film as a commercial play first and foremost, rather than an awards picture, something we'd be inclined to agree with. But you never know...

Warner Bros/Legendary
No one hit Hall H harder than Warners, and this year along with frequent genre partners Legendary, they unveiled three major hitters with one little surprise in there too. "Pacific Rim" seemed to be the big crowd-pleaser, as crowd-favorite Guillermo Del Toro unveiling footage that blew the audience away prompting a Twitter firestorm. The surprise "Godzilla" teaser got an equally good reaction, even if the film doesn't seem to have a start or release date at this point, and "The Hobbit" was warmly received by fans, with Peter Jackson's decision to screen the footage in 2D 24FPS, rather than the controversial CinemaCon 48FPS presentation, seeming to be a wise one, even if it perhaps stopped the film from being a talking point in the same way. Reaction seemed a little more muted for "Man Of Steel," but that may be down to the epic, meditative nature of the footage shown, rather than from disappointment (although our man on the floor Jeff Otto was a little nonplussed).

Marvel
Perhaps more of a victory lap than a major push, Marvel followed Warners with a strutting confidence that comes with having just made one of the most successful films in history, and seemed like they knew exactly what they were doing. "Iron Man 3" footage was, by all accounts, highly promising, suggesting that Shane Black's given the series a new lease of life after the disappointing sequel. As ever, Robert Downey Jr and Don Cheadle charmed the pants off everyone, while Edgar Wright's test-footage for "Ant-Man" suggested that, whenever the film actually gets made, it'll be something very impressive. That the company could generate serious excitement and debate merely with a PowerPoint display of titles shows how high they're riding in Hollywood these days.
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5 Comments

  • Ryan Gowland | July 16, 2012 4:18 PMReply

    Disagree totally about The Lone Ranger. The trailer was a surprise and not given an introduction, so most of the silence was due to people not knowing what the trailer was. Once Johnny Depp appeared, the crowd went nuts. I'd say it was the boost Disney was looking for after all the reports over budget overruns and other problems.

    Total Recall fell flat because it didn't show much more than what has already been revealed in the promotional footage. Screening an action sequence would have had a better effect.

  • Penelope | July 16, 2012 4:00 PMReply

    I really don't get the purpose of Comic-Con. I could understand if they showed film screenings, but just to see trailers and a few minutes worth of footage is not necessary.

  • SR | July 17, 2012 1:55 AM

    The purpose of Comic Con? To market to the primary audiences of their products. And the reasons most attendees go to Comic Con are to attend the panels and the parties, for the "saw it first" opportunities, to find geeky stuff you want to collect, and the overall spectacle

  • PRESIDENT MAO | July 16, 2012 3:59 PMReply

    Good move, Sony: "Yeah, we don't have Will Smith. We don't have Apu Shyamalan. But we have this crappy Facebook trailer! See?"

  • tyrannosaurus max | July 16, 2012 3:42 PMReply

    Just letting you know, not in a mean way; I believe this headline has a typo.

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