One of the items on my “things to do before I die” list is attend the San Diego Comic Con. This event is attended by thousands and thousands of film and genre fans every summer and pulls out A-list talent on an unprecedented scale. As a film aficionado, this one convention represents the holy grail of new and exciting movie news. While I once again did not have the pleasure of attending this year’s event, I was able to keep up with much of the news via the wonders of the internet. So here is my run down on San Diego Comic Con 2015 (SDCC15).
*Minor spoilers for several films and TV programs to follow*
My one take away from what I have seen of this year’s SDCC is that the remainder of 2015 and all of 2016 have all of the shapings of being a banner year for cinema. All of this comes with the caveat that Marvel Studios did not attend the convention at all this year, which meant no promotion of Captain America: Civil War (2016) or Doctor Strange (2016). This is not to say that Marvel was not represented. In fact, all of the properties that belong to Fox Studios were on hand to give details into their upcoming films!
For those keeping track, Fox Studios currently owns the rights to all of the X-Men and Fantastic Four characters, which is why these characters are unlikely to show up in the Avengers franchise. So naturally, these properties were present in full force. Actors from all of the upcoming films were on hand to present a final trailer for Fantastic Four (2015) which is due in just a few weeks. Plus actor Ryan Reynolds gave the crowd a first look and trailer for the new R-rated Deadpool (2016) flick, which looks to really earn that hard R rating. If you troll the web enough you may be able to find a poor-quality leak of this trailer… it is actually pretty hilarious!
Hugh Jackman, Bryan Singer and the whole X-family were on the panel to give a glimpse into the next and final Wolverine movie, which looks to be based on the Old Man Wolverine storyline. Surprisingly, there was no word on if Jackman would be appearing in Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), but it was confirmed that the next Wolverine film would be Hugh Jackman’s last time playing the character that made him famous.
Having read the description and seeing a tiny (and I do mean tiny) clip for X-Men Apocalypse teaser that was shown, it looks like that movie is going to be really great. Singer is continuing the story of the X-Men from the First Class (2011) timeline, this time taking place in the early to mid 80’s (just think of the fashion and costumes), which is really exciting. The cast for this movie is huge and even includes Sophia Turner, who plays Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones, and Oscar Isaac who is going to be in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (more on that later). Needless to say, the character of Apocalypse (Isaac) looks really good and appears using practical effects! I am really looking forward to this one!
Moving away from Marvel, I want to note that there was a teaser reel for the upcoming Warcraft (2016) movie, which is being helmed by Moon (2009) director Duncan Jones. This is one preview I have been looking forward to for a while and even though it was shown this weekend it looks to be impossible to find online. In fact, there is no plan to release an actual trailer until November. NOVEMBER!!! This is also the case for official trailers for X-Men Apocalypse and Deadpool (thank the maker for bootleg leaks). The advance word on this footage was that it is still pretty rough looking, but on an appropriately epic scale.
Next, I wanted to touch on a couple trailers shown for extremely popular television programs, namely The Walking Dead and Doctor Who. I was pretty happy with both of these previews. Namely The Walking Dead, which looks to be taking an interesting narrative turn in which Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) seems to become a quasi-villain. While I am certain that he will not be the ACTUAL villain, the idea is still really neat.
As for the good Doctor, it looks like we will be getting some more interesting stories with our newest Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and his companion Clara (Jenna Coleman). This season we even get an appearance by Arya Stark herself, or at least actress Maisie Williams! Doctor Who is always really hard to gauge from its previews, but I think things are shaping up nicely. I am ready for one more trip in the TARDIS.
Now we move on to two of the biggest (and most anticipated) presentations during this year’s convention, the Warner Brothers’ and Star Wars: The Force Awakens panels. One I would describe as meh, with touches of brilliance, while the other I found entirely brilliant. Before I move on, I want to discuss the fact that both of these panels allowed for a high degree of transparency for those of us that were not lucky enough to attend the actual con. The WB and Star Wars both released much of their event to the public right after SDCC attendees got to take part in their panels. This is extremely gratifying for the enormous fan base and it only builds the prestige of the event. I wish more studios would take this example and run with it. SDCC should be for everyone, not just those who can attend!
Saturday saw the release of the highly anticipated Batman V Superman (2016) trailer. Actually this is the second trailer and it gives a great deal more insight into the film. As part of the WB panel, director Zack Snyder and stars Henry Cavil (Superman) and Ben Affleck (Batman) showed audiences the afore mentioned preview to a capacity crowd. Check it out before reading on.
My thoughts on this trailer were based on my first impression, which is that this might be a little bit too much in too little time. What I mean by this is that DC and WB are asking us to buy in and care about characters that have had very little in the way of build-up. If this movie had come as a continuation of the Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy, I think that would have been accomplished. Instead we are introduced to a new, older Batman who already has a history behind him (but we are still going to be shown he is an orphan in a flashback, like we didn’t know that).
The start of the trailer is fantastic. Seeing the events of Man of Steel (2013) through the eyes of Bruce Wayne and the aftermath of those events looks really cool. Then things start to get muddy. We see all these various things and characters, including Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, which makes the trailer feels jumbled and disconnected. There is even a random shot of what looks like a World War II-era Batman, which harkens back to the Superman Red Sun storyline, which in turn purposes how different things would have been if Superman had landed in Communist Russia instead of Kansas as a baby. All of this looks visually spectacular, but has no emotion.
A trailer does not need to give away the whole movie, but it should feel like ONE movie instead of several different movies and ideas strung together. Last year’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) suffered from this. It was a case of “too much” and I hope that Batman V Superman does not fall victim to the same pitfall. Already, I question the inclusion of Wonder Woman and hope she is not merely an addition just to say she is there. Even Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is supposed to be in this movie. Snyder is a fantastic visual director, but he struggles in storytelling (see Sucker Punch (2011) and 300 (2006) for examples).
The other trailer that WB showed, which is not available beyond a leaked copy, was the Suicide Squad (2016). This is a villain-centric action film. Following several of the DC Universes biggest villains on the road to shortened sentences, we are introduced to our newest incarnation of the iconic Joker, played by Jared Leto, as well as the first film appearance by his love interest/partner in crime Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). While the crowd seemed really into this trailer, I am seriously concerned with the way Leto is portraying the Joker. He looks less like a deranged sociopath than a rabid Insane Clown Posse fanatic. Even Margot Robbie seems to miss the vocal mark as Harley Quinn. She has the look, just not the right voice. Perhaps this is just because it was a poor quality leaked trailer or really early footage, but I am officially worried.
On the other hand, the presentation for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) blew me away. While this panel did not show anything along the lines of a new trailer, it still elicited an emotional response that was of the highest caliber. Not only did the panel include all of the new cast members, including Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac, but it also featured Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and even Harrison Ford (who hardly ever does promotion for Star Wars). It also presented a remarkable making of a reel.
This reel, while showing no finished film footage, actually made me tear up a little. From those amazing musical cues at the start, with the lenses focusing, to seeing all of the spectacular practical effects and sets that the Abrams and company are using, this little treat had more resonance for me than anything else witnessed over the weekend. Seeing Daisy Ridley in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon being driven by a practical gimbal system (the thing that moves the set around all crazy and simulates movement), is, to me, what the original trilogy is all about from a film-making perspective.
I hardly have the words to express how utterly impressed I am with not only this comic con reel, but with the panel itself. I actually felt real jealousy over how the attendees were invited to attend a symphonic concert, by the San Diego Symphonic Orchestra, at the close of the panel. All of the actors traveled with the fans from the convention center to the venue for the concert, where everyone was greeted with a free lightsaber of their choice. Imagine having your field of view covered by thousands of glowing lightsabers while listening to those iconic pieces of John Williams’ score. This was truly an amazing moment and one I wish I could have been at.
While there are many other small moments, such as Joss Whedon explaining the meaning of life (no, seriously… and it was actually a good explanation) or finding out that Quentin Tarantino filmed Hateful Eight (2015) in 65mm with the same lens that filmed Ben Hur (1959) and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), SDCC really was a special event this year.
In a few short weeks, the Central Library will be host to Chesapeake’s own Sci Fi/Comic/Film convention, FantaSci. This exciting special event will be one day only, so you won’t want to miss it. Join us on July 25 for panels, contests and vendors galore and let me know what you thought of this year’s San Diego Comic Con!