Today I should’ve been flying back to Chicago after being in San Diego for Comic-Con 2020 and then in LA last night for the Taylor Swift concert at the new SoFi stadium.

But obviously thanks to COVID-19, Comic-Con didn’t happen (in person), Tay-Tay didn’t sing to 70,000 adoring fans, and SoFi stadium is still being built. Even Swift’s new surprise album isn’t enough to quash my sadness.

However, I did attend Comic-Con@Home, and if you weren’t aware, you still can too! For the first time in its 50-year history, the mother of all pop-culture conventions went virtual. There was no way it was going to compare to the experience of waiting in line for hours (sometimes overnight) with other nerds to get into a panel for your favorite show, or witnessing the pure genius of expert cosplayers from all around the world, or spotting an A-list celebrity at least once a day while wandering around the Gaslamp Quarter, but I deeply appreciated the fact that the organization was still able to pull together four days’ worth of online panels after the full event was canceled in mid-April.

You can watch any of the panels on Comic-Con International’s YouTube channel, or if you want to browse the schedule first and get direct links for the ones you’re interested in, you can do so here (you can change the view to “expanded” once on that page to see more details).

Here are three standout panels I recommend, followed by a few more I watched that were also worthwhile:

Charlize Theron: Evolution of a Badass – An Action Hero Career Retrospective – If you’re a Theron fan, this is clearly a must-watch, as the actress takes a walk down memory lane and weighs in on her most memorable action roles, from Stella in The Italian Job (she DISHES on this one!), to Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, to MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton in Atomic Blonde.

Constantine: 15th Anniversary Reunion – I loved this adaptation of DC’s Hellblazer comic when it came out in 2005, but I haven’t seen it again since. This reunion panel made a rewatch one of my top priorities (and thankfully, we’ve got Constantine on Redbox on Demand). Keanu Reeves (who plays the title character John Constantine, who has the ability to see and communicate with half-angels and half-demons on earth), director Francis Lawrence (who also helmed 3 of the 4 Hunger Games films) and producer Akiva Goldsman get back together to reflect on the making of the film, which they still remember remarkably well after all this time!

Bill & Ted Face the Music – Keanu pulled double-duty for Comic-Con@Home! In this panel moderated by Kevin Smith, he was joined by his co-stars Alex Winter, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, William Sadler, director Dean Parisot, and writers Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson. Their discussion was as wild as this long-awaited third installment of the Bill & Ted franchise looks to be — but Kevin Smith has seen the film and went off about how much he loved it and what a hopeful message it carries for these times, so now I’m even more excited about it. Bill & Ted Face the Music is scheduled for a September 1 release, so if you want to refresh your memory beforehand, we’ve got the two other movies On Demand now, and also have the original coming back to the Box in early August. Party on, dudes!

If you’re interested in the business of Hollywood, I found these panels fascinating as well:

The Future of Entertainment – This one opens with a freaky looking digital avatar, be forewarned! But after that, it was pretty cool to watch experts in virtual and augmented reality, digital human creation and design, virtual production, eSports and more talk about how emerging technologies will shape Hollywood and the entertainment industry in the years to come.

Directors on Directing – This one’s exactly what its title claims: directors Robert Rodriguez (Alita: Battle Angel), Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World, and the upcoming Jurassic World: Dominion), and Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, Only the Brave, and the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick) talk about directing, as well as their past, present and future films.

Remote Real Time: The Age of Virtual Production – Prepare to geek out as the team from Halon Entertainment (responsible for The Mandalorian, The Batman, Logan, Ford v Ferrari, Borderlands 3, God of War, and the soon to be released Free Guy) discuss virtual production, the impact of COVID-19, and the challenges of transitioning to a completely remote workforce, as well as how they think Hollywood can get creative to keep moving forward during the pandemic.

Here’s hoping Comic-Con will be back in San Diego for real next summer!

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