R0BTRAIN's Bad Ass Cinema: The View From Hall H, Part 2 – Rob's Favorite Comic-Con Moments

A lot of column to get to this week folks, so no time for a long preamble, let’s just get to it!

Rob’s Favorite Comic-Con Moments, Part 2

5. The Visionaries

Going into this year, a panel that had a lot to live up to for me was the 2nd annual Visionaries panel, which again was put together by the folks at Entertainment Weekly. The idea for the panel is a simple one: put two amazing film-makers together and let them talk for an hour about movies while the geek multitudes watching get to lap it all up. The first iteration of this panel featured two guys named James Cameron and Peter Jackson, who then showed up and blew my mind for an hour while they discussed Sci-Fi, 3D, pranking George Lucas, and a little movie called Avatar which was fixing to come out.

The cool thing about this year’s panel was that while 2009’s offering was definitely a sort trumpeting of the current kings or even old guard of Sci-Fi/Fantasy, 2010 brought the next generation onstage with the pairing of J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon. While these two have ruled television with their various projects and have built incredible followings, Whedon at least is still largely unproven as a big budget director and Abrams may still have some critics even after the success of Star Trek. Still, it’s hard to argue that these two didn’t belong onstage, even solely based on their TV success. These two are possibly the future when it comes to genre projects in the next decade or two, and frankly, I couldn’t wait to see what they had to say.

What ended up happening was this wonderful meeting of the minds. They each discussed their introductions to the business, their reservations about 3D, and went into some finer details about future projects, with Whedon even officially announcing at this panel that he was directing The Avengers movie. We also got to hear the creator’s regrets when it came to Dollhouse and Fox, and the situation with his Cabin in the Woods project. Abrams went into Super 8 and what it might be about, and experiences he’s had like when he was just starting out and his company was asked to restore some childhood films for Steven Spielberg. Like last year’s panel, 2010’s offering ended up being an awesome privilege to get to be there and watch two brilliant minds extrapolate on why they’re brilliant and what drives them to be better. I can’t wait to see who could possibly follow these two up and be at the Visionaries panel next year.

4. Bond and Indy Take the Stage

Saturday, July 24th, was a really weird day at the con. First off, it was really tough to get into Hall H because of the morning’s Harry Potter panel, which had Potter fanatics spending the night out front just to get a good seat for what turned out to be a 10 minute presentation. Next, because of poor scheduling, most of the big panels for the week either fell on the previous Thursday or on that very Saturday, which made it generally tough to get in for the rest of the day because no one wanted to miss out on the day’s events, especially the Marvel panel, which was scheduled to finish the night. This made the day a sort of geek endurance test. Sure, you want to see what Marvel and the other studios have up their sleeve, but how are you going to feel after sitting in an uncomfortable chair for 8 hours with little to no food and water, and a bathroom line that is, to say the least, “intimidating”? Add to that a stabbing incident and sealed off doors and you’ve got yourself a powder keg ready to go off.

Thankfully, Jon Favreau had a couple of heroes with him who were used to tense situations.

I didn’t know what to expect from the Cowboys and Aliens panel when Favreau’s music hit and he took the stage like a rock star. He explained to us how he experimented with shooting the movie in 3D, but how he didn’t want to shoot a western on digital and that he didn’t want to ruin the movie by upconverting the image from 2D. He’d only been shooting for four weeks, but he had footage to show, but even before that he had brought a few people with him. We’re talking people like Olivia Wilde, Adam Beach, and Sam Rockwell, as well as writers Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman who came out of the audience to join the group onstage. When Favreau brought out Daniel Craig, I pretty much thought that would be it when it came to geek icons, and to be honest that would have been enough, considering he’s freaking 007.

Well let me tell you, I’ve heard it loud in Hall H before. I was there last year when the Twilight moms went crazy for Robert Pattinson, and when Johnny Depp came out it may has well have been Elvis, but I’ve never heard an ovation like the one I heard for Harrison Ford when his name was announced.

Playing off the room’s tension, Ford came out in handcuffs surrounded by guards, who sat him down hard in his seat, and the joke played like this magical Comic-Con moment. This was the first time the Comic-Con crowd had come face to face with the man who had inspired many of us on our path of geekdom in the first place, and what a glorious meeting it turned out to be. The panel didn’t last much longer, but the moment was a special one, and hopefully entices Ford to return soon. Did I mention the Cowboys and Aliens also looked terrific? It did.

3. Expendables Assemble!

Thursday, July 22nd, the first official day at Comic-Con had already been a pretty kick ass day when it came to Hall H. Getting to see new Tron: Legacy footage, Bruce Willis, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Angelina Jolie (who is not ugly in person), as well as the Visionaries panel had the place in a pretty good mood, but The Expendables got that place absolutely rocking. Harry Knowles hosted the panel and stated up front he’d be representing estrogen up on stage. Then came out Terry Crews, who ripped his shirt off, stood on the table and flexed his pecks for the crowds, followed by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, and of course, Sylvester Stallone.

Now getting your geek on is what Comic-Con is about, but never in my life did I ever think that I would get the chance to take part in a “ROCKY” chant with Sylvester Stallone in the same room. It’s just one of those moments I’ll always take with me, and the great part was, the rest of the panel was just as fun. The banter between all the guys on stage was amazing, with things like Stallone not letting it go after he brought up the fact that Austin had actually broken his neck during filming or Lundgren talking about getting hit in the face by Jet Li. Randy Couture was the subject of a lot of talk as Stallone threw around stories of former UFC champion sending stuntmen to the hospital, which only made Austin that much more nervous that Stallone would try to enact some sort of revenge through the MMA legend when their fight went in front of the camera.

It was this type of revelry, along with the outpouring of love from the audience, Bruce Willis interrupting to come out on stage with the rest of the action legends, and finally the terrifically gory footage shown, which made this one of the most joyous moments of the entire convention. There was a great portion where everyone was relaying their most difficult moments in making the movie, with most of the stars recalling dangerous stunts or fight scenes, and then during Randy Couture’s turn he stated that the worst moment for him was a monologue that he had to say, which he had worked on for six months, only to be changed at the last second by Stallone.

Everyone was in such good spirits it was infectious, and I can only hope that the rest of the movie can live up to the good time we had with the Expendables when they were on stage. If the footage shown was any indication, we should be in for a good time, with one clip encompassing the good guys destroying a group of henchmen in a stone hallway, and another scene which was apparently done without the permission of the film’s insurance company, in which Jason Statham had to fire a machine gun from the nose of an airplane. Pretty awesome stuff and I can’t wait to see this in theaters.

2. Avengers Assemble!

Like I said, July 24th was a bit of an endurance test, with Warner Bros starting out the day with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Green Lantern, and Sucker Punch, and Marvel ending the day with Captain America and Thor, so in between you had a lot of people not leaving, fighting for seats, and wanting to catch both presentations at all costs. Thing was, at the end of it all, it still seemed worth it, especially with surprises like the excellent Sucker Punch footage, the Green Lantern teaser, six minutes of Harry Potter, the hilarious Paul footage, a Cowboys and Aliens intergalactic shootout, and then Marvel bringing a long Thor trailer and snippets from Captain America, which had only been shooting for about a week.

Then Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige announced that the panel wasn’t quite over.

The room went dark, and a teaser went up with the Avengers logo and Samuel l. Jackson’s voice stating that Earth’s mightiest would have to come together, and then after the teaser, Jackson himself took the stage and the rest of the Avengers followed suit. Again, this was one of those amazing Comic-Con moments. Nick Fury himself got to introduce everyone we’ve already seen, with the likes of Chris Helmsworth and Chris Evans joining Scarlett Johansson and Clark Gregg onstage. Then the place erupted for Robert Downey, Jr as he took the mic, announcing the rest of the cast with Jeremy Renner coming out to thunderous applause and Mark Ruffalo hitting the stage to the announcement that he would be officially be taking the role of Bruce Banner.

Seeing the entire group onstage was pretty overwhelming, which were the exact sentiments echoed by Joss Whedon. As our last surprise guest, he immediately played right to the crowd by saying just how much he was going to screw this up. The entirety of Hall H was on their feet the entirety of this last presentation, and by the time the panel was over we were all shocked by what we had seen. The plan from Marvel Studios is starting to finally come together, and from the looks of it, the fans are ready and waiting.

1. Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour

If there was one movie that absolutely ruled Comic-Con this year, it was Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The day before the con even opened, the final volume of the graphic novel series that the movie was based on was even released, so the name Scott Pilgrim was everywhere already by the time the doors opened. There was a special “Scott Pilgrim Experience” booth setup where the cast did signings, the videogame was available to play, you could buy merchandise, take pictures and t-shirts were screen printed to your specifications. Then there was the Thursday night panel, which closed out the festivities for first day of Comic-Con in Hall H.

Before the panel had even begun, we were all coming off the high of The Expendables presentation, which I had expected to be the highlight of the evening. As a series of Pilgrim-related buttons were passed out to the audience and Edgar Wright took the stage, I was already trying to plan my exit once the panel was over, and thinking of a way to catch the shuttle back to my hotel to try and charge my poor iPhone, which had already died halfway through the day trying to constantly connect to AT&T’s lousy convention wi-fi. Now don’t get me wrong, I was excited about Scott Pilgrim, but the day had been long and I was ready to rest up a bit and get ready for the next day’s batch of geekery. Unbeknownst to me though, Edgar Wright and co. had other plans.

The panel was a smashing success – with the entire cast in attendance answering audience questions (including Michael Cera in a cheap, fake muscled Captain America costume), a quick and goofy bit from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and footage that looked as awesome as it should from this picture. Then as I was gathering my things, Wright announced that we should look at the buttons given to us. If we were the recipient of a 1-Up button (a button that I had in my hand!), we were to follow him out of the hall and to the nearest movie theater, where we were to attend a private screening of the entire movie right that very moment.

Now, the experience at Comic-Con is usually kind of a surreal one already. You get to be in the same room as your favorite stars and maybe you even get to ask them questions or get their autograph while they’re just walking around the convention floor. There’s this sort of wall that gets broken down a bit. They talk about their films, bring awesome footage and often you wish that you could just watch the movie right then and there. Even with all that, I don’t think it’s ever occurred before that a director has leapt off the stage into the crowd, where the audience has followed him out the door to a free private screening, where said director gives you a high five as you walk through the door. On that day though, that’s exactly what happened for a select group of us.

On top of everything else, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is an incredible movie that will probably end up on my top 10 at the end of the year. As far as geek experiences go for my whole life though, this is probably going to stay pretty far up there for some time. The crowd was electric at the Balboa Theater while we waited for Wright to take the stage again, and the place almost couldn’t contain the excitement of the 200 or so fans that were lucky enough to get to see what was the first screening of the newly completed movie. To say that the movie and the experience more than delivered would be an understatement. This weekend you’ll be able to find out just how awesome the movie really is, but I’m sorry more people aren’t going to get the same kind of experience I was able to. To whoever was responsible, whether it was Edgar Wright or just some guy in marketing, thank you for making this experience so special and helping this the best Comic-Con ever.

Alright, that’s it for SDCC 2010, and as you can see I had an absolute blast. I can only hope that Comic-Con 2011 can be even half as awesome.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,