Comic Con 2011: Friday 7/22/11 Review

Well, it’s been three exhausting but exciting days, and Comic-Con 2011 is officially behind us. While we weren’t able to get into every presentation we would have liked, we still saw a lot of terrific panels and got a lot of great information. We’ve already covered our first day at the con, so without further ado, here’s day two.

The Adventures of Tin-Tin: I think everyone in that room would agree that this was the highlight of the convention. It was well publicized that Steven Spielberg would be making his Comic-Con debut with this panel. I knew it would be an amazing experience to hear the film-making legend in person, but I didn’t realize the actual panel itself would be so entertaining. Before getting into Tin-Tin, Spielberg was presented with an Inkpot Award, a Comic-Con staple given to those who have made great contributions to the pop-culture landscape in some way. It goes without saying that Spielberg is more than entitled to this distinction. However, they reminded everybody in that room just how significant his contributions to film have been by playing a spectacular montage of moments from most of his films. I’ve seen these movies multiple times, and I still got chills as I was reminded how much of an impact this one man has had on the pop-culture landscape.

When the clips ended, they brought Steven out to the longest and most-deserved standing ovation I’ve ever seen in Hall H. It was a thrilling moment, and one that I’ll never forget. After he gave a brief, but sincerely grateful acceptance speech, it was time to get into Tin-Tin. For those that don’t know, Tin-Tin is a very popular comic around the world, that never caught on in America for some reason. He explained how Tin-Tin was first brought to his attention in a review of Raiders of the Lost Ark, which compared Indy to Tin-Tin. Now knowing who that was, Spielberg did some research, discovering that Tin-Tin is a child reporter who always ends up becoming part of the story he’s investigating, much like Indy is an archeologist who finds hiimself part of the mythology of the relics he’s sent to unearth.

Spielberg quickly became fascinated with the character, and eventually decided he wanted to direct a film version. However, the comics have a very distinct visual style. After struggling with the dilemma of how to adapt this look, he recruited WETA to do a test. The comics feature a dog named Snowy, and he had them do an animation test of this character against a live-action actor who played a character named Captain Haddock. He informed us that this presentation was made many, many years ago. He then told the very excited audience that he brought that test to show us.

The test was surprisingly fantastic, and would have actually worked just find as a film. The real surprise of the footage however, was the “actor” who played Captain Haddock. WETA had director Peter Jackson play the character, and he was very funny in the part. In the test, he was talking to the audience about his desire to play the character while Snowy was trying to get his attention behind him. Eventually, Jackson/Haddock spills some wine which Snowy promptly drinks, getting so inebriated that he stumbles off the dock in a drunken stupor. At this point, Jackson/Haddock dives in to save him, and the clip ends.

As the lights came back up, the audience was thrilled to discover that Jackson himself had joined Spielberg on stage. As Jackson is in the thick of filming the Hobbit, I don’t think anybody in that room was expecting this surprise. Through the rest of the panel, the two just talked about their history with the character, with each other, and eventually took questions from the audience. They also showed a pretty long clip in 3D, and I’ve got to say, the movie looks terrific. It was all done in motion-capture, with Spielberg himself operating the camera. Because of this, there were some truly exciting visuals in the presentation. The story also looks like a lot of fun, and the voice-talent sounds terrific.

The Q&A portion of the panel was surprisingly good as well. I have to hand it to this crowd, they handled themselves really well for the most part. I’ve been to a lot of panels where the questions were simply people gushing, asking for hugs, and stumbling over their own words. There was a little of that, but the questions were mostly questions that I genuinely was curious about the answers. As an aside, while most of the questions were either conceptual or about their careers, I was thrilled to hear one person ask for an update on Jurassic Park 4. As Jurassic Park is one of my favorite movies, I loved getting to hear Spielberg himself reveal that we will have JP4 in 2 or 3 years.

When the panel was over, I knew I had seen what would be the best presentation of the day. While I love going to these panels every year, very few leave a lasting impression. However, I’m sure I’ll always remember this fantastic presentation.

Screen Gems: Having unsuccessfully tried to get into a couple of different panels that took place at the same time, I was late actually getting into this presentation. Because of this, I only saw the very end of the Underworld 4 presentation. The director and cast were there, and they were taking questions from the audience by the time I arrived. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn anything of substance in this brief amount of time. However, I was there for the entire presentation regarding the other film Screen Gems brought to the Con, Attack the Block. I’d heard the name before, knowing that it was pretty popular in the UK where it was already released, and knowing that it’s played at some festivals to high acclaim. However, nothing they showed about this film appealed to me. It tells the story of rival gangs in London, and how they have to band together when their block is invaded by aliens.

First of all, the film looked a lot cheaper than I expected. The aliens, while practicaly effects, looked really cheesy complete with glow-in-the-dark teeth. Maybe I need more context, but in the brief amounts shown, I thought the characters seemed annoying, the look of the film ugly, and the story completely uninteresting. This wasn’t a great panel to follow-up the Tin-Tin panel with.

DreamWorks: For the DreamWorks panel, they only showcased one film, Fright Night. This was a very typical panel, where they showed some clips, and brought out some of the cast and crew. Like the presentation for Rise of the Planet of the Apes on Thursday, I just couldn’t bring myself to get that excited about advance footage for a movie opening next month. The movie looks fine, if not a little generic, but nothing about it really wowed me. To be fair, I’ve never seen the original, so this might have had more of an impact if I was already a fan of the property. It was fun seeing Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, etc. talk about the film, but there was nothing here that made the film seem like a “must-see.”

Sony: The longest panel we saw of the entire convention, Sony went all out for this one, bringing four films to showcase. They started with the sequel to Ghost Rider, followed it up with 30 Minutes or Less, then did a presentation for the remake of Total Recall, and ended with the one everybody was there for, The Amazing Spider-Man.

I pride myself on being pretty knowledgable about what films are in production at what times, and this is why I was so surprised to find out that there was a panel for the Ghost Rider sequel. I knew there was at least plans for this film, but I had no idea it had already been shot. While I did enjoy the original more than most people I know, I can’t say that I’m a huge fan. I thought Ghostrider himself was an interesting character, at least on a conceptual level; however, the story didn’t really do anything for me. With the sequel, it looks like the story is going to be even more inconsequential. However, what was shot looks absolutely insane, and unlike anything seen before in a superhero film. Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank) shoot the film themselves, and put themselves right in the middle of the sequences in whatever way possible. For example, they would shoot a car chase by wearing rollerblades, holding on to the back of a speeding motorcycle and being pulled right into the middle of the scene. Or for a sequence where a character goes over the edge of a cliff, they would attach themselves to a harness facing the stuntman, and throw themselves over the edge in order to film from that usually unseen perspective.

I wish I could say that the movie looks worth all the effort, but it really doesn’t. All the crazy camerawork seems to be mildly distracting, and their visual style just seems too frenetic for my tastes. Thanks to developments in motion-capture technology, Nicolas Cage gets to actually play Ghost Rider this time, so I’m looking forward to his performance. Other than that, I can’t say I’m all that excited for this one.

After this was 30 Minutes Or Less, a comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari. Other than the fact that the director of this film also directed Zombieland, I’m not entirely sure why this film wsa being presented at Comic-Con. Usually, the films that get these presentations are more genre-based, and this seemed like a more straight-forward comedy. However, the movie looks funny, and the cast (especially Ansari) was very entertaining on stage. There was nothing entirely notable about this segment, but it was still fun.

I still can’t believe they’re remaking Total Recall. I love Philip K. Dick’s original story, and think that the original film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger is an action classic. Unless they have something truly unique to bring to the table, I don’t see what there is to gain by filming the same story a second time. Unlike Schwarzenegger’s version, this one isn’t set on Mars, which seems to make the whole thing less interesting, at least to me. The director and cast were there, and they showed some clips, but nothing they showed convinced me that this is a film worth making. We saw the scene where Quaid (Colin Farrell) first goes to Rekall, and realizes that he may actually be a secret agent after all. It’s a fun little action sequence, but nothing that wasn’t done better in the original.

Finally, the Amazing Spider-Man. The panel opened with “somebody” in a cheap looking Spider-Man costume approaching the microphone. As the moderator started telling this person that they weren’t taking questions yet, the Spider-Man at the microphone started talking about what a huge fan of the character he is, and how he just had to say what was on his mind, etc. To the surprise of nobody, he ended up ripping off the mask to reveal that it was none other than Andrew Garfield, star of this new Spider-Man reboot.

At this point, he started reading a prepared speech about how much the opportunity to play the character means to him, and how thrilled he is for the entire experience. It was a great speech, and a great moment for the panel. No matter how good the finished film ends up being, I will never doubt the sincerity of Garfield’s commitment to this role. He is a fan through and through, and really is living his dream.

(Watch the Comic-Con Panel from Hall H!)

As for the panel itself, they showed the preview which had already leaked, some extended footage, and most surprisingly a very detailed look at the villain of the film, Dr. Curt Connors, aka The Lizard. If you’ve seen the preview, you know this is yet another origin story, and again, I’m not sure, this is something we necessarily needed to see again. As an audience, we all know that story, and we’re ready to just watch Spider Man have more adventures, not recap the events we already know. Hopefully, it’ll be different enough so as not to seem too repetitive. Instead of Mary Jane, this time we get Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and as mentioned above, instead of the Green Goblin, we get The Lizard.

I’m not all that familiar with the Spider-Man comics, so I don’t know a whole lot about the lizard. Having said that, I don’t know how accurate their portrayal of the character is, but he looks pretty formidable. When I heard the antagonist was going to be The Lizard, I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. Turns out, that means the Dr. Connors literally becomes a giant lizard. Like the Hulk, it’s a human who turns into a giant green creature. This one just appears to be evil for some reason. The CGI isn’t photoreal by any means, but it still looks good.

They didn’t show a whole lot of the web-slinging, but the little they did show appears to be a mixture of practical and CGI. I’m sure the film will be entertaining, but like Total Recall, I really hope this film gives us a reason for existing. I would understand furthering the adventures of Spider-Man, but I just don’t understand why we need to reboot it.

And that wraps up Day 2 of Comic-Con. As I mentioned above, the Tin-Tin panel was amazing, but nothing else came close to wowing the audience on that level. Still, it was a really fun day, and overall, this has been a really fun year for the Con.

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