The San Diego Comic-Con took place over the course of this weekend, and of course, like every year, it was rich for film news! Comic-Con has become an important marketing event for big Hollywood movies, not only catering for Comic-Book movies, but any major Hollywood picture on the horizon. this year was no different, featuring the first footage from the likes of next year’s Man of Steel and the upcoming The Expendables 2. Rather than report on every little detail, I thought I would take a blog post to focus on some of the highlights of the Convention this year, which does pretty much cover every major aspect and highlights seen this year. One day, I hope to be reporting live to you from San Diego, as the Comic-Con is definitely on my lift of things to do before I die. Some people have ‘visit the Great Wall of China’, I have the Comic-Con. Well, it makes sense to me. So, without further ado, what news is there from the land of San Diego (a Whale’s Vagina to some)?
One of the first panels at the Con was for Sam Raimi’s much-anticipated prequel to the 1939 classic, The Wizard Of Oz, which is entitled Oz: The Great and Powerful. The upcoming Spring release has been rather scarce in terms of promotional material, with the Poster having been released a week ago, and the trailer (more on that in a sec) being unveiled at the Con. But, truthfully, there isn’t a much better place in which to kick-off your film’s marketing than the San Diego Comic-Con. Raimi was reportedly in high spirits, enthusiastically talking about his next Blockbuster project. Points he stressed were that this is not a prequel in the traditional sense(mostly due to the fact that Disney do not have the rights to certain specific imagery from the 1939 original), it instead draws most of it inspiration from the original series of books by L. Frank Baum, a series that is still rich in un-mined imagery and imagination. Raimi simply stressed how this is very much a self-contained story, with elements that will be recognizable, as we follow James Franco’s Oscar Diggs, a small-town Magician, who wishes for something more. After a certain incident involving a tornado, Oscar finds himself in the magical land of Oz. There he embarks on an epic, Technicolor adventure in which he finally finds a chance to prove himself. Raimi then treated the convention patrons to the first footage from the movie, in the form of its first trailer, which you may have seen over the weekend (if not, you can find it below, aren’t I good to you?). It looks as you might come to expect, a bit too similar to the production design of Alice In Wonderland (granted, they share the same production designer), but thankfully it does seem to have much more vibrancy and visual flair, more than likely due to the fact that it is Raimi in the director’s chair. And a film with Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis in it can’t be too bad to look at. Raimi also confirmed that his regular collaborator Bruce Campbell shall indeed have a trademark cameo, as will his famous recognizable car, although not in the way that you might expect. And now, as promised, here is that trailer once again:
Neill Blomkamp, the man behind the fantastic Sci-Fi action drama District 9, has been busy at work on his follow-up picture, Elysium, and aside from this image of a gun-wielding bald Matt Damon, we have seen or know next to nothing about the promising director’s next directorial effort. Well, if you were at Comic-Con, you certainly will have seen a lot more now. Blomkamp, along with his cast members, Damon, Jodie Foster and District 9‘s Sharlto Copley, screened some exclusive footage. The film is set in a dystopian future (is there any other kind?) in which Earth is a wasteland, and the rich and the wealthy live on board a giant luxurious space-station, where all medical concerns are a thing of the past, including cancer. Damon plays Max, a working man who is one of the many less-privileged folk who continue to live on Earth. However, Max’s depressing life becomes even worse after he is exposed to radiation poisoning following an incident at work. With five days to live, Max must do all he can to make it to Elysium in order to cure himself of his poisoning. Although, that is a task which is easier said then done. The crowds were reportedly very impressed with the footage, which demonstrated the world and style of Blomkamp’s film. Not a stone throw away from District 9, the film is said to gritty, tough and featuring some quite literal bone-crunching violence, all infused with another political allegory, in this case representing the struggle of the 99-ers; albeit in a ultra-violent sci-fi action fashion. I am a huge fan of District 9, and I simply cannot wait to see someone of this footage, as the prospect of Blomkamp working with a big budget and a big star is a very tantalizing prospect. Here’s hoping we’ll see a trailer sometime in the near future.
Preview screenings are not a rare occurance at Comic-Con, but you are never too sure what movies shall grace the fans with their advance screening presence. This year, it was the reboot of the 2000Ad character, Dredd. Judge Dredd was last seen on-screen in the 1995 Sly Stallone picture, and that film was not very well received. Panned by critics, despised by fans, Danny Cannon’s adaptation may have had the style, but it certainly did not have the story, and it was not the Dredd that fans of the British comics had grown to love (mainly because Stallone took the helmet off). It was a complete waste of promising potential, and now screenwriter Alex Garland and director Pete Travis are having a shot. And from the sounds of it, they have fully delivered. The buzz around Dredd has been pleasingly positive and everything that I had hoped. It has been described as an inventive, gritty, insanely violent and highly stylish affair with a commanding lead performance from Karl Urban. I did read somewhere (for the life of me I cannot remember where) that it evoked the spirit of a hardcore 80’s action-er, and that fills me with fan-boy joy. Dredd is mean. Brutal and unforgiving. And so is the world of Mega-City. A film of this world should be violent and nasty, and from the sounds of it, Travis and Garland have not skimped out on the ultra-violent goodness (as a clip below shall demonstrate). Concerns with the film have been aimed towards the premise, which has some rather unfortunate similarities to this year’s The Raid, and there have been some grumblings concerning the scale of the picture, although that can easily be attributed to its rather small independently funded budget. But the buzz coming out from this film is certainly enough to get me excited, and it certainly pleased the 2000AD fan’s who were present at Comic-Con. Now, feast your eye’s on this glorious violent clip:
Marvel made their presence known well and truly at the Con this year, as they do every year really, with Iron Man 3 representing merely the tip of the iceberg concerning what Marvel had to announce this year. But that is a bloody big tip. The Shane Black written and directed movie has only been filming for a good month, but that didn’t stop Marvel from presenting a few sequences from the movie, involving some banter between Robert Downey Jnr.’s Tony Stark and Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan. But the real money shots came from seeing the destruction of Stark’s Malibu home and the reveal of the main villain of the movie. And after months of internet rumors, I can happily announce that Ben Kingsley shall indeed be playing The Mandarin; arguably Iron Man’s most famous and formidable foe. Marvel’s Phase 2 has certainly begun. The prospect of The Mandarin is something incredibly promising. He is a villain with great intelligence to match his highly tuned martial arts skills, and the power of his 10 mysterious rings. I’m sure they will try to ground The Mandarin much more in reality, but the threat he possesses should take Stark down a peg or two and give one hell of a reality check. The next big piece of Iron Man related news was the reveal of his new suit for the movie, as pictured. Ditching the Red and Gold combo, this suit is much more in keeping with the Extremis design of the suit, the Extremis being recent arc in the comic books that saw Stark developing the means of having the suit appear out of his skin (there is a lot more to this arc, it is very complicated, I recommend researching it if you’re interested). It has been rumored that the Extremis arc would be featured in this sequel, however I would not take this suit as confirmation, as I will only believe it when I see it, as I think the Extremis arc would be far too hard to develop in the course of one film. I guess we shall discover soon enough, come May of next year!
5. Thor 2 and Captain America 2 have new titles…
Another piece of Marvel news (there are still two more to go) concerned other elements of Marvel’s Phase 2, namely the follow-ups to Thor and Captain America. Unlike the Iron Man franchise, these two heroes are dropping the numerical label, and are instead given subtitles. Not only does it create a much better sense of a continuing world, filled with episodes (much like a comic book universe), it also offers some intriguing speculation as to what these certain sequels may focus on. First up is the sequel to Thor, out on November 8th 2013, which is now titled Thor: The Dark World. Now this seems to have confirmed the early notions that the Thor sequel shall explore the darker under-belly of the pristine Asgard. Which would also seem to suggest a rather drastic change of tone from the first movie. Kenneth Branagh’s first installment was a grand and highly daft affair; fun, slightly camp, an all out romp. Branagh is not directing this installment, that role is now being filled by Alan Taylor, a regular director on the rather dark fantasy series, Game of Thrones. His employment alone suggest a much darker take on the character, and this title certainly confirms that we are going to see a much darker take on the God of Thunder. Now onto the Star-Spangled Man with a plan. Captain America 2, out on April 4th 2014, shall now be called Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And if you’re familiar with the comic-books, then that title needs no elaboration. But if you aren’t well versed in the Marvel Universe, allow me to enlighten you. The Winter Soldier was the name given to Cap’s supposedly dead best friend Bucky, who in the comics, returned as a Brainwashed Russian Assassin, out to kill Captain America. First things first, yes, Bucky did appear to die, however, we never saw a body, and as soon as his death occurred, I for one certainly thought that we could easily see Bucky return in future installments. And that certainly seems to be the case. Yet, the idea of a Russian Assassin is certainly out-dated, so it remains to be seen if the directing pair of the Russo Brothers will develop the Winter Soldier in any way. Either way, it is a title which has certainly got me excited.
6. It’s time to meet the Guardians Of The Galaxy…
Possibly the worst kept secret concerning a Marvel movie, as internet rumors have been around for quite some time concerning their ‘mysterious’ August 2014 release. The Guardians Of The Galaxy is not a well-known Marvel title, in fact it was cancelled after 25-issues. It is a huge risk in terms of both money investment and in further expanding the Marvel Universe. I do believe that this is not in the same Universe as The Avengers (don’t quote me on that) as last I heard the intention was to produce this as an animated movie. It would make, considering the characters that make up the Guardians Of The Galaxy; a powerful alien by the name of Drax The Destroyer, a super-smart living plant named Groot, a space Raccoon called Rocket Raccoon and Star Lord who is a Galactic Super Cop. Yeah. Rather diverse characters. The concept art of the characters is certainly interesting and the scope of the film could be something that we have never seen before in a comic-book movie. There is still no director attached, but I shall keep a curious eye on this movie, as the choice of director should say a lot in terms of what the tone of the movie shall turn out to be. Now, here’s that concept art for you to gaze upon. Pretty bad-ass Raccoon, right?
7. Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man may finally happen…
The last bit of Marvel related goodness from the Con comes in the form of news concerning Edgar Wright’s long-gestating movie of Ant-Man, the superhero who can change his size at will. Ant-Man was one of the original members of The Avengers, yet Marvel decided to focus on the more popular heroes for the first big-screen outing of the assembled team, and rightly so. But now that Phase One was so successful, Marvel are prepared to take more risks, and an Ant-Man movie could be such a way of doing so. It must be said that this film is still not yet officially confirmed, but this is an indication that things are happening to see an Ant-Man movie. Edgar Wright, the maestro behind Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, surprised everyone in San Diego when he turned up to present the test-footage that he shot about two weeks ago. The footage was not finished at all, and the man playing the title character was merely a stuntman, but in terms of showcasing what Wright intends to do in terms of the action, it apparently did not disappoint. What the fans were treated to was trademark Wright; zippy, brilliantly paced and inventive action with a great sense of humor to boot as Ant-Man used his powers to take out a couple of guards guarding an elevator. And the costume is supposedly very much in keeping with the look of the Kirby artwork. Which is bound to please fans. So, still no release date, but I’m sure we can expect Ant-Man to become a reality in the very near future.
Probably one of the most anticipated movies at the Con this year, Zack Snyder’s upcoming Superman movie Man Of Steel certainly has provoked intrigue following a screening of a teaser trailer at this years convention, a teaser trailer said to be in front of The Dark Knight Rises come Friday. Warner Bros. certainly has a lot riding on this movie, considering Batman shall be done and dusted, at least for now, come the end of the summer, and I’d imagine that they were rather happy with how the footage was received. The footage firmly established this Superman as a much more dramatic, somber and of course darker origins tale, with Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent finding it somewhat hard to find his place in the modern world. A shot that got many people talking was of Super being escorted down a corridor by a league of armed guards. Do the Earthlings not take too kindly to the last son of Krypton? The audience was also pleased to see that Man of Steel may feature a more reserved and mature film-making style from Snyder, following his adolescent, video-game of a movie Sucker Punch. I’m all for a more mature approach from Snyder, but I do hope Supes isn’t all gloomy drama, he needs to have a sense of glee and good-will spirit that the Superman image embodies. Either way, I am more than excited for a new Superman movie, being a big fan of the character’s cinematic past. Man of Steel hits cinemas on June 14th, but be sure to track down the trailer when The Dark Knight Rises is released on Friday.
Peter Jackson is somewhat royalty at Comic-Con, and he certainly didn’t disappoint his many fans this year, bringing with him plenty of footage from his upcoming Lord of The Rings prequels The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and There and Back Again. The footage he displayed showed a very humorous scene at Bag-End during Bilbo’s first encounter with the Dwarves, Gandalf being attacked by some feral looking creature, Gollum playing riddles with Bilbo as part of the Riddles in the Dark sequence, along with some snippets of Evangeline Lilly kicking some Goblin ass, and Legolas preparing to fire his bow at an unseen antagonist. But what perhaps got people talking was Jackson’s speculation at the possibility of a third Hobbit movie. Jackson has said how much material they could still mine, in light of the appendices that Tolkien wrote, filling in certain plot points and bridging the gap between The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings; “There’s the novel, but then we also have the rights to use the 125 pages of additional notes where Tolkien expanded the world of The Hobbit. I’ve been talking to the studio about other things that we haven’t been able to shoot and seeing if we could possibly persuade them to do a few more weeks of shooting.” Personally, I think that The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings are very different books, they tell very different stories, therefore the films should reflect that as well, rather than squeeze everything that they can out of the material available to them. Not that any more time spent in Middle Earth is a bad thing, it is just I would rather see a focused adaptation rather than a sprawling trilogy trying to make more of a connection with LOTR. That’s not what I want, and I’m sure fans don’t necessarily want to see an over-loaded trilogy expanded far too much for its own good. Two films are more than enough P.J.
10. Skyfall looks to be a classic, kick-ass Bond movie…
Bond made an appearance at the Con this year, not something a Bond movie usually does, but I’m sure the fans didn’t complain. The Bond Brigade charged at the Con with a brand new exclusive I-MAX trailer, displaying how this Bond is going to be bigger than the rest, quite literally. The trailer also filled in more details as to what the plot may be. It seems that Judi Dench’s M loses possession of a data drive, which contains the identities of every British Intelligence Agent – and soon enough they begin to get assassinated one by one. Therefore, Bond must act fast, to stay one step ahead and find out who is killing the Country’s spies. It sounds similar to the ‘Smert Spionam’ (Death to Spies) plot of The Living Daylights, but much more personal as Bond’s loyalties to M are truly tested. Fans cheered at the inclusion of Craig uttering ‘Bond, James Bond’ and they were also treated to the world’s first look at Ben Whishaw’s Q, a casting decision that I think is truly excellent. Hopefully we’ll all set our eyes upon this new I-MAX trailer in the near future, as a new Bond movie is always something to get excited about. Now, here is that first image of Whishaw looking all geeky, and Q-like.
Del Toro hasn’t made movie since Hellboy 2 way back in 2008, so it is about time that he should be getting back behind the camera’s to present us with his unique vision once again. Pacific Rim marks his return as a director after producing many a mediocre horror (here’s looking at you Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark) but the reaction he got from the footage screened at Comic-Con certainly seems to suggest that has been worth the wait. The basic premise of Pacific Rim is fairly simple. Set in the distant future, Earth has been over-run by Giant Monsters who have awoken from a rift within the Pacific Rim (so, that’s why it’s called that). This prompts the human race to build giant Robots, known as Jaegers, to battle these destructive Beasties who are laying waste to mankind. These Jaegers are piloted human operators, who bond telepathically with their respective Robot, to face monsters head on in battle. The footage screened aimed to give an impression of the scale of the movie, and one word seems to describe it rather fittingly; epic. The Robots and Monsters are on a huge scale, with impressive FX works and practical effects. It’s as high concept as you can get, and Del Toro’s visual flair and creativity should be fantastic in this kind of arena. And it has Idris Elba screaming such lines as “Today, we are cancelling the apocalypse!” Epic indeed. Pacific Rim hits cinemas on July 15th 2013, but Del Toro has said a trailer won’t hit for at least 6 months. The tease.
My last highlight from the con comes in the form of another Monster movie, this time it is Legendary Pictures new take on the iconic Giant Lizard, Godzilla. It has been a while since we heard any news come out concerning this movie, Gareth Edwards (behind the small indie pic Monsters) was announced as director quite a while ago, and after that it went rather quiet. But now, the big fiery beast has let his presence be known, with a new poster and some teaser footage, screened exclusively in San Diego. The teaser stunned unsuspecting audiences, with no one knowing what it was that was being screened, as the camera panned over a brutally destroyed city, smoke bellowing among-st the destruction. As the camera continues along, the audience catches a glimpse of a monster, a dead monster, but not Mr. Zilla. All of a sudden the iconic roar is heard and the title graces the screen. But that’s not all. They were then given the big hero shot, as Godzilla himself turning side on and roaring in all his glory. He reportedly matched the classic look, albeit with a modern makeover. Supposedly nothing like the Roland Emmerich version from 1998. Reports called it intense, spine-tingling and incredibly convincing. Still no release date, but I think we can expect to see this version of Godzilla around 2014.