This year’s San Diego Comic-Con may have been more low key than normal in some respects – several studios skipped the big panels and there were one or two movies, Jurassic World included, that were notable by their absence – but in others it was just as crazy and packed as usual. In among the presentations to hit the cavernous Hall H and elsewhere, there were some big announcements, one or two surprises and a lot of screaming. Here are some of our favourite big stories. Now if you’ll excuse us, we're off to take a collective nap to recover.
Marvel has enough momentum these days that its talent generally gets treated like rock stars. When the studio’s Hall H panel started a few minutes late, there were outbreaks of slow clapping and chants of the company name. And, following a relatively brief panel for Ant-Man that, as expected, didn’t feature questions from the audience to avoid awkward chatter about Edgar Wright, it was on to the main event: Age Of Ultron.
Kicked off by Robert Downey Jr. throwing roses to the audience and welcoming his fellow Avengers to the strains of Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ the stage eventually groaned under the weight of Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Cobie Smulders, Paul Bettany, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. There were jokes. There was banter. There was even a surprise appearance from Josh Brolin, who plays Thanos and is destined to go up against our heroes in the future. And then there was the footage, which was a blend of a fun scene with the gang and then a moody montage of dark battle scenes, tough times for the heroes and Spader’s Ultron being mechanically maniacal.
20th Century Fox didn’t have the greatest panel this year. While there was affection for team Maze Runner, it was on a less-than-successful platform for the likes of Let’s Be Cops and Hitman: Agent 47, while Fantastic Four did not show up at all, even in teaser poster form. It was left, then, to Mark Millar and assorted folk from The Kingsman: Secret Service (aside from director Matthew Vaughn, who was stuck ill in the UK) to preview footage from the raucous spy throwback thriller. That seemed to do the trick. It opened with a sequence in which Mark Hamill’s confused professor is rescued from the grip of a mystery villain by a suave secret agent (Jack Davenport), only for the tables to be suddenly and gorily turned. Then, we got an updated version of a scene we first saw at CinemaCon in March, with Colin Firth’s suited hero seeing off a gang of chavvy thugs. It certainly provided the energy and entertainment the film had been lacking, and Millar proved to be a canny, cheeky moderator.
This year was marked by a couple of surprise arrivals in Hall H. First, we had Christopher Nolan, who despite labouring for years in the DC Comics universe on the Dark Knight Trilogy, had not deigned to step foot within Comic-Con’s busy environs. That changed when Matthew McConaughey showed up and introduced his Interstellar director. Typically circumspect when it came to plot details, Nolan showed some brief footage and seemed a little overwhelmed by the whole experience. But he wasn’t the only unexpected guest....
During Legendary’s panel, Michael Mann – yes, Heat’s Michael Mann – showed up to talk about his techno-terrorism thriller Black Hat, which stars Hall H regular Chris Hemsworth. The two also brought a new trailer for the film, which is naturally filled with Mann’s trademark visuals. Sadly, we doubt either director walked the exhibition hall in search of a Greedo action figure.
Fantastic Four and Jurassic World were two of the bigger no-shows, but one of the more other significant absentees was Neill Blomkamp’s latest, Chappie. It did, at least, have a banner and a poster to share at the event. Given the Comic-Con friendly ingredients of Blomkamp and stars Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver and Sharlto Copley, the lack of panel or video message was a surprise. While the actors are on other projects and Blomkamp is likely locked in an editing room, the film’s early 2015 release date means this was its one chance to hit Comic-Con. Sony’s new Adam Sandler film Pixels had the excuse that it’s still filming, and the team still managed to send a video message from director Chris Columbus (and star Josh Gad), and set up a viral marketing arcade where players could compete to win a role in the film.
While they’re nothing exactly new or shocking, several sequels were either directly announced, confirmed or mooted during the big 'Con panels. The Maze Runner team said they were planning to adapt The Scorch Trials next. And though Godzilla might not have been the big smash everyone thought it was, the sequel has been in development for a while now. Director Gareth Edwards communicated via video about his plans to feature famous God-monsters Rodan, Mothra and Ghidorah in the second outing, which will have to wait until he’s finished his contribution to the Star Wars franchise. In the Sin City: A Dame To Kill For panel meanwhile, co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller said they were considering a part three. "Robert and I are already talking about Sin City 3," Miller told the crowd. "So you'd better show up for number two or they won't pay for it." And at the tail end of the Marvel panel, Guardians Of The Galaxy star Chris Pratt and director James Gunn showed up in a video to “mistakenly” announce what we’d already heard would happen: Guardians 2 in 2017.
George Miller, despite boasting the sort of Comic-Con cred that would appear to make him a natural guest, had never been to the event before. But he braved the daunting Hall H to promote Mad Max: Fury Road, his “revisit” to the post-apocalyptic desert world of Max Rockatansky. With Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult among the cast, Miller unveiled the first footage from the film, showcasing some impressive, practical stunt effects and plenty of bleached, savage visuals. Though his cast wasn’t present, Miller was enough of a draw and the footage certainly got people talking. Fortunately for those unable to attend the convention, Warner Bros. has put the clips online.
Given that the match-up of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent is possibly the most Comic-Con-centric of films this side of Tony Stark and friends, it was inevitable that something would happen for the movie. Yet Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. largely played it coy on the panel, preferring to bring out stars Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot while premiering the first look at Wonder Woman. Which online snarkers immediately began comparing to Xena: Warrior Princess. But even more impactful was some very early footage from the film, which is still shooting. The scene with an armoured, Dark Knight Returns-styled Batman firing up the Bat signal, only for an angry Superman to show up, eyes glowing heat-vision red in anticipation of an impending rumble. With the film not due until 2016, there will be much more next year.
The actual footage and talent that Peter Jackson brought to promote The Hobbit: The Battle Of Five Armies didn’t impress people as much as two other elements of Jackson’s latest 'Con trip. First, he snuck onto the exhibition floor dressed as a crazed jester, soaking up the atmosphere undisturbed. Then there was the choice of moderator for the film’s panel: US comedy news show host and massive Tolkien fan Stephen Colbert, who appeared in a tiny cameo in The Desolation Of Smaug. The man is a natural entertainer and strode on stage wearing his costume from the film. From there, he proceeded to make a superb moderator, getting laughs while also letting the cast speak. The clip from the film, meanwhile, was solid but not as fun as other movies’ presentations.
Stephen Colbert hosting The Hobbit panel at this year's Comic Con
The 2014 Comic Con panel for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies with Peter Jackson on-screen
As if Game Of Thrones didn’t already enjoy a sprawling ensemble, the show kills off enough folk each year to require some new arrivals. Season five will be not different, with Jonathan Pryce, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Jessica Henwick, Rosabell Laurenti Sellers, Toby Sebastian, DeObia Oparei and Enzo Cilenti all joining in a variety of roles, many of them the extended family of the – spoiler alert in case you’ve not caught up on Season four – late prince Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal). And since they naturally couldn’t show even a trailer for the new season since it’s only about to kick off filming soon, the Thrones gang brought a blooper reel from the last season, which you can see here.
Game Of Thrones wasn’t the only show making announcements at the 'Con, as television’s presence is ever increasing. Sam Raimi, who was ostensibly there to talk about adapting the console hit The Last Of Us into a film – a subject on which he shed very little light beyond what has already been announced – let slip that he’s developing a TV series based on The Evil Dead. He wasn’t exactly generous with details, but it appears the show is developing from the script originally intended to be either Evil Dead IV or Army Of Darkness 2 and has now mutated. Raimi’s pal / star / whipping boy Bruce Campbell, meanwhile, tweeted that the current plan is for Ash to be the lead character. In other TV news, the team behind the new Marvel series Agent Carter revealed that Edwin Jarvis – manservant to Howard Stark and apparent inspiration for Tony Stark’s robo-assistant – would be part of the show. And Captain America: The Winter Soldier directors Anthony and Joe Russo were confirmed as in charge of two episodes of the Hayley Atwell-starring series.