The fanboy Super Bowl is over. Who made the most of San Diego Comic-Con and who spit the bit? Here’s the view from Deadline staffers who endured endless movie and TV show presentations. We’ll start with features:
WARNER BROS: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Mad Max: Fury Road, Jupiter Ascending, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies
The best Comic-Con panels show fans things they’ve never seen before. From that standpoint, Warner Bros changed the game by making the Hall H experience seem larger. It turned the dark curtains covering 450 feet down the sides of the auditorium into a wraparound multimedia visual experience that left jaded geeks looking left and right in wonder at images that complemented the onstage presentation. Expect others to rip this off. For star power: Zack Snyder introduced his Batman v Superman stars Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, and Gal Gadot and offered glimpses of the film. Warner Bros also wowed with explosive footage from Mad Max: Fury Road, a film that looks like it could be the answer someday to this Trivial Pursuit question: What movie transformed Tom Hardy from a great actor into a big fucking movie star? Warner Bros also brought Middle Earth excitement to Hall H with a lengthy Hobbit: The Five Armies panel and footage that had LOTR fans aflutter.
Related: Q&A: Peter Jackson On His Middle Earth Exit And A Disguise That Let Him Haunt Comic-Con
MARVEL: Ant-Man, Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Marvel is always the must-see panel; not so much this year. Maybe it was DC Comics’ turn to shine, and maybe being a sequel factory imposes limits on the surprise front. They trotted out the superstar Avengers lineup — been there, done that! — with additions Josh Brolin, Aaron Johnson, and Elizabeth Olsen. No Black Widow Scarlett Johansson, who was busy bitch-slapping Hercules at the box office in the Luc Besson film Lucy. Footage was OK, but Kevin Feige set a high bar for himself in past Cons, and this year he couldn’t clear it. Ant-Man brought Corey Stoll and Evangeline Lilly (already knew they were in the movie), and plans for a Guardians Of The Galaxy sequel were greeted by a collective “Duh!’ Feige could have told us what movies will fill all those release dates he recently staked out. He didn’t. Better luck next year, Marvel Man.
Took this year off. Maleficent just broke the bank with $700 million, so Disney didn’t have much to talk about. Oh, wait, there’s one franchise they could have teased that might have pleased a crowd where it seemed one of every five costumed convention floor walkers was a Stormtrooper. Many hoped for action on the JJ Abrams-directed Star Wars film, but they didn’t even send Jar Jar Binks for ridicule. Disney will keep its powder dry until its own D23 confab, and maybe next year’s Comic-Con. All we can say is: C’mon, man! Start reminding us why we should forgive George Lucas for those last three terrible prequels and the 3D conversion, and tell us why we should climb aboard the Millennium Falcon for more.
PARAMOUNT: Interstellar, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hercules, Project Almanac, Hot Tub Time Machine 2
Paramount’s panel got off to a rocky start, and rallied with a Rock and then a rock star finish. We stifled yawns during the SpongeBob pic presentation, Hot Tub Time Machine sequel, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We clapped when Dwayne Johnson took the stage and told the crowd he’d reserved three theaters to show them Hercules for free (so that’s where the opening-weekend money went). We await the scientific results of whether it helps a film opening in a few hours by vamping at Comic-Con, but Johnson was his usual bundle of charm, brashness and testosterone, even though he didn’t remove his shirt and resisted more than a few fanboy shouts to “take it off” (some of these people need to get out more). Paramount’s panel payoff was Matthew McConaughey bringing out Batman trilogy helmer Christopher Nolan in his first-ever visit to the Con. After evading questions from a moderator about his complex upcoming film, Nolan showed for the first time an Interstellar trailer that was breathtaking and allowed Paramount to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
LEGENDARY: Crimson Peak, Godzilla 2, Skull Island, Black Hat, As Above, So Below, Warcraft
Legendary’s Thomas Tull bounded out in jeans and a Topps Baseball Cards T-shirt, a fanboy with unlimited resources to make the movies Hall H loves. He brought out Michael Mann and Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth for their hacker thriller Black Hat, which allowed Hemsworth to tell how one of the computer geeks he consulted with had hacked into an online dating service, manipulated it so he charted as the most desirable man to the most gorgeous women, and ended up with a flock of hotties in his bed. Mann reminded us not all computer hackers were this cool; some are dangerous. Then comes the irrepressible Guillermo del Toro, who showed footage of Crimson Peak, reminded he’ll do Pacific Rim 2, and then said he would open the floor for two questions. He asked both, directed at the audience. “Do you want to see Hellboy 3? And what about At The Mountains Of Madness? The rousing roar for his pet projects gave Tull something to think about, since the masterful Mexican considers Tull and Jon Jashni to be his home-turf homeboys now. A Godzilla 2 video unveiled the beast’s next combatants, and there was a funny an on-set interview with director Gareth Edwards. Addressing the reptile, he wondered if its every roar had to be that insistent and whether the creature might consider dialing it down. A Warcraft teaser and the Paris catacombs thriller As Above, So Below followed. And then Hall H’s only true WTF moment: a teaser for the new project, Skull Island, ending with a shot of King Kong. Well played, fanboy Tull.
FOX: Book of Life, Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Maze Runner, Let’s Be Cops, Hitman: Agent 47
A letdown was inevitable. Last year, Fox trotted out Bryan Singer and the past and present X-Men casts for Days Of Future Past. They might as well have handed out Orgasmatrons from Woody Allen’s Sleeper, for all the collective geek spasming that resulted. This year Fox ran flaccid. Nothing on Fantastic Four. The topics du jour were The Maze Runner and Matthew Vaughn’s spy pic Kingsman: The Secret Service. Meh. We’ll give Fox points for showing up in an off year, but when your showstopper is Channing Tatum mugging with ’80s hip-hop fossil Biz Markie, well there’s only so much love Deadline can muster for you.
DIMENSION: Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For
Dimension threw a Hard Rock roof party for Sin City with scantily clad go-go dancers and held a subdued panel salvaged by a red band trailer for the sequel that woke up the crowd.
RADIUS: Horns, Everly
Despite his long run as Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe’s only memorable Hall H impression was that his face was emblazoned on the T-shirt of that guy who tried to stab another attendee in the eye during a fight over a seat in 2010. Radcliffe gave us a better memory in his first Con trip to promote the Radius-TWC thriller Horns. Turns out the crowd still loves him even when he’s not waving a magic wand. Good trailer, too.
SONY: Pixels, Goosebumps
Sony’s double bill, the Adam Sandler alien pic Pixels and the Jack Black-fronted Goosebumps, didn’t even crack Hall H’s lineup. Try a tiny ballroom at the adjacent Hilton Bayfront (it might have been called Bob Uecker Hall). On the bright side, it meant fewer fans suffering through Black’s live shtick with an evil puppet.
DREAMWORKS ANIMATION: Home, Penguins Of Madagascar
The label had two stars it could have brought. Rihanna, who voices the film Home, and Benedict Cumberbatch. They made the right choice for the fanboy crowd: Cumberbatch, who’s geek catnip after his Sherlock Homes and Hobbit turns. He made DreamWorks Animation’s panel worth it, and didn’t look that dweebish posing alongside a height challenged person in a penguin costume.
FOCUS: The Boxtrolls
Focus Features’ The Boxtrolls and its stop-motion animation footage was cute, and Laika CEO Travis Knight snarked DreamWorks Animation. Better than we had a right to expect.
SCREEN GEMS: The Last of Us
Screen Gems came to play, trotting out geek god Sam Raimi to announce his plans to produce a movie version of the PlayStation vidgame The Last Of Us.
TWC: The Giver
Studios try to vamp YA titles at Comic-Con looking to stoke the next Twilight and The Hunger Games. From that standpoint, The Giver was a goner. The long dissertation on Lois Lowry’s dystopian 1993 novel might have made for a great book club meeting, but a snoozer of a Comic-Con panel.
LIONSGATE: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
Lionsgate audibled, with success. Instead of Hall H, the label brought Hunger Games sequel Mockingjay – Part 1 to San Diego’s Gaslamp and partnered with Samsung to build a slick, futuristic offsite fan experience and a trade-floor booth. Cost must have been cheap: no stars came. Still, a lotta fans outside the Hard Rock lined up to watch the trailer on Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S. It harkened back to the time when Disney brought a Tron: Legacy arcade to the Con two years in a row, and Lionsgate erected the Ender’s Game Fan Experience. And man, didn’t that help the grosses!
MEANWHILE, ON THE TV SIDE…
AMC’S The Walking Dead & HBO’S Game of Thrones
TV has always run second class to movies here, but The Walking Dead and Game Of Thrones is closing the gap. Each brought the stars, and enough dish and sneak peeks to leave audiences sated. And luckily, Walking Dead bore no connection to ZombieWalk, that ridiculous event that put the only real blemish on Comic-Con, and should be banned from future Comic-Cons. There are too many people here already, and it’s very clear from the video footage of that car accident that there was blame to go around, including the boorish louts who blocked traffic and incited what could have been a much worse tragedy.
Bryan Fuller and crew dished spoilers galore this year for the upcoming season for TV’s favorite cannibal. He also revealed casting surprises and video treats, and prizes for costumed fans. It all went down as nicely as a census taker’s liver, with fava beans and a nice Chianti.
HBO’s True Blood
True Blood’s farewell panel was long and emotional, a bloodsucker buh-bye that had most of the cast and filmmakers in waterworks. When the cast cries, the tears are not blood like in the show. Another myth shattered.
FX’s Sons Of Anarchy
Tough guy Kurt Sutter found himself in tears after the few SOA castmembers he hasn’t killed off told him how much they loved him. As always, Sutter crafted a perfect line for the moment. “Sit the fuck down,” he told cast and audience. “I got an image.” Too bad that the Comic-Con crowd doesn’t vote for Emmys; Sutter would have a shelf full.
FX’s American Horror Story: Freak Show
When it comes to actors on any Comic-Con panel, most are shameless about backslapping each other and describing their characters in puffy terms. But Kathy Bates was wonderfully candid when she told fans about her daunting work experience with AHS creator Ryan Murphy. “He scares the shit out of me,” said the actress who hobbled James Caan so convincingly with a sledgehammer in Misery.
The CW’s iZombie
No pilot to show, just a long clip that makes this seem like Veronica Mars: The Zombie Show. Of corpse it is, since Veronica Mars creators Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero are behind it.
BBC’s Orphan Black
They brought Tatiana Maslany, who was treated like a rock star, but there was no dish or clips. Hey BBC, did British Airways lose the suitcases that had the dishy clips in them?
THE ONLY COMIC BOOK PANEL WE’RE BOTHERING TO MENTION:
Quentin Tarantino & Dynamite Comic’s Django Unchained-Zorro crossover
Quentin Tarantino’s Con cred is such that he gets a resounding standing ovation for launching a comic book mashup of Django Unchained and Zorro. Many came to hear Tarantino dish on The Hateful Eight, and he said it’s next. When one asked if Tarantino might make a movie that wasn’t R rated, he said, “F*** no.” Whether it’s Joss Whedon or Tarantino, these auteur sermons on the mount are Comic-Con highlights, even if Whedon a few years ago extolled socialism the same summer Avengers grossed north of $1 billion.