Jul 31, 2009

NOTES ON SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON 2009, SATURDAY - Solomon Kane, Zombieland, 2012, Iron Man 2

For the first time in my Comic-con going history, I did not have to line up for an early panel on Saturday – also a first for this year as I had been in (long) lines on both Thursday and Friday at 6:30am. Usually Saturday is the busiest (and the most crowded) day, but thanks to the jam packed Thursday and Friday, the Saturday schedule was comparatively light with only 2 panels on my must attend list. Those were the IRON MAN 2 and the Adult Swim VENTURE BROS. panels, although I expected I would miss the latter thanks to it being so close to the IRON MAN event, and it being in a smaller room meaning the line would be long enough that I wouldn’t get in.

First thing that morning in Hall H was the annual LOST panel, this one previewing the final season. Since I don’t watch LOST – well, I watched the first season and decided to stop and wait until it was over to do it all back-to-back on Blu-Ray – I was able to actually sleep for a change and skipped this one. I did a few rounds of the exhibit hall, and then took my usual spot in line for Hall H.

Knowing IRON MAN 2 was a highlight of the weekend -- it is a rarity this year, a movie based on an actual comic book and the first IRON MAN panel in 2007 was amazing – I decided to visit a couple of panels beforehand to ensure I got a seat.

The first was SOLOMON KANE, a movie based on a character created by Robert Howard who also brought us CONAN: THE BARBARIAN. This is one of those panels that sneaks its way in between the bigger events, and in turn gets extra eyes thanks to the crowd who is usually left over from the last one or awaiting the next big one. Moderated by Eric Vespe (QUINT of Ain’t it Cool fame), the film’s writer/director Michael J. Bassett and star James Purefoy rolled out an awful lot of footage. I don’t believe the movie has a firm North American distributor (although Europe is covered) so this panel served double duty of selling it to the fans and the hopefully a distributor. I thought it looked alright, but didn’t wow me. I could tell though that the selling was on given the amount of footage they screened. Also I find it funny that producers still use “the actor did his own stunts” as a selling point. Does anyone care anymore? The movie neither excited me, nor did it turn me off.

Miramax then presented Mike Judge’s comedy EXTRACT, with Mike, Mila Kunis and Jason Bateman on the panel. The movie is a comedy dealing with working in a Factory and skewers factory life much in the same way OFFICE SPACE took on the workplace. Several very funny clips were screened as the film deals with a workplace accident at a factory run by Bateman, and Kunis is trying to get to the bottom of it while pretending to romance Bateman. This panel had the unfortunate placement of being between some very hard core sci-fi and genre panels, and most of the crowd there was just camping out for IRON MAN 2, so the footage didn’t exactly get the laughs it deserved.

There were some great questions from the audience, clearly a lot of Mike Judge fans. Judge hinted at a possible BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD sequel, and was also astounded at the number of questions regarding following up IDIOCRACY (which didn’t perform well at the box office at all). Bateman was asked about the rumored ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT movie and hinted that there was slow movement – including talks with producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard – and that fans should look to what happened at the end of the series to guess where the movie would pick up from. Regardless of the reception, I enjoyed this panel and am looking forward to seeing EXTRACT.

Next up was a panel I was semi interested in, Sony pictures pushing ZOMBIELAND with Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Jesse Eisenberg on hand, and Roland Emmerich introducing and fielding questions about his latest disaster movie, 2012.

The trailer (which is the one in theaters) for ZOMBIELAND made the movie look like a lot of fun but the clips proved otherwise which didn’t play well at all. Overall though I was fairly bored with what they showed, except a moment where Emma Stone tricks Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson out of their weapons and rations. The majority of the questions revolved around asking the stars what they would do in the case of several zombie-attack scenarios that I don’t believe the panel found amusing after the 5th or 6th one. This is what happens when you give socially awkward fans access to movie stars, which while at times uncomfortable, can be amusing.

2012 was up next, and again Roland Emmerich is destroying the world. Yes, recognizable landmarks get wiped out (the White House bites the dust again, this time being crushed by an Aircraft carrier) and the world pretty much bites the dust. Emmerich screened an extended trailer which featured an epic level of mass destruction, as well as a very long scene of John Cusack trying to save his family from the destruction and Los Angeles pretty much being wiped out completely as the limo he is driving careens and crashes unrealistically yet enjoyable through the city. The clip showed that Emmerich is playing the whole thing tongue in cheek, and the effects were really stellar. I’m somehow looking forward to this film, although don’t expect outside of a fun 2 hours.

The Sony panel was being moderated by a Movie Critic from ACCESS HOLLYWOOD, who wasn’t that good. He was pumping everything up like we were being marketed to and not as fans, and when a gentleman from Spain (who had difficulty with speaking English) who had asked a question at every single panel I attended asked Roland Emmerich a question, the moderator made fun of him which elicited hisses from the audience. I bring this up for a reason as he was also the moderator for IRON MAN 2.

At the end of the Sony panel, the moderator ripped off his button down shirt to reveal an IRON MAN t-shirt which should have resulted in excited squeals from the fanboys in the auditorium, but thanks to their growing animosity towards this guy, resulted in uncomfortable murmurs. After the break, he came out to introduce Jon Favreau and the crowd erupted in a very animated round of booing, which continued throughout the guy’s introduction (and you tell by his face that it got to him) and only turned to extreme cheering when Jon Favreau finally rescued him.

Keven Feige (President of Marvel Films), Robert Downey, Jr. and Director Jon Favreau

Favreau was greeted with the common pumped up fanboy Comic-con greeting, which is ecstatic. He mentioned that he had footage and showed this really cheesy montage with bad V/O and clips from the first movie that just looked awful. Footage over, he starts talking but is interrupted by Tony Stark himself, Robert Downey, Jr. which sent the crowd into another round of insane cheering. Downey berated Favreau for showing such lame stuff, then demanded that the real footage be shown.

Then it came, what the 7000 fans had been waiting for, a series of clips. First off had Robert Downey, Jr. in his IRON MAN suit sitting atop the Randy’s Donuts sign in Los Angeles, and conversing with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. Later was an extended scene of Robert Downey, Jr. being grilled by a Senator (Garry Shandling) about his Iron Man suit which they are classifying as a weapon. This ends with Don Cheadle coming into the room and a short dialogue exchange that brushes away the fact that he has replaced Terrence Howard in the role of Rhodes.

Then came a quick montage of Scarlet Johansson as Black Widow kicking some butt, Mickey Rourke as Whiplash creating his suit and making life difficult for Stark, and ended up with Cheadle purchasing armor and weapons from Sam Rockwell, then a very cool flash of WAR MACHINE just looking, well….cool! This all had the desired effect as the crowd went nuts (as they did in 2007) which inspired a second viewing of the footage.

The Q&A was one of the best of Comic-con so far as each individual spoke about their characters and the material. It was only the second panel which acknowledged comic books as an inspiration, and both Favreau and Downey praised the creator of the character, Larry Lieber, and the contributions and help he gave while visiting the set. Larry was in attendance, and was brought up on stage which inspired a standing ovation. This was truly a crowd appreciative of the source material.

Scarlett Johansson discusses Black Widow

Mickey Rourke was unable to make it, but sent his regards. He would have been a great addition though.

Don Cheadle touched briefly on taking over the role from Terrence Howard, and said that he tried to take it in a new direction while still remaining true to the character Howard had inhabited. When asked about his WAR MACHINE costume, his answer was simple – heavy.

Jon Favreau was also questioned about whether or not he would be involved in the upcoming AVANGERS movie (2011 I believe is the due date on that) and how IRON MAN 2 fits into the preparation for that movie. Favreau commented that there are other movies that need to come out first, and that he is so focused on IRON MAN 2 (it literally had just wrapped the week before)that he wasn’t thinking AVENGERS. He referenced Kenneth Branaugh’s THOR movie which is in pre-production now as well as the yet uncast CAPTAIN AMERICA film which still need to be worked out before the focus shifts to THE AVENGERS. We can be pretty much guaranteed to be sneak peeking THOR at Comic-con 2010.

From the footage shown and the crowd reaction (mine included, I was very impressed) it looks like Marvel/Paramount has another hit on their hands. Favreau knows the expectations that are now placed upon him, and IRON MAN was such a hit that this second film has a lot more eyes focused on it. I don’t think that it will disappoint.

The annual Kevin Smith rant was up next, and not being a fan I vacated Hall H very quickly to check out THE VENTURE BROS., but as expected, the line was long and the room was full so I decided to check out some Anime and walk the exhibit hall once again. It was a nice way to finish off a surprisingly laid back day portion of Saturday at Comic-con before the Masquerade and the various parties around San Diego took over that night.