Luke Y. Thompson is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of Comic-Con.
For the Warner Bros/Legendary panel Comic-Con‘s big screen expanded to Cinerama proportions to impress fans with Pacific Rim and Godzilla teases while Man of Steel moved at least one fan to tears. For good measure, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey footage mixed familiar and new. Nerdist’s Chris Hardwick, dressed as David Tennant’s Doctor Who, moderated what was probably the most anticipated panel of the convention. He came in with a Sonic Screwdriver remote control, and suddenly two extra giant side screens were revealed as the black curtains peeled back. (Sort of like the Terminator 3D screen at Universal Studios.) This feels like what Cinerama was always supposed to be.
Legendary’s Thomas Tull came onstage, saying that his having a mic up there was a sign of the apocalypse, then briefly showed off how all the screens worked together for a Pacific Rim tease (metallic panels, serial numbers, vague sketches of pods – a mere taste for what was coming). Then Guillermo del Toro came out to say, in his inimitable, profane-comic fashion, “I’m shitting in my pants right now.” As he spoke and was pictured on the center screen, production designs and on-set footage flanked him on the side screens. He said it was important to have a sense of romantic adventure — not a war movie. And that it was important to have a sense of awe in a movie with giant robots and monsters. Del Toro said this will be the only thing shown until Christmas, and that this footage was just for us at Comic-con. Admonished “you motherfuckers with the James Bond cameras in the glasses, take them off.”
There was a huge reaction for Charlie Day coming out, and Ron Perlman (only in cavernous Hall H). Charlie Hunnam and Rink Kikuchi followed. Cheers for them too, but not quite as extra loud. How does Perlman feel about coming to Comic-Con? “It’s a miracle I’m still invited.” He says Guillermo’s standards are clearly plummeting since he keeps inviting Perlman back.
Pacific Rim’s robots are called the Jaegers, and they have two pilots whose brains are fused into a single mind, with each pilot controlling one hemisphere. “To fight monsters, we created monsters.” That was the tagline for the footage introduced (played only on the center screen), which began with an old man in the snow, digging for something. He’s interrupted by a giant robot appearing and then collapsing. For the robot, imagine a mix between the giant Sentinels from the X-Men comics and the Real Steel fighting bots. The monsters – in very quick glimpses – looked very much like old-school Japanese creatures from Godzilla movies, with hammer-heads, reptilian skin, big claws and multiple limbs. Idris Elba, in his natural British accent, gives an inspirational speech: “Today, we are cancelling the apocalypse!” It looks epic and expensive, and yes, there is a Del Toro signature shot – a lab full of amber and green jars of weird lab-type things.
A fan asked if the robots had traditional giant robot weapons such as drills and rocket-punches. Del Toro says yes to the rocket punches. There are approximately nine monsters (“Kaiju”) and six or seven robots, all with unique abilities. “Flying monsters, sea monsters we have monsters up the wazoo.” Tull noted that ““Our bank account can attest to the fact that he wanted so many different things.” Asked what kind of set pieces will be in the movie, Del Toro says “Anything you guys can imagine being in there, will be there.” He adds that he tried to dirty the camera, throw oil at it, add lens scratches to make it feel more real. “No fucking motion capture … I don’t want the robots moving just like human beings.” Will any of the monsters be familiar creations of legend? No, says Del Toro, “just Ron Perlman.”
But speaking of classic monsters, the next big teaser was Godzilla. Initial scenes of masses of dead bodies, flattened trains, skyscrapers with monster-size holes in them, clouds of smoke, as we hear the Robert J. Oppenheimer quote about “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” We see claws … the familiar back plates, the appropriately small head … and of course it closes out with the familiar roar. Looks like a design that’s respectfully faithful to the classic, rather than the Roland Emmerich lizard. Director Gareth Edwards came out to explain that that his whole concept is to take it very seriously, making the Godzilla movie he has always wanted to see. Commenting on the fan reactions to Godzilla, Nerdist’s Hardwick said “I like seeing grown men act like teen girls at a Taylor Swift concert.”
Next, Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis came out to promote The Campaign, which felt like a WB “panel piggyback” – mainstream comedies are iffy sells at Comic-Con. Rather than even talk about the movie, it was thrown over to audience questions right away. Initially nobody came up, but then a guy came running who started talking about how he was a failed comedian and former stripper, and wanted comedy advice. Ferrell responded that he’s a legacy, so comedy was handed down to him from his grandfather. Zack asked him to tell a joke, which prompted the guy to adopt the character of an Alaskan shrimper named Ernie Hudson, and say, “I just got in from Alaska, and boy, are my sled dogs dead!” Very strange comedy of anti-comedy there. They followed that with an extended version of the trailer, with more off-color jokes – possibly an upcoming red-band trailer. Not much to report on this – looks like Ferrell doing his Bush impersonation again, which can be fun. But it was just a distraction from what people really came to see.
All three screens were used to bring up the Superman logo for Man of Steel, as Zack Snyder came out, dropping the word “awesome” multiple times. “How would you feel if you were Superman?” is the approach he aiming for. We did get a look at an extended trailer, but weirdly, the first half of it looked like a Terrence Malick movie, with shots of grass, butterflies, laundry hanging on a clothesline, small-town stuff. Then Snyder’s name appears onscreen, and all of a sudden we see cities exploding, massive flames, large crowd shots, Michael Shannon’s Zod in bulky armor with a “soul patch” beard, Supes in cuffs flanked by soldiers, a really giant billowy red cape on him, and a close-up of the boots that make them look mesh-like, similar to the movie Spider-Man outfits. It does not look like Snyder’s signature stylization – the epic parts look closer to a Christopher Nolan movie.
Henry Cavill came out after that, to many screams from the females. He said “I just wanted to bring the modern Superman into the world…which everyone can associate with. I just really hope that I’ve done everything I can to please you guys.” He also said he was inspired by the death and return story arcs in the Superman comics, as well as the alternate-reality, Supes-as-a-Soviet-hero book Red Son. One emotional fan came close to tears in the presence of Snyder, prompting Hardwick to jump down from the stage and hug him. The footage was shown one more time.
Snyder was asked who’d win between Nolan’s Batman and his Superman. Replied “I love Batman. He’s awesome. Literally awesome. But, like…really?” He dodged questions about the villain even when a fan brought up the name of Zod. Also said “who knows what’s possible” about a Justice League movie, but that they needed Superman to “get his house in order” first.
Naturally there was lots of footage from The Hobbit. Most from the first film, An Unexpected Journey, but we were told one or two shots were also from the second half There And Back Again. They included:
- The scene where the dwarfs recruit Bilbo, at the behest of a very intimidating Gandalf, who insists he’s the right choice. Some comedy as Bilbo reads over the contract, and sees there’s no liability in case of eviscerations or incinerations, then faints.
- Gandalf on a horse. Wielding a sword. Running from something in a dungeon. Then having a conversation with Galadriel about how Saruman would fight evil with power, but small acts of kindness and love are more important, and Bilbo gives him courage. (Yes, Christopher Lee is in this)
- Trolls, giants, goblins, Legolas pointing his bow at the dwarfs and threatening them, a Venice-like city with icy canal streets, familiar locations like Rivendell.
- Bilbo and Gollum confronting each other with riddles, as Smeagol does his split-personality bit, torn between playing riddles and wanting to eat Bilbo alive. This was the first scene shot, and they bran it all the way through multiple times to play off ecah other like theater actors.
- Bilbo finding the ring. Then going to Gandalf with it. “I found something in the goblin tunnels.” Gandalf asks what, and Bilbo thinks better of revealing the ring. He hides it in his pocket, and instead answers “my courage.” Gandalf replies “That’s good. You’re going to need it.”
- No sign of Smaug the dragon yet.
Notably, none of this was in the new 48 frames-per-second digital format, nor in 3D. It wasn’t even mentioned that this will be a 3D movie. Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis, and surprise guest Elijah Wood come out for Q&A. Concerning prosthetics, Freeman says Hobbit feet made him feel like a fledgling duck. Armitage said the facial prosthetics made him have to move his face twice as hard, and he didn’t think he could last, but by the end he couldn’t do without it. Jackson said the remaining major Middle-earth book, The Silmarillion, is owned by the Tolkien estate, who don’t like the Lord Of The Rings movies much, so he doesn’t think it’ll get made any time soon.
There will be extended DVD/Blu-ray cuts of the movies – Jackson confessed he’d never mastered the skill of making shorter movies. At Hardwick’s prompting, Serkis did the Gollum voice and began swearing up a storm, which got a great laugh. “For fuck’s sake, precious!” A perfect note to wrap things up.