San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Saturday’s Hall H review
What a night in the Hall H line at San Diego Comic-Con 2014, leading up to an incredible day of marvelous movie revelations in the convention’s biggest event venue. You could say the overnight crowd were “Road Warriors,” (or sidewalk warriors at least.)
I got in line at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, got a wristband at 11:15 p.m., but didn’t walk into the big hall until 9:30 a.m. I’m no mathematician, but if my arithmetic is right, that was roughly 15 hours in line, with emphasis on the “rough,” especially about 4:00 a.m. when I realized that not packing a blanket was a huge mistake.
I’m amazed at the dedication of the fans who braved the cold, the long hours, and, yes, the poop on the sidewalks, in order to get into the venue to see the stars, directors and writers of their favorite upcoming films. Many of the attendees were in line hours before I arrived, and many who arrived later and stayed in line overnight had little hope of getting inside, but hung in there anyway.
Bravo to Comic-Con for initiating their new wristband policy, which gives you a pretty good idea of whether you will make it into the venue or not, so you are not in limbo all night only to have your hopes dashed hours later by being left outside.
For genre movie fans, there’s not much that can match being the first to see advance footage of your favorite films while sitting in the electric atmosphere of Hall H, where the hive-mind of the crowd somehow amps up the excitement level ten-fold, making the long night’s wait worth every second. So without further ado, let’s get down to the business of this upcoming movie news and my thoughts on what I saw in Hall H on Saturday.
Spoilers for many upcoming films are discussed from this point on!
Read at your own risk! You have been warned!
Warner Bros. Pictures Panels –
Renowned “Nerdist,” Chris Hardwick, came on stage in a Marty McFly costume at 10:00 a.m. to introduce the Warner Bros. panel and promised that we would be rewarded for our wait in line overnight. He mentioned that WB wanted to do something “big” for the Con, like… “really big,” and as the lights went down and the fanfare started blasting the Hall H movie screens started growing, extending to 180 degrees of the huge building’s interior.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – No one knew for sure whether Bats V Supes would make an appearance at the Warner Bros. panel, but everyone was hoping for it and the day kicked off with the very first glimpse of the film, introduced by director, Zack Snyder.
It’s a dreary Gotham night as a stoic, stout and buffed-up Batman (looking very similar to Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”) pulls a canvas cover off of the Bat-signal then ignites the lamp. As the light cuts through the sky and paints the famous Bat-image on the dark clouds, the figure of Superman drifts into view, emerging from the center of the Bat logo in the sky. The Man of Steel’s eyes are glowing with the red energy of his heat vision seeping out of his eye-sockets. He is POed and Bats just glares back at him.
Bam! That’s it! It didn’t last long, but the crowd went nuts and the Bats V Supes stars (Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, and Gal Gadot ) all came out to wave briefly to the crowd and before you could say, “Up, up and away,” they were gone.
Jupiter Ascending – Next up was the Wachowski siblings’ latest science fiction project, Jupiter Ascending, starring Mila Kunis as the unassuming Queen of the universe, and Channing Tatum as the alien sent to rescue her.
Early trailers for this film have not done much to generate interest. The plot seemed exceptionally convoluted and Tatum just looked goofy in his blond crew-cut; but the new trailer shown to the Hall H crowd looked a lot better than anything else I’ve seen for this movie and I have to say I’m looking forward to it. Cloud Atlas wasn’t for everyone, but I loved it after having time to digest it, so maybe this one will be the same way.
The Wachowskis are always breaking new ground cinematically, so this could prove to be a great movie; although Channing Tatum coming out for thirty seconds to just say “Hi” to the crowd was not so great. I get that they were on a tight schedule with a lot of stuff to cram into one day, but I honestly don’t know why he bothered to show at all (the slight was probably not his fault.)
Mad Max: Fury Road – B.V.S. was exciting, but it was more of a novelty tease than a true trailer, without any real meat to it, but the next panel really got things rocking. The Mad Max Trilogy director, George Miller, was on hand for his very first Comic-Con visit to unveil the first look at the fourth rendition of his post-apocalyptic world; this time starring Tom Hardy in the titular role.
It’s been twenty-five years since the last Mad Max movie, and as a fan of that series I have to say that the two and a half minute trailer for Fury Road blew me away. Miller has picked-right back up on the tone, look and feel of the original films; and even though it’s going to be missing Mel Gibson, this looks like the Mad Max we’ve all been waiting for – maybe even madder. But don’t just take my word for it, they’ve already released the same trailer we saw on the 180 degree screens at the con – you can see it HERE.
Tom Hardy’s co-star, Charlize Theron, appeared via a video message where she talked about how thrilled she was to be involved in this project – which is nowhere near as thrilled as I am to see this movie (May 2015 can’t come soon enough.)
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – After Mad Max, Hardwick introduced the next moderator, who, he said, we’d know from his role as the Laketown spy in The Desolation of Smaug. Astute fans were then thrilled to see Stephen Colbert come on stage in full spy costume, together with one of the younger members of his informant network.
After hamming it up for bit, Colbert introduced a behind-the-scenes gag reel with funny bits of the cast & crew screwing-up and cutting-up on the set of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films. He then brought out a huge line-up of cast members, including director Peter Jackson, writer Philippa Boyens, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Evangeline Lilly, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Graham McTavish, Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis. (Sadly, Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman didn’t make it to the show.)
After Colbert bantered with the actors for a bit, Peter Jackson introduced the trailer for the next installment of The Hobbit, The Battle of the Five Armies, which looks like it will live up to its title. You might think that it would be impossible to have topped the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in LOTR: The Return of the King, but what I saw of the Five Armies battle looked incredible and very exciting. Although I got the feeling from Jackson that he has grown weary after the 20 years he has spent on this film series. Let’s hope not.
The highlights of this panel included Benedict Cumberbatch saying “Button Lady” in the voice of Smaug (to a woman covered in buttons who requested the gesture), and Andy Serkis (in the voice of Gollum) telling Colbert he was going to search is pockets for his “precious.”
Legendary Pictures Panels –
Godzilla 2 – Jessica Chobot and Legendary Pictures founder, Thomas Tull, moderated the Legendary panels, which started with a video message from the Godzilla (2014) director, Gareth Edwards, who was seen sitting with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background – a landmark, he said, that he has been busy rebuilding.
He confirmed that he will be doing another Godzilla film and then introduced a teaser that confirmed Rodan, Mothra, and Ghidorah are all likely to make an appearance in the next movie. Ending the trailer with the tagline, “Let them fight.” Bring it!
As Above, So Below – Next,brothers John Dowdle and Drew Dowdle, director and writer of As Above So Below, talked about their upcoming found-footage horror film that takes place in the real catacombs of Paris. They showed the trailer for the movie, which honestly looked like just another found-footage horror film. Good luck to the brothers Dowdle, but this one didn’t do much for me.
Blackhat – Legendary action-suspense director Michael Mann was next, talking about and showing a trailer for his upcoming film, Blackhat, a timely thriller about espionage and computer hacking. The movie stars Chris Hemsworth, who was also on hand for the discussion, and apparently took a crash course on computer warfare with some actual hackers.
Computer-based movies are often “hackneyed” and dull, but Mann knows how to make a suspenseful drama, and this one looked pretty darn good – as well as being current as today’s headlines.
Crimson Peak – Next up for Legendary was crowd favorite and Comic-Con veteran,Guillermo del Toro, who brought a sneak-peek of his upcoming gothic romance film, Crimson Peak, which puts the filmmaker back in his horror wheelhouse.
The trailer for Crimson Peak looked genuinely creepy, as you would expect from Del Toro, and I’m excited to see this one, but not nearly as excited as I am about the other movie titles he teased: Hellboy 3 and At the Mountains of Madness. (No details here. He was just dropping names and gauging audience reaction.)
Then, not to be outdone, the head of Legendary came back out and confirmed there will be a Pacific Rim 2 in Del Toro’s future, then surprised everyone by showing a teaser trailer for Skull Island, a journey back to the land of King Kong! It was an amazing clip, completely out of left field, and made this monkey’s day. I can’t wait for it, but I’m still unclear as to Del Toro’s involvement – if any.
Warcraft – The last item on the Legendary docket was the upcoming Warcraft movie, based on the popular video game series. Director Duncan Jones was there to talk about his progress on the film, which has been long in the making and still has quite a distance to go before completion. He showed the first trailer for the movie, and while it looked really good, I have to admit I’m rather ignorant to the games intricacies and can’t really speak to it. It all looked rather Lord of the Rings-ish to me, especially after viewing the Battle of the Five Armies footage just an hour earlier. That’s not to say it was bad by any means, it all looked quite good and I “think” fans will be happy.
The Boxtrolls –
After the Legendary panels, The Boxtrolls had their very own hour block of behind the scenes footage and the trailer for the upcoming stop-motion animation film. The panel consisted of LAIKA animation studio head, Travis Knight, directors Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable, and voice stars Isaac Hempstead Wright (from Game of Thrones), Elle Fanning, and Ben Kingsley,
The behind-the-scenes stop-motion stuff is always interesting, and this film had a fun trailer and looks to be a great family movie. Its stars talked about the voice acting process and it was awesome to see Sir Ben Kingsley make his very first Comic-Con appearance. Before leaving the stage, the directors goaded the crowd into a chest thumping tribute that they videotaped for the recently injured actor, Tracy Morgan, who is one of the movie’s stars.
Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For –
Like The Boxtrolls, A Dame to Kill For had its own hour block in Hall H, where directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller talked about the sequel to Sin City and showed a couple of clips and a trailer from the soon-to-be-released film. Rodriguez and Miller are both Hollywood rebels who work outside of the system, so a lot of their commentary involved how their movie could never have been made within the studio system.
Stars Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, and Josh Brolin were all on hand to talk about the movie, and Alba spoke to how she will be featured in a story that is not part of the comic book series and promised we would see her dark psychotic side. (No, not sweet, innocent Nancy!) Sounds cool – looks cool!
Women Who Kick Ass –
In a break from the movie previews, Hall H also featured the “Women Who Kick Ass” panel, featuring Sleepy Hollow’s Nicole Beharie, American Horror Story’s Sarah Paulson, Sons of Anarchy’s Katey Sagal, Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany, and from Game of Thrones, Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell) and Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), who is just as feisty in person as Arya is on GOT.
The women talked about the strength of the female characters they play on television and how their own life experiences influence their acting work. A highlight was Tatiana Maslany saying that Leela (the cyclopean warrior from Futurama – voiced by Katey Sagal) was her personal role model.
Marvel Studios –
This, of course, was the one that everybody was waiting for, and Chris Hardwick in full McFly form was back out to do the moderating, first bringing out Marvel Studio’s President, Kevin Feige, to assist with the event.
Ant-Man – The first film on Marvel’s docket was Ant-Man, a movie that has been under intense scrutiny after its original director, Edgar Wright, and the studio parted ways a few weeks ago. There was no mention of Wright, but the movie’s new director, Peyton Reed, did smooth the crowd over by presenting his own very nerdy Ant-Man credentials.
It seems that when Reed was a young man he was the drummer in a punk band called “Johnny Quest” and he was also in charge of drafting promotional posters for the group. One of the graphics he created had the band members as superheroes, including Reed as Ant-Man. If that isn’t life imitating art (and/or vice versa) then I don’t know what is.
Ant-Man actors Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas were also there to talk about the movie and their first Con experiences, as was Corey Stoll, who, it was announced, will be playing Yellowjacket, and Evangeline Lilly, who will be playing Hope Van Dyne (Henry Pym’s daughter.) No mention of The Wasp (Janet Van Dyne) was made, so who knows where they are going with that, but I’m always good with Evangeline Lilly in anything.
They showed an exciting clip from the film, described as a heist picture, which had Rudd as the hero scrambling to make an escape and trying desperately to mount a winged ant like he would a horse. He finally surrenders and jumps off the edge of a desk, but in mid-fall the flying-ant swoops underneath him and they zoom off with a swarm following behind them. It was short but sweet and I feel confident that this film is going to be great, despite the turmoil from Wright’s untimely departure.
Avengers: Age of Ultron – So this was the biggie of all the big previews this day, and the entire cast was present (except for a pregnant Scarlett Johansson, who appeared in a short video message, and Joss Whedon, who is recovering from knee surgery.)
Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) was first to come out, dancing to the raucous music they were playing and carrying a handful of roses. He was followed by Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Chris Evans (Captain America), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Cobie Smulders (Agent Hill), and new cast members Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Quicksilver), James Spader (Ultron), Paul Bettany (The Vision), and Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlett Witch), all of which took turns hamming it up for the crowd, that was on their feet and going crazy celebrating.
Hardwick ran through the standard “How do you feel about playing…?” questions and most of the actors were having fun with the schtick (the exceptions being Renner and Taylor-Johnson – who came across as being too cool for Comic-Con school), but what everyone wanted to see was footage from the upcoming (all but guaranteed) blockbuster.
The film footage was huge, and not in the gimmicky way with extended screen size (a la Warner Bros. panel), but in the “makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up” way that makes you squeal with excitement. (Not admitting to any squealing.)
The footage begins with the super-team casually sitting around Avengers Mansion (or is it penthouse?) and discussing Mjölnir’s inscription of “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” The other members of the team decide to test out the hammer’s power, and comically (especially with Bruce Banner), none of them can pick it up – although Cap manages to budge it a little, to the astonishment of his teammates.
The fun is over soon enough though when Ultron makes his appearance and the rest of the footage is mind-numbing action that went by so quickly it was difficult to retain much of it, other than it was impressive and looks like it has potential to outdo the first film, if that’s even possible.
One thing that I did manage to retain is the Hulk fighting with Iron Man, who is wearing the Hulkbuster armor – and it looked amazing. The short preview ends with a torn and tattered Tony Stark standing in ruins that include a broken Captain America shield.
The crowd was on their feet cheering as the actors stood and took their bows, but it wasn’t over just yet. From stage-left enters Josh Brolin, who was recently cast as Thanos in some upcoming Marvel project (I’m assuming Avengers 3) and he’s wearing the infamous Infinity Gauntlet. He’s POed and demands a rose from Robert Downey Jr., which he promptly eats. Too funny!
Guardians of the Galaxy – After the Avengers panel, in somewhat awkward and anti-climatic fashion, Guardians of the Galaxy director, James Gunn, and actor Chris Pratt appeared in a videotaped message joking about announcing Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – which I guess was meant to be an actual announcement. That’s good news and speaks to the faith the studio has in the movie that starts this Friday (August 1, 2014.)
As the crowd streamed out of Hall H, with many of us having been on the convention grounds for 40 hours or more, I heard a commotion behind me and turned to see Chris Hardwick running through the crowd high-fiving fans. He ran right past me and then disappeared into an ocean of people. Apparently the Avengers preview made him feel invulnerable. Let’s hope he lived to tell the tale.
San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Saturday Photo Gallery -