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Comic-Con 2014: Fox Targets Male Demo with Firth Spy Flick 'Kingsman,' YA 'Maze Runner,' and 'Hitman' Starring Quinto

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood July 26, 2014 at 4:49PM

Fox's presentations at Comic-Con emphasized finding new ways of being fresh and relevant, as the studio is targeting the male demo with "The Maze Runner," its young adult answer to "The Hunger Games," along with Matthew Vaughn's Bondian "Kingsman: The Secret Service," and a second adaptation of the "Agent 47" video game, "Hitman."
'Kingsman: The Secret Service"
'Kingsman: The Secret Service"

At Friday's presentations at Comic-Con, Twentieth Century Fox tried to emphasize finding new ways of being fresh and relevant. That's because the studio is banking that young adult dystopia has not yet run its course. Fox is targeting young males with "The Maze Runner," its answer to "The Hunger Games," screening a new trailer in Hall H, complete with villainous spider-robot "Grievers."

Also aimed at the male demo is Matthew Vaughn's Bondian "Kingsman: The Secret Service" as well as a second adaptation of the "Agent 47" video game, "Hitman."

In fact, "The Maze Runner" director Wes Ball later said that the theme of rebirth and pitting boys together instead of against each other is what distinguishes the film based on James Dashner's dystopian novel about a group of boys trapped in a massive maze with their memories wiped clean. In the first elevator scene, Ball said, "I very much saw ["Teen Wolf" star Dylan O' Brien's Thomas] being born into this world soaking wet and an arc about this vulnerable boy who will eventually become a man. I think that whole mystery drives the movie and really works for the actors."

But "Maze Runner" definitely carries that YA target, which Ball didn't back away from. He was not only attracted to the uniqueness of the world but also "the edge of your seat moments, while at the same time a real sense of heart and maturity and sophistication. These characters are doing some really fun stuff." Which he thinks sets "The Maze Runner" apart from the darker and more existential YA competition.

The Maze Runner

Speaking of fun stuff, Colin Firth said he got to fulfill every boyhood fantasy dream by playing a kick-ass spy who trains a younger counterpart (Taron Egerton)  in "Kingsman: The Secret Service," based on the comic created by Mark Millar ("Kick Ass") and Dave Gibbons ("Watchmen"), which is a throwback to the fun-loving 007 from "The Spy Who Loved Me." (Vaughn brought a '60s vibe to his "X-Men: First Class.")

In the rough trailer, elegantly dapper Firth deploys a stylish umbrella as an intricate weapon (shades of John Steed in "The Avengers"); he and Samuel L. Jackson actually discuss Bond movies. It's as far a cry as Firth could get from his Oscar-winning "King's Speech," but it was worth becoming a killing machine alongside co-star Jackson, Firth said: "This has to do with doing the things we really enjoy. This is not rewriting history...but in terms of what's different, I've never had to do anything this physical, really, unless you include pulling Hugh Grant's hair. The training was extraordinarily intense and unfamiliar to me. It was long and incredibly gratifying in the end."

Hannah Ware and Zachary Quinto star in 'Hitman'
Hannah Ware and Zachary Quinto star in 'Hitman'

Meanwhile, "Star Trek" star Zachary Quinto, who replaced the late Paul Walker in "Hitman," about genetically engineered assassins, enjoyed the sense of mystery about these characters who are not at all what they seem. "All of us are serving agendas that are sometimes at odds with what we're presenting," he said. But he enjoyed shooting in Berlin and Singapore, which offer distinct visual looks and heightened situations that are integral to the plot. "You couldn't really get more different as far as cities are concerned as far as lifestyle and architecture [in Singapore]."

But since Quinto's character is only a peripheral part of the video game, he didn't find it necessary to immerse himself in "Agent 47." "To me, it wasn't about playing the video game to understand the character. For us, the physical aspects of the characters was really important and how they presented themselves to the world, but what's really going is different from all the action sequences."

Which perfectly sums up this trio of escapist adventures.

This article is related to: Comic Con 2014, Immersed In Movies, Matthew Vaughn, Colin Firth, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Zachary Quinto, Twentieth Century Fox

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.