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.
"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.
"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.)