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Studios Go Gigantor at Comic-Con: 'Pacific Rim,' 'Godzilla,' 'Man of Steel,' 'The Hobbit'

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 17, 2012 at 4:29PM

The studios have boxed themselves into a corner. Because you can't just keep piling money into VFX to lure audiences to theaters, as their current (failing) tentpole strategy attests. And digital 3-D isn't exactly an event anymore--both "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Ice Age 4" saw lackluster 3-D performance.
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Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi in Guillermo del Toro's 'Pacific Rim'
Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi in Guillermo del Toro's 'Pacific Rim'

The studios have boxed themselves into a corner. Because you can't just keep piling money into VFX to lure audiences to theaters, as their current (failing) tentpole strategy attests. And digital 3-D isn't exactly an event anymore--both "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Ice Age 4" saw lackluster 3-D performance. Even 35 mm holdout Chris Nolan, while he won't go 3-D, does do IMAX. And filmmaker Peter Jackson captured filmmakers and studios' collective anxiety quite well at a press conference as he explained why he's keen on shooting 48 fps --after he showed the Comic-Con hordes "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" footage that was not in the new format.

'Godzilla' poster
'Godzilla' poster

"48 fps has the potential of being quite an important moment for the film industry," he said. "We have to provide a theatrical experience to bring audiences back to the cinema. We're at an age where there is dwindling attendance, particularly amongst younger people. We have to use the technology we have to figure out ways to make the cinema experience more spectacular and immersive." (But, citing the disastrous 48 fps intro at CinemaCon, Jackson realized that audiences have to experience the entire movie, not a snippet of it.)

As one noisy explosive sci-fi actioner after another filled Hall H, from "Total Recall" and "Looper" to "Resident Evil" and "Elysium," it all started to look like one dystopian blur. Making something stand out and look different is better than looking the same as everyone else--that's why Hasbro's gizmo-oriented "Battleship" failed to lure the Comic-Con hordes or anyone else. Filmmakers who possess a powerful storytelling imagination are the Holy Grail--along with the ability to conjure up a believable on-screen universe.

Peter Jackson on the set of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Warner Bros. Peter Jackson on the set of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

"Resident Evil" may not be your cup of tea, but to his credit Paul Anderson and his team have created a world that audiences want to return to. Places like Middle Earth, Gotham and Metropolis pull even more people into their orbit, although Zack "The Watchmen" Snyder's "Man of Steel" footage did more to introduce a new cast led by Brit hunk Henry Cavill as Superman as alien outsider, plus Russell Crowe (also sounding Brit) as Jor-El, Kevin Costner as his human father, Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Michael Shannon as villain General Zod. We know Snyder ("300") can conjure up sizzling visuals. Did he and Chris Nolan and David S. Goyer find a way to make Superman relevant again? That remains to be seen. He'll have to do more than repeat the word "awesome." (See panel videos below.)

This article is related to: Superman, Peter Jackson, Peter Jackson, Lord of the Rings/Hobbit, Andy Serkis, Comic-Con, Guillermo Del Toro, Guillermo del Toro


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Thompson on Hollywood

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.