Luke Y. Thompson contributes to Deadline’s coverage of Comic-Con. This year’s event runs July 12-15.
For all the claims that Comic-Con turned a movie into a hit, an equal number of pundits can argue otherwise. The fact is, it’s impossible to argue Comic-Con is the sole driving factor behind any successful movie. It’s more like the equivalent of a Republican presidential candidate speaking at Bob Jones University or the Democratic candidate speaking at the AFL-CIO: it may not guarantee a win, but you gotta fire up the base. On the other hand, one generally can say that if a presentation bombs at Comic-Con, the movie will have trouble ahead. For example, there’s last year’s still-unreleased Dorothy Of Oz, which attempted to coast on Patrick Stewart’s laurels (last year’s gay-sex proposal to him from a fan remains the best example to date of an audience questioner slipping through the screening process), and the animated feature 9, which used an already-overplayed trailer to try and excite fans who already had seen it many times.
The strongest argument in favor of a Comic-Con bump is Kick-Ass, which came to the show undistributed and was picked up by Lionsgate after it got one of the best reactions of the weekend. The biggest argument against, ironically, is what we might call the Samuel L. Jackson effect: The crowd adores him, and yet his appearances did nothing for Snakes On A Plane or The Spirit (notably, he has not been announced for this year’s Django Unchained panel).
Paramount: The most obvious example this week of a movie you might expect to do Comic-Con is Jack Reacher, with its conveniently timed trailer. But if you can’t get Tom Cruise to show, what would be the point? And frankly, Cruise needs to control his PR a bit better than opening himself to a room of cynical geeks and their questions (imagine his reaction to a proposition like the one Stewart heard last year). Add to that the fact that non-sci-fi action movies aren’t in any way a sure thing for Comic-Con and this seems like no loss for the studio. Anchorman 2 might have been a mistaken miss; Will Ferrell usually comes and gets high marks (like showing up in blueface for Megamind), but comedies, even when they’re fan-driven sequels, are hit and miss at the Con, as we’ve discussed previously. Could have gone either way on that one.
Rise of the Guardians, if it actually is hipper than prior Santa Claus mashups like The Santa Clause 3, might have benefited from a demonstration. If it’s straight kiddie fare, not so much. On the other animated hand, The Croods, which sounds like a Flintstones riff with Nicolas Cage, should have been a no-brainer — Cage can be counted on to bring the crazy, and a newly insane hairpiece, each time. Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters could have coasted on Jeremy Renner’s newfound popularity as an Avenger, plus it’s a January release and needs the help. G.I. Joe: Retaliation and World War Z are reportedly troubled productions that could use the damage control … unless it can’t be controlled.
Finally, there’s JJ Abrams’ Star Trek sequel, and while the audience here would love a taste, the movie doesn’t need them. The first one did just fine using one Con as a casting announcement forum and skipping the subsequent one completely (except for poster giveaways). Besides, there’s always the Star Trek Las Vegas convention in August.
Universal: While we can apply the aforementioned Tom Cruise logic to Oblivion, Universal has several other original properties that could have gotten a bump from Comic-Con. The Keanu Reeves actioner 47 Ronin (which could use some differentiation from both the Robert De Niro action movie Ronin and the Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name), and particularly the comic-book based R.I.P.D. (about a team of undead cops starring Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds — both fanboy faves) would have been perfect selections. Perhaps they didn’t have anything ready in time.
The Fast And The Furious 6 would undoubtedly play well but doesn’t need the help. Vin Diesel’s other project, a Riddick threequel, could really use it but probably has very little to show for now. The Jason Bateman comedy Identity Thief … Well, let’s just say the Extract panel didn’t lead to big bucks. Despicable Me 2 might be a crowd-pleaser, as those Minions are tough to resist, but it also doesn’t need the help. Although Al Pacino coming to Comic-Con could have been huge.