While Comic-Cons past have heralded the advent of such future blockbusters as 300 and Superman Returns, this year only Jon Favreau‚Äôs new Marvel entry starring Robert Downey, Jr. as the mighty Iron Man roused the fan hordes in the 6000-seat Hall H to rise up and give a standing O. The crowds also responded well to Pixar's Wall-E, from Finding Nemo creator Andrew Stanton, about a robot trash compactor left behind on earth, who is being "voiced" by sound wizard Ben Burtt, who created the whistle-language for Star Wars' R2D2.
Many of the big fanboy titles had no footage to show because they were just heading into production, from 300 director Zach Snyder‚Äôs The Watchmen, an adaptation of the Alan Moore graphic classic, to Edward Norton‚Äôs page-one rewrite of Marvel‚Äôs latest iteration of The Hulk. Snyder, Norton and Favreau all promised fans to stay true to the spirit of the source material. "We're not going to make it accessible to teenyboppers for marketing reasons," said Snyder, who is setting ‚ÄúThe Watchmen‚Äù in the R-rated 80s and drawing his way through the novel, shot by shot. "It doesn't feel PG-13. It makes sense that now it's a period film. It has resonance, it's separated from the Cold War, it's almost cool to go back."
Snyder had hoped to announce his Watchmen cast at the Con, but was scooped by the press by several days. "We have real actors for this movie," he said. "This movie has no stars in it! 300 had no stars in it either. A couple people saw it." The actors will start out young and evolve into old age with the help of CGI, he said. ‚ÄúTechnology is on my side.‚Äù Billy Crudup, Patrick Wilson and Jason Patric didn‚Äôt show, but Jackie Earle Haley and Malin Akerman were on hand. The crowd in Hall H applauded when The Hulk producer Gale Ann Hurd assured them that this time--as opposed to Ang Lee‚Äôs 2003 Hulk, which did not score a bullseye with fans--The Hulk would remain the same size throughout the film. Marvel‚Äôs latest design for The Hulk seemed to play for fans.
Disney‚Äôs Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian panel promised a deeper, richer, more action-packed realistic take on the next installment of the fantasy series, which will now unspool at the rate of one a year. (It will be interesting to see how much interest there is in the lesser known books that don't feature the four kids.) Audiences were wowed by an well-paced animatic of the capture of a castle featuring airborne sword fights.
On the other hand, New Line Cinema‚Äôs bid for a new fantasy franchise, Chris Weitz‚Äôs adaptation of The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman, Dakota Blue Richards and many CG polar bears, yielded a more muted response. Kidman keeps rolling her tongue around something called "the Aletheometer ." Like Stardust, The Golden Compass features flying ships and witches. But it also looks all too familiar...
While Twentieth Century Fox cancelled its show-and-tell, citing materials that were too hard-R for a family-friendly event (which nonetheless showed plenty of violent, edgy material), the studio did send a convoy of trucks to promote the movie Jumper emblazoned with black-and-white billboards reading ‚ÄúIf you were a jumper you‚Äôd be home now.‚Äù
Short action clips from Shoot ‚ÄòEm Up, starring Clive Owen as a Chow Yun Fat-inspired gunfighter toting a baby amid blood-splattering mayhem, played well in Hall H; the full-length movie screened Thursday night to a wide range of reactions. The pic clearly plays best for hard-core action fans with a taste for a taboo-busting, hard-edged R. (A women gives birth during a gun battle; when the baby cries, Owen shoves the infant onto her breast to shut him up. And there's more.) Storyboard-artist-turned director Michael Davis thanked Angry Films for rescuing him from oblivion after 35 screenplays just as he was about to give up his filmmaking career. Owen thanked Davis "for making an original movie in a time of sequels," he said.
Here's Variety's review.
Neil Marshall‚Äôs viral thriller Doomsday generated some fan heat, along with Rob Zombie‚Äôs reimagining of Halloween, the graphic novel-based 30 Days of Night, a hard-R return to killer vampires who terrorize an isolated town in bleak midwinter, and writer-director Frank Darabont‚Äôs reunion with Stephen King on the $17-million ‚ÄúThe Mist.‚Äù But many other horror titles fell flat, including Warners‚Äô Japanese remake One Missed Call, the conclusion of Paul Anderson's zombie trilogy, Resident Evil: The Extinction, and Silver‚Äôs The Invasion, yet another version of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
‚ÄúComic-Con elder‚Äù Darabont, who started coming to The Con as a teenager in 1973 when it was held for 1000 people at the El Cortez Hotel, had a good time this trip. ‚ÄúEvery year it‚Äôs gotten crazier and bigger.‚Äù
[Originally appeared on Variety.com]