Another year, another San Diego love-in of Hollywood’s brightest stars and all things comic-book and fandom-y, but what were the cinematic highlights of Comic-Con 2015?
Harrison Ford, in a good mood for once when surrounded by sci-fi fans, joined his co-stars old and new for the Star Wars panel as JJ Abrams promoted the hell out of Episode VII: The Force Awakens, without actually revealing much about it; a trick familiar from Super 8.
We did learn that Irish star Domhnall Gleeson will not be playing the son of Luke Skywalker, as rumoured, but instead a British-accented villain in the mould of Peter Cushing. Abrams also initiated a charm offensive with some skill, presenting endearing behind the scenes spoiler-free footage of actors, clapper-boards, and film running through cameras in various practical sets. The aim of course is to reassure fans still traumatised by George Lucas’ prequels farrago (like, say, Simon Pegg in Spaced) that they will not have to once again endure capable actors being reduced to blank dumb-show as they muck about in an entirely green-screen room which will have its CGI sets, and characters, and action (and script it seemed at times) added later. Abrams is bluffing; Episode VII cannot possibly survive in this blockbuster environment without extensive CGI, but at least the worst excesses of Lucas’ approach should be eschewed. Check out all the behind the scenes footage below.
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Fury writer/director David Ayer took to the stage to talk trash about Marvel, claiming DC had the better villains; and then backed it up with the first look at Suicide Squad. It’s kind of staggering that a film not scheduled for release until August 2016 could have such a polished trailer, down to the spine-tingling version of ‘I Started a Joke’. While the sheer size of the cast still worries, it looks like Ayer’s promise to deliver The Dirty Dozen with DC characters holds good. And for all Will Smith’s prominence as a perceptive but depressed Deadshot in the trailer, there are really only two characters that matter: Harley Quinn and her Puddin’. Margot Robbie appears an inspired choice for the first cinematic incarnation of Dr Quinzell, hitting notes of naivety, menace, playfulness, and sheer insanity. Jared Leto, who has received endless inane stick over the appearance of his Joker, also seems a perfect fit as the Harlequin of Hate. In full make-up his wiry frame makes him seem similar to the Joker as drawn by Dustin Nguyen, in close-up the much-debated steel teeth rock, and his sinister lines could actually be Batman dialogue; which is quite intriguing. Check out the trailer,
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Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, and Zack Snyder screened a less impressive trailer with a bigger push than Suicide Squad. It’s a question of a March 2016 release date, and Snyder being a man immune to subtlety. The trailer sees Superman being grilled by Holly Hunter’s Senator for his actions in, um, levelling Metropolis. That 9/11 times a hundred apocalypse delivers a nicely mythic moment as Affleck’s Bruce Wayne runs towards the falling rubble of Wayne Tower. If Clark Kent already regards Batman as a ‘one-man reign of terror’ what better way to convince Batman that Superman has to go than a hand-written taunt from the Joker to that effect? And so it begins… But Snyder’s packed the movie to bursting point: Superman as Jesus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Thomas Wayne, Lex Luthor discovering Kryptonite (thus banishing Man of Steel’s farcically incoherent atmospherics) but not the services of a good wig-maker. Jesse Eisenberg’s Luthor as Mark Zuckerberg on a bad hair day rather than a President Lex has enraged many, but this was always going to be a mixed bag, and Gal Gadot, completing the ‘Trinity’, looks very promising as the first cinematic Wonder Woman. Have a look at the trailer below.
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Channing Tatum showed up with Gambit’s cane, Stan Lee got in a photo with a huge X-Men cast, and footage of director Bryan Singer offering the part of Wolverine to a youthful Hugh Jackman was shown for the first time to ‘Old Man Logan’ as he dubbed himself. Amidst all that Singer also showed some footage from five weeks of filming on X-Men: Apocalypse. In alternate 1983 all is well with the world, except that James McAvoy’s Professor X has lost his hair. Also some humans have started to worship mutants as gods, and Oscar Isaac’s ancient mutant Apocalypse takes advantage to begin a sinister cult that turns Michael Fassbender’s reformed Magneto back to the dark side and leaves Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique again facing stark choices. New mutants include Olivia Munn as Psylocke, while familiar characters in younger iterations include Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, Kodi Smith-McPhee as Nightcrawler, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, and Ben Hardy as Angel. X-2’s writers Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris return to script, but with Lawrence’s X-contract up, and Jackman retiring his adamantium claws soon, this end of an era panel felt like a carousing wake beside a currently empty casket. Have a look at the panel discussion below.
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The Man from UNCLE
Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer were in full bromance mode presenting a Comic-Con trailer that was literally the standard trailer with more scenes of running, jumping, fighting, driving, and blowing stuff up. It’s an action film, don’t you know? Cavill appears to have nailed an appropriate unctuousness as CIA agent Napoleon Solo, but he’s still no Robert Vaughn, while poor Armie Hammer cannot measure up to David McCallum’s charismatic wryness as the KGB’s finest Ilya Kuryakin. The TV show was a very dry takedown of Bond, but this actually plays straight the basic plot of Thunderball; with Australian star Elizabeth Debicki (the find of Baz Luhrmann’s Gatsby) as the super-villain with a nuke. In this fantasy 1960s of sexism and split-screens Cavill and Hammer must work together, under the direction of Hugh Grant’s Waverly to stop nuclear armageddon, against the backdrop of JFK’s presidency. Aiding them is Alicia Vikander, who is in high danger of becoming as irritatingly omnipresent as 2004 Jude Law. This looks less obnoxious and a good deal more fun than Guy Ritchie’s two Sherlock Holmes films, but that may be because he’s not competing with rival, superior interpretations of the source material. Check out the new trailer below.
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