Confessions Of A Comic Con Virgin
I’ve learned something new today and it’s that being a journalist at Comic Con means exactly bugger all. It doesn’t matter who you are or who you write for but if you haven’t tracked down the relevant publicist and bagged a fast-track pass for each panel you want to attend then you have to queue like everyone else – and in the case of one of the panels today, that meant waiting in line for a very long time indeed ! As someone who has never experienced any of this before it’s been something of an eye-opener and as someone who was up till 4am helping put together the video blog, keeping my eyes open at all is proving something of a trial.
Thankfully I’m not one to let the occasional jobsworth security guard get in my way and a bit of wangling (and a couple of Metal Gear Solid-style takedowns) saw me safely inside. The thing you need to understand about Comic Con is that they don’t clear the rooms in between panels. A canny Conner soon learns that if you want a decent seat (or any at all) at the more popular panels, it pays to sit through the one before – even if it is an in-depth analysis of inking techniques in monochrome graphic novels. It’s due to this little fact that getting into Hall H has been such an infernal nightmare – but more on that a little bit later.
The Day The Earth Stood Still
The Fox exhibit kicked off with a panel for Scott Derrickson’s remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still. Derrickson was joined by Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connolly (whose husband, Paul Bettany, and two kids were sitting directly in front of me throughout) for the panel, which included not one, not two but three separate clips from the film.
The first was an extended version of the interrogation scene where we see Keanu’s Klaatu wheeled into a basement tied to a chair. His military captors hook him up to a polygraph and begin asking him questions. When the interrogator asks him “do you know of any imminent attack upon the United States?”, Klaatu turns to him and replies “you should let me go.” So far, so seen before but what follows next is the good bit. Suddenly the polygraph electrocutes the interrogator, before leaving him in a semi-catatonic stupor. Then the roles are reversed and it’s Klaatu who asks the questions, each answered in a truthful monotone by the erstwhile interrogator. Extracting information as to the way out and the code to the door, Klaatu ends with “what size is that suit?” Cut to the corridor outside where soldiers are writhing around on the floor clutching their heads. Klaatu strides out, now wearing his captor’s suit, and walks past them all.
The second clip sees Klaatu sitting in the back of a truck with Jaden Smith’s Jacob (a relationship Derrickson says is the heart of the film), and the conversation goes like this:
Jacob: You’re not so scary. You don’t even look like an alien. How come you look so human?
Klaatu: So I can talk to you.
Jacob: What were you before?
Jacob: I told Helen we should kill you.
Klaatu: Yes, I heard that.
Jacob: I didn’t mean it though.
Klaatu: You didn’t?
Jacob: Well, not any more. So, what’s going to happen to us?
Klaatu: I was just wondering the same thing.
The final clip was the payoff though, featuring a plethora of images from Jennifer Connolly’s Helen being invited onto an army base to huge, CG-laden shots of the ship (a giant sphere with colours and textures rippling across the surface) rising from the ocean.
Kathy Bates: “History has lessons to teach us about first encounters between civilizations. As a rule the less advanced civilization is exterminated or enslaved. Unfortunately, in this case the less advanced civilization is us.”
Black particles are seen disintegrating a truck and its trailer.
Voice: “storms like this one are landing at locations all around the world.”
Helen: “I need to know what’s happening.”
Klaatu: “If the Earth dies, you die. If you die, the Earth survives.”
Cut to images of vast cities being destroyed and the same black particles drifting up into the atmosphere. Shots of the ship destroying buildings and causing general havoc.
Finally a silhouette of a large figure: It’s Gort. His eye beam streaks out and the screen goes black.
Mark Wahlberg, Milla Kunis, John Moore and Ludacris turned out to talk about the game adaptation and showed us a couple of clips guaranteed to set fans’ mouths watering. One action montage saw Wahlberg getting his ass rather spectacularly kicked by an unseen assailant and the camerawork was very up close and personal so the viewer feels every blow is striking them as well. According to Moore that’s an intentional way of making the viewer feel involved, just as they would be with a computer game. Additional scenes saw a kinetic shootout with Max vs a SWAT team and ended with a spectacular slo-mo back flip with a shotgun, where he fires it at the apex. According to Moore, this isn’t minimum Payne, it isn’t medium Payne, it’s MAX payne.
As a special surprise, a very special guest then made an appearance. Coming straight from filming in Australia, Hugh Jackman leapt onstage to introduce the first footage from Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Needless to say the crowd went absolutely mental.
The footage was a sizzle reel of footage that will likely form the basis of the first trailer. Action-packed isn’t even the word for it and several appearances from other well known mutant characters drew forth even louder applause.
The footage begins with Jackman’s Logan and Liev Schreiber’s Victor Creed (aka Sabertooth) huddled in a prison cell in army fatigues (Creed’s fingernails are noticeably claw-like). Danny Huston’s William Stryker stands before them.
Stryker: “You were sentenced to death for decapitating a senior officer. Your sentence was carried out by a firing squad at 10:00 hours. How did that go?”
Cut to the two tied to stakes and a squad of soldiers opening fire.
Cut back to the cell.
Logan: “It tickled.”
Logan and Creed are seen escaping, followed by a shot of Logan silhouetted by a huge explosion as he walks towards the camera.
Stryker: “My name is Major William Stryker. Tired of denying your true nature?”
Creed: “What do you care?”
Stryker: “Oh I care. I care because I know how valuable you are. I’m putting together a special team. With special privileges. So tell me, how would you like to really serve your country?”
As this is said a variety of images flash across the screen including Logan with bone claws, an acrobatic Taylor Kitsch as Gambit with his staff glowing at both ends, Silverfox, The Blob and a very brief shot of Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool – although he looked more like a normal Ryan Reynolds in a red t-shirt than the masked/scarred Deadpool of the comics.
Cut to: Images of the adamantium injection tank from X2.
Creed: “We didn’t sign up for this.”
Creed: “Who do you think you are?”
Creed: “This is what we do.”
Stryker: “Become the animal.”
Stryker: “Embrace the other side.”
Cut to: a series of images of Logan undergoing the Weapon X experimentation, being submerged in the tank and having adamantium bonded to his skeleton. We see an x-ray image of the metal going into his skull. His claws pop out – now metal-coated – and he springs from the tank in a classic Weapon X look with the adamantium injection spikes still protruding from his body. He attacks everyone around him.
Unidentified Voice: “We’re making him indestructible.”
Cut to: Logan as a boy, bone claws extended.
From there the action heats up with Wolverine clashing several times with Sabertooth in some impressive action sequences (Creed flies through the air, claws first, in one). There are also more images of The Blob and Gambit.
Logan in a jeep, which explodes, flinging him into the air where he latches onto the front of a helicopter with his claws.
Cut to: a close up of Logan facing off against Sabertooth
Logan: “I’m gonna cut your god damn head off. See if that works”
He pops his claws
Jackman went on to say that they’ve just wrapped so nothing’s finished yet but he did say that fans can expect a large amount of “berserker rage” from the film and thanked geeks everywhere, without whom he “wouldn’t have a career.” He also singled out Wolverine creator Len Wein (who happened to be sitting next to Empire) for a very special thanks. I could tell you more of what Jackman said but why don’t you watch it for yourself (please excuse the dodgy camerawork, I was trying to do eight things at once!)?
Paul McGuigan’s latest is my pick for the next big sleeper hit. A film about weaponised psychics, Push had some great visuals in the two clips I saw. The first sees Djimon Hounsou (a ‘pusher’) using his power of suggestion to make a man shoot himself in the face. The second, absolutely stunning, sequence had Dakota Fanning (who sees the future) and Chris Evans (telekinetic) talking in a fish market before being set upon by half a dozen ‘bleeders’ (they emit piercing screams that make your ears bleed). As the pair try to flee, the screeching assailants shatter windows, fish tanks and just about everything else – debris flies all around the heroes – with their banshee wails. In a particularly cool moment, Evans hurls two bleeders through a window with a psychic shove then and sends a bunch of meat cleavers hurtling from their chopping block and twirling towards his attackers with the wave of a hand.
The sequence was enough to convince anyone that Push is definitely going to be something to look out for and McGuigan went on to describe an intricate mythology for the film, including at least a dozen different categories of psychics and their respective powers. Evans and Hounsou were both present, though Fanning didn’t make an appearance till the very end of the panel, having been caught in 7 hours of traffic due to an accident on the freeway.
Remember when I mentioned they don't clear the rooms after each panel? Well the reason that was relevant was because about 10,000 hormonal girls had been queuing since midnight (yes, that’s 12 hours) for this room, not to see any of the films listed thus far but rather to feast their eyes on the stars of Twilight. You’d be forgiven for not knowing what on Earth that is but if you take Potter fans, boost their passion with a pinch of Beatlemania and you’ll have some idea of the screaming hysteria that met the cast of the film when they walked on stage. Based on Stephanie Myers’ cult novels (you have no idea how big they are over here – she’s the American JK Rowling), Twilight is the story of teenage girl Bella (Kristen Stewart), who falls in love with dashing young vampire, Edward (Robet Bettinson aka Harry Potter’s Cedric Diggory). So obsessed are American teenage girls with these novels that they’ve elevated the stars to near godlike status and the male actors into objects of pure lust. Screaming was a regular feature of this panel (I spent much of it with my fingers in my ears ) and questions from the floor ranged from the probing (“Oh my goooooooood, I totally loooooove yooooou eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh!” to the insightful (“Uh, can I ask? boxers or briefs?”). If they announced Episode VII tomorrow, I guarantee you it couldn’t have caused as big a commotion as Twilight did.
After surviving the oestrogen explosion I slinked off to the HBO panel for Alan Ball’s new show, True Blood. It’s actually not dissimilarly themed, with Anna Paquin as a waitress who also falls for the pale, blood-sucking type. Being HBO though, it’s a far cry from Myers’ winsome vampire tale and features everything from had drugs derived from vamp blood to women who get off on shagging the undead (a practice rather delightfully known as ‘fang-banging’). It hits US televisions in September and from what I saw looks like an essential addition to the Tivo line-up.
Other than that I popped in to the panel for Showtime serial killer series, Dexter, which was fun and had a look at Alex Proyas’ latest project, Knowing, which stars Nicolas Cage and was exciting enough to warrant far more than the single sentence I’ve given it here.
After all that I did secure a minor victory. Even if the jobsworths handling security at the Con would spit on my pass as soon as look at it, I did manage to find at least one person who was impressed by my Empire credentials. So much so, in fact that he allowed Sam and myself to skip right to the front of the NBC queue (that we were nearly lynched by the 1000 people behind us who’d been queuing since dawn was a minor drawback) to blag a pair of limited edition Battlestar Galactica toasters, which burn a cylon head onto your toast. Don’t pretend you’re not jealous.