Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Trust Peter Jackson
(I apologize in advance for the poor photo quality)
San Diego Comic Con is honeycombed with halls and ballrooms of various shapes and sizes, and at the heart of them all is Hall H. Hall H holds 6,500 people and is reserved for the most buzzworthy movie and TV panels. However, despite its size, Hall H is notoriously difficult to get into. Naively, my friend and I arrived four hours before the first event on Friday, and were greeted with this:
This line stretched all the way past the convention center, to an adjacent park, and out to the marina. Clearly there were far more than 6,000 there. Not wanting to miss the incredible panels set for Saturday, but limited by the trolley schedule, we did the only logical thing: we camped!
Seven years since I’d gone camping, and it was to see a sneak peak of “The Hobbit.” Geek cred affirmed. Believe it or not, the most fun I had at the convention was in this line. I met and talked with a delightful couple on their honeymoon, another geek who’d read all of The Song of Ice and Fire series and spoke about it in coded language, an Iron Man fan who had built a realistic-looking suit out of duct tape, and a very nice security guard who admitted she’d taken the gig just to attend. In short, we were surrounded by people who were just as geeky and excited as we were. Then, proving he is the classiest person around, Sir Ian McKellan walked by the lines around 1 in the morning, talked with the fans, and thanked us for camping to see his panel. The next morning, having slept or stood in line for about 10 hours, we were among the first 2,000 people admitted into Hall H, which meant that we got front row seats to the biggest entertainment news of the year.
Elysium: Surprise Smash
I actually snuck into Hall H at the end of Friday to catch this panel, and hands down this is the most original movie at Comic Con. Written and directed by Neill Blomkamp, the genius behind “District 9,” “Elysium” is what every good science fiction film should be: a commentary on contemporary culture. “District 9” explored apartheid in South Africa, but “Elysium” focuses its gaze on the growing wealth gap. The Earth is a barren wasteland where the poor are forced to live in slums, while the super rich have built a space station called Elysium, where vegetation thrives and sickness has been eradicated. It’s also an action movie with Matt Damon, and Sharlto Copley, who battle decked out in mechanical exoskeletons. We were given a small glimpse at the panel, and I was totally blown away. This is a movie that you should see regardless of whether you consider yourself a science fiction lover or not. It’s going to be that good.
Django Unchained: Slave Spaghetti Western
I just want to sit down for an hour with Quentin Tarantino and talk about movies. During the panel for “Django Unchained,” Tarantino listed and discussed movies with the depth of a film professor and the excitement of a complete and total geek. He sees “Django Unchained” as an answer to the Hollywood westerns that ignored slavery, and lists the following as inspiration: “The Rose of New Orleans,” “Birth of a Nation,” the Brunhilde and Siegfried fairytale, and the Sergio Corbucci spaghetti westerns “Django” and “Minnesota Clay.” Tarantino was particularly interested in how Corbucci used the genre to explore fascism in post-fascist Italy, and tried to emulate that commentary in his own film. Whether he succeeds or not, “Django Unchained” will be another great genre mashup by Tarantino. I’m going to announce now that I will absolutely be watching all of these films and reporting back to you as “Django Unchained” gets closer.
Pacific Rim: “Anything you can imagine is in this film.”
Legendary Films definitely made a push to live up to its name. First it showed the gigantic movie “Pacific Rim,” a giant robots versus monsters movie directed by Guillermo del Toro. Guillermo del Toro is such a strange, funny man. He talked extensively about the designs for the monsters and robots, and how he went about creating many distinct and unique monsters which we did not get to see much of, but which we all went nuts for anyway. At one point he yelled “You want rocket punches? We’ve got fucking rocket punches!” I never thought I’d be excited for a Robot vs Monster movie, but del Toro’s crazy enough to make me believe it can live up to his imagination. The bits we did see looked like “Blade Runner,” “Total Recall,” “Godzilla,” and God-knows-what mashed together into something new. It wouldn’t be a del Toro movie if it wasn’t weird.
(Legendary Films wrapped up its section with a teaser for the Godzilla movie they dubbed “the ‘Batman Begins’ of Godzilla,” but teasers can be deceiving so the jury’s out.)
Man of Steel: Zack Snyder is a dick
As a geek, I am predisposed to be excited for a Superman movie but you as the director still need to meet me halfway and sell me on why I should see your film. Zack Snyder completely failed at that. He treated fans callously, and gave the distinct impression that he did not want to be there. At one point, Snyder refused to answer a superfan’s question (who’s the villain), even though we all knew the answer (Zodd). I am not a particular fan of Snyder’s movies, but fortunately the “Man of Steel” trailer has none of his usual annoying quirks. I can only assume Executive Producer Chris Nolan stood behind Snyder with a rolled up newspaper and bopped him on the snout whenever he tried to sneak in a slow-motion shot. “Man of Steel” actually looks a lot like “Batman Begins,” with scruffy heroes in cold mountains and a monochrome color palette. But Superman’s costume is a wetsuit. It looks like he’s wearing a wetsuit.
The Hobbit: My Favorite 12 Minutes of the Convention
Peter Jackson brought the most to the convention. Not only did Martin Freeman (in a hat!), Sir Ian (in a pink coat!) and Andy Serkis come to the convention, Jackson brought behind-the-scenes goodies, and 12 minutes of footage from both films. It. Looked. Amazing. All of my fears have been quelled. “The Hobbit” was one of my favorite books, because it was a simple fairytale with epic themes and a sweet hero, but I was worried that Jackson would bloat it in order to separate it into two films. The small piece of the riddle scene told me this won’t be a problem. Martin Freeman’s report with Serkis as Gollum shows how fantastically acted this film is. Many of you may know that I don’t like excessive CGI, so I want to take this opportunity to say how fantastic motion capture has become. We watched a stream of emotions wash across Gollum’s face as he internally debated eating Bilbo Baggins versus playing with him. The bit of the scene we saw was perfectly sad, funny, and scary at the same time. Peter Jackson, I no longer doubt you. And I can’t wait for December.
Marvel: All About The Fans
Marvel started things off by thanking the audience of 6,500 geeks (and by extension geeks everywhere) for helping to make “The Avengers” and the entire Marvel universe part of the largest and most successful movie enterprise of the 21st century. Time and again, we were told how important we had been for their success. (Eat it, Snyder, that is how you treat your fans.) Then, down to the nitty gritty. We were shown title cards for the next Thor and Captain America movies, as well as the announced Guardians of the Universe film. (Killer raccoon. Google it.) Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Hot Fuzz) surprised the audience by showing up with an Ant-Man comic book in hand, announcing that there would be an Ant-Man movie at last. He showed some fantastic test footage of Ant-Man taking down two guards by shrinking enough to run up one guard’s gun, then jumping over him, flashing to normal size, and throwing him out a window. Awesome.
Then the main event: Robert Downey Jr. danced down the aisle to start the “Iron Man 3” panel. The Comic Con exclusive was exactly what you expect: Tony Stark being snarky, things exploding, and a new villain played by Sir Ben Kingsley. This was the most fun panel. RDJ, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, and director Shane Black were there cracking jokes. Black: “This guy actually is Tony Stark.” RDJ: “Are you calling me an asshole?” Black: “A rich asshole!”
However, when one fan asked RDJ whether this was the last Iron Man movie, his polite but inconclusive answer made me wonder: where is the Marvel Universe going? The Avengers individually have movies to sell and new badguys to defeat on their own, as well as another Avengers movie in the next few years; but is there an overall narrative arc to all of these stories? The first Avengers movie did a great job of tying all of these disparate elements together (Marvel: Do Not Replace Joss Whedon), but after “Thor 2,” “Captain America 2,” “Iron Man 3,” “Ant-Man,” and “The Avengers 2,” what then? I hope that they’re all leading to a cohesive conclusion, but it’s also possible that they’ll spin off farther and farther from each other until audiences get bored and the great experiment of the Marvel Universe sputters to an inelegant finale. I’m hoping this isn’t the case. And Marvel has done so well so far. But “Iron Man 3,” the possible conclusion of the first branch of this franchise, will give us a sense of where Marvel thinks it’s going. And that alone makes it something to watch.
Conclusion: SDCC 2013 Here I come!
Despite writing two very long blog posts, I have only scratched the surface of my Comic Con experience, which it turn was just scratching the surface of Comic Con itself. For four days out of every day, the highlights of pop culture are paraded and celebrated. It’s a dizzying experience to say the least. And I can’t wait for next year.