The fanboys and girls, movie stars, and directors all gathered in Southern California once again this past weekend for the 42nd annual San Diego Comic Con International, aka Geek Prom. As usual it was a hyperventilative cornucopia of costumes, breathless hype, and studio publicity pushes for their upcoming films and TV shows.
While several big hitters for 2012-13 opted to sit out this year’s convention (The Hobbit, The Hunger Games, The Avengers, John Carter of Mars, Superman: Man of Steel, and The Dark Knight Rises were all conspicuous in their absence) here are some of the Comic-Con highlights (and one arrest) from the movie side of things.
The photo-op of the week was the new Peter Parker, British actor Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, Never Let Me Go), appearing on stage in an ill-fitting Spider-Man costume, but winning over fans with his bumbling but earnest declaration of how much the Spider-Man character meant to him as a kid. “I needed Spider-Man in my life as a kid and he gave me hope. He was living mine and every skinny boy’s fantasy… He saved my life.”
Spider-Man footage showed Garfield’s Peter having a moving heart-to-heart chat with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and gave fans their first look the reboot’s villain: The Lizard. However, co-star Rhys Ifans, who plays the villain’s human side, had a less enjoyable Comic-Con: After the presentation he was cited for misdemeanor battery for allegedly shoving a female security person during an argument over backstage access for a friend.
The Twilight presence at Comic-Con is usually about fans screaming at being near stars Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner, and this year was no exception. The three and other Twilight actors were on hand to show footage from the fourth entry in the series, including scenes from Edward and Bella’s honeymoon in Brazil.
The stars also described the film’s intense birth scene. “The birth scene is so different from everything else in the movie,” said Pattinson. “It’s hardcore, it’s graphic.” Breaking Dawn (1 & 2) director Bill Condon agreed, saying the last two Twilight films “turn into a horror movie.”
An unusually chatty and charismatic Kristen Stewart was also on hand to discuss Universal’s upcoming Snow White action film. All spring Relativity’s rival Snow White flick from director Tarsem Singh has had the upper-hand hype-wise, thanks to Julia Roberts playing the wicked Queen. But lately Huntsman has been picking up major steam, positioning itself more, as producer Joe Roth put it at Comic-Con, “on the scale of The Lord of the Rings in terms of size, scope, and appetite.” Added Stewart, “I get to have a sword and stuff and really cool weapons.” Stewart was joined by her version’s evil Queen, Charlize Theron, and director Rupert Sanders’ early test-footage was shown, revealing a very moody and strikingly imaginative visual style, including a small fairy coming out of a dead blackbird’s chest.
Geek Gods Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson introduced their CGI adventure, based on Hergé’s beloved classic graphic novels. Spielberg directed the motion-captured film in a manner similar to Robert Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol, meaning he was on a set with a camera in hand, filming actors Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Daniel Craig so the footage could be later mo-capped into CGI. The result appears to be much more like live action than animation, with Spielberg describing it as “much more of a direct-to-canvas art form.”
The Beard (Spielberg that is, not Jackson, who I guess also as a beard, but not The Beard) also said there are plans in the works for a fourth Jurassic Park film, hopefully “in the next two or three years.”
Curious geeks finally got a little more clarification on exactly what Scott’s latest sci-fi film is, isn’t, may or may not be: What started out as an Alien prequel evolved into not-totally-an-Alien-prequel, but will have ties to and little hints of the world of Alien, and may or may not end up setting the stage for the first Alien. Clear, right? Scott beamed in via video from Iceland and writer Damon Lindelof (Lost) and star Charlize Theron were there in person to sorta not completely explain Prometheus. (It also stars Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, and Noomi Rapace.)
“We begin at the beginning,” said Lindelof of the film, which follows human explorers deep into space. “There are some big ideas… it covers a vast expanse of time, past, present, and future… The further we go out, the more we learn about ourselves… what are our origins.” Still, footage shown suggested someone bio-engineering something in very Alien-like pods, and Scott and Lindelof both hinted that the final scenes of Prometheus (with the title itself referencing the Greek myth about the bringing of fire to man) will make the Alien connection clear.
One of the odder and more intriguing presentations at Comic-Con came from legendary director Francis Ford Coppola, who showed up to share some very early, rough footage from his latest experimental film. Coppola, who hasn’t directed a mainstream wide release since 1997′s The Rainmaker, has been concentrating on self-financed, boundary pushing works, including this work in progress, a dream-like, Gothic film starring Val Kilmer (who was there with Coppola), Bruce Dern, and Elle Fanning (who stars in Francis’ daughter Sofia’s Somewhere).
Parts of Twixt were shot in 3D, which required audience members and Coppola himself to don Edgar Allen Poe masks with 3D glasses built in. (Yes, a dream Poe figures in the film as well.) Coppola also showed off (with a few glitches) new computer software that allows him to edit and play the film live (with live musical accompaniment), changing and rearranging scenes as he goes. The director’s hope is to take Twixt on the road next year, performing the film himself, personally tailoring each unique viewing for different audiences.
(In related Edgar Allen Poe Comic-Con news, John Cusack attended a separate presentation to show a trailer and talk about his own Poe project, The Raven, in which Cusack plays the author in his final days as an amateur sleuth tracking down a serial killer.)
- Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried joined director Andrew Niccol to show the trailer for In Time, a sci-fi thinker coming this fall about immortality and economics that Niccol says is “a child of Gattaca,” his 1997 sci-fi film about genetics.
- Director Steven Soderbergh, showing a trailer for his action film Haywire (January 2012), said rumors of his retirement from film making were greatly exaggerated by Matt Damon, who Soderbergh drunkenly bitched to about work one night in Chicago, and who the director jokingly described as, “about as discreet as a 14-year-old girl.”
- Nicolas Cage says the new sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (out February 2012) is full of much more fiery action and “embraces the nightmare aspect of the character.”
- Director Guillermo del Toro says he’s having a blast designing “gigantic f–ing monsters” for his forthcoming sci-fi action film Pacific Rim, due out the summer of 2013. He also says his adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness is not dead, despite Universal pulling the plug on the expensive R-rated project. “The incarnation we’re doing is so great, I don’t want to give up… It’s a Holy Grail for me.”
- This year Comic-Con was also host to its first-ever major blockbuster premiere, as this week’s Cowboy & Aliens had its worldwide debut with director Jon Favreau and stars Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, and Comic-Con sweetheart Olivia Wilde all present.