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Jul 29, 2009

NOTES ON SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON 2009, FRIDAY PART 1 - Warner Bros.


So it is now Wednesday of the week after Comic-con, a full week since preview night. My plan to blog constantly at the show fell apart very quickly after Thursday thanks to the exhausting schedule. I also decided at the last minute not to lug my laptop around the convention hall given the crowds (also I’m a little gun-shy these days thanks to having my previous laptop stolen in a library with only 20 people in March, so in a building packed with probably 100,000+, I really didn’t feel in the mood to possibly lose another one).

Friday morning presented another early morning in line. As is a common practice at Comic-con, if the lines are huge one day, the following day everyone gets wise and stands in line even earlier, which just makes it even tougher to get in. So there I was at 6:30, pretty much at the beginning of the line (no people camping out on Friday for TWILIGHT) for the Warner Bros. panel.
I have to say that the convention staff was really on the ball with the lines going into Hall H. They were organized and moved quickly and seamlessly. I was impressed. Standing in line, although tiresome, felt less like a chore than it has in the past few years. I didn’t hear any complaints around me either as all involved seemed to just be excited by the prospect of what was to come.

The Warner Bros. panel has been one that I have been going to since I started attending Comic-con. It has gone through many changes in the past 13 years as when I first started going it was divided between TV, Comics, Internet, Direct-to-DVD and feature films. Slowly the TV and Movies branched off, and the Internet and comics portion disappeared altogether. Last year, WB split up all their movie panels on separate days, the big ones being WATCHMEN and TERMINATOR SALVATION.

This year was back to a singular 2 ½ hour edition, featuring an impressive list of upcoming projects, and as usual, Warner Bros. came out in full force.

Films featured were Spike Jonze’s WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, with the main child star and a significant amount of footage, Richard Kelly’s THE BOX with Cameron Diaz and James Marsden, the Hughes Bros.’ BOOK OF ELI with the directors and stars Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis and Denzel Washington on hand, the reboot of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET with the director Samuel Bayer, producer Bradley Fuller and the new Freddy, Jackie Earl Haley, JONAH HEX with director Jimmy Hayward, Josh Brolin, Megan Fox and Michael Fassbender, and if that weren’t enough then they wrapped up with Robert Downey, Jr. bringing Hall H to their feet with SHERLOCK HOLMES and producers Joel Silver and Susan Downey and Rachel McAdams. Phew!

Not to get too detailed in the play-by-play, because there was an awful lot to digest, but the highlights of this panel were easily JONAH HEX, THE BOX, SHERLOCK HOLMES and then there was the surprise of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET looking to be very good.

JONAH HEX especially intrigued the crowd, especially when the super-red-hot Megan Fox took the stage. First off, the footage looked fantastic, but all the questions were pretty much targeted at Fox and almost all of them started out with “Megan, you are so sexy.” This brought a lot of jitters from the women in the audience who weren’t too happy about the attention she was receiving. Then again these same women were screaming like insane maniacs the day before over the TWILIGHT male stars. Megan seemed to take it all in stride, enjoying the attention and deftly brushing off such uncomfortable questions as “have you ever considered doing Internet porn?” Josh Brolin seemed amused by the crowd, and was charming and funny and won everyone over. From the looks of the footage, Producer Andrew Lazar has stuck to the comic book pretty closely (full disclosure, when I worked for Andrew, I was involved in the early development of this project but not the script that was ultimately used) and it was the first panel at this year’s Comic-con that I heard a comic book being mentioned.

SHERLOCK HOLMES featured what was essentially an extended trailer of what is already running in theaters with a few extra scenes thrown in, but still looks great. Robert Downey, Jr. was his usual charming self, and answered the mostly awkward questions in a light and funny manner. Oh and I’ll take Rachel McAdams over Megan Fox any day.

What really blew me away was A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. I had been leery of this project from the beginning because Wes Craven and Robert Englund really made Freddy a memorable horror icon. However, Jackie Earl Haley seems to fill the shoes perfectly. The footage showed that there will be a partial origin story of how Freddy died at the hands of angry parents, which was followed by a montage of horror scenes – much which mirrored images from the original movie – and what would A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET be without the creepy little girls reciting the poem…1, 2 Freddy’s Going to get you. 3, 4 better lock the door. 5, 6 grab a crucifix. 7, 8 better stay up late. 9, 10 never sleep again. This really excited the audience, which received the footage favorably.

Richard Kelly’s THE BOX looked intriguing enough, and had the same creepy atmospheric tone that he employed in DONNIE DARKO. It involved a stranger (Frank Langella) arriving at the door of Cameron Diaz (who is married to James Marsden in the movie) and giving her a box with a big red button. She is told that if she pushes this button, somebody in the world not connected to her will die and she will receive 1 million dollars. Of course she does it, and things don’t go as smoothly as she is led to believe.

The Hughes Bros. with BOOK OF ELI premiered a strange motion comic which they probably could have done without, and a makeshift trailer that showed off the post-apocalyptic movie. Denzel Washington seemed way too cool to be at Comic-con. What got even more confusing was when Gary Oldman announced that he was set to start filming a new BATMAN movie next year, this when as far as anyone knows, there has been no casting nor is there a script, and Christopher Nolan is set to finish shooting INCEPTION before turning his attention back to Bats. Needless to say, I am sure this unexpected announcement sent the Warner Bros. people scrambling to do some damage control.

My least favorite from this panel – and perhaps the whole convention – was the footage from WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. They showed an awful lot, which is a sure sign that they really need to sell the movie, and what they showed while having a great production design, was ultimately very boring. This movie from the get-go has been plagued with problems, and the advance buzz on the final product is less than complimentary. From what I saw at this panel, the advanced negative word-of-mouth is fully justified. Most people seem to take to the trailer – myself included, but if these scenes represent the best they had to show from the movie to entice the audience, then this movie definitely has an uphill battle.