Comic-Con 08: This Year's Best Panels and Footage
by Alex Billington
August 1, 2008
After I returned from the San Diego Comic-Con earlier this week, I kept getting asked countless times over what the best thing I saw was the whole time. So to answer that question for everyone, I thought I'd throw together a quick recap of this year's Comic-Con and list my favorite panels and the best footage. While I generally knew what was coming and had my eye set on a few particular films, not only did they all deliver, but there were certainly a few exciting surprises as well. This year may not go down as the greatest year in Comic-Con history, as Paramount's absence was truly felt, but it certainly will be remembered! Read on for the list of my favorite presentations and the best footage from Comic-Con 2008!
To help set you in the right mood, I've added some costume photos that coordinate with each respective movie. Click each one to see them full-size. All of the costumes are from this year's Comic-Con.
1. Watchmen - I knew this was going to be the best of Comic-Con before it even began and boy did it deliver. The five-minute extended trailer we saw was truly breathtaking, even more than the first trailer. Instead of Smashing Pumpkins, the music this time was some sort of gospel-like orchestral played over some of the best visuals from the film, including Nite Owl and Silk Spectre kissing while a nuke explodes behind them, extended shots of Rorschach and the ink changing in his mask, and the scene where the original Minutemen are getting their photo taken. I also loved seeing how R rated it would be, where any time Dr. Manhattan would blow people up, you could actually see their bones and organs exploding as well. It was truly amazing and I've got a feeling this may even top The Dark Knight next March!
2. Terminator Salvation - This was the most delightful surprise of all of Comic-Con. I heard that McG was cool guy, but he truly took the crowd by storm just as Jon Favreau had done the year before for Iron Man. And the footage he brought was fantastic! I finally have an immense amount of confidence in McG and the entire creative team behind Terminator Salvation. The footage we were shown was yet again rough, but entirely composed with practical effects - no CGI had been finished by this time. And I was amazed that most of what they shot looked so good. As with any post-apocalyptic movie, it felt a bit like Mad Max, even with a racing scene involving shotguns and various punked out cars. But in the end, I had this gut reaction that kept telling me this is going to be frickin' badass. Christian Bale's intensity is what fueled it the most - he has some awesome scenes with Sam Worthington and others.
3. The Day the Earth Stood Still - The second biggest surprise of Comic-Con behind Terminator Salvation. I thought the first trailer looked pretty damn good, but I wasn't expecting the incredibly beautiful cinematography with lush dark green colors, great visual effects, and immense intensity that Keanu Reeves would bring to the movie. We saw the full scene where Keanu is being interrogated first and it went from mild to "holy sh*t" in a matter of seconds. And the extended trailer truly made my jaw drop by the end. I'm a big sci-fi nut and this looks like it has everything I could ever ask for in a sci-fi remake, including quality acting. Even after Watchmen and Terminator Salvation and Wolverine, I am still just as excited for The Day the Earth Stood Still.
4. Ninja Assassin - The most underrated movie of all of Comic-Con and it still kicked my ass! If you're unfamiliar with this gem of a movie, Ninja Assassin is V for Vendetta director James McTeigue's latest film. While filming Speed Racer with Rain over the summer, they came up with the idea of making a full-fledged ninja movie and thus the idea for this project was born. The trailer we saw was insane! That's actually probably an understatement - it was bloody as hell, exciting as hell, and badass as hell. Not only is it the first mainstream ninja movie I've ever seen, but it looked stunning. McTeigue may only be directing his second feature film, but this guy's got style and Ninja Assassin looks like it's going to kick ass!
5. X-Men Origins: Wolverine - I'm probably the only one who didn't completely love the Wolverine footage and that's because there were honestly some problems with it. I know that it was all rough, unfinished footage and that it needed plenty of polishing, but that played into my reaction. Seeing Gambit and Wolverine and Sabretooth was all good and exciting, but it really looked too cheesy. When you compare something as perfectly refined as The Dark Knight to Wolverine, it was like comparing an expensive diamond to a dirty rock. I hope in time they clean it all up, but what I saw just look a bit too over-the-top for an Oscar winning director and someone as talented as Hugh Jackman. Too many explosions, too many colorfully cheesy shots, and an unnecessary need to expand the story into a team of superheroes.
6. Red Sonja - Although they haven't even begun shooting, Robert Rodriguez and the beautiful Rose McGowan presented some great looking promo photos and posters (which you can see here). I was honestly impressed with what I saw and when the two of them, in combination with the film's director Douglas Aarniokoski, talked at length about their interest in the mythology of Red Sonja and Conan as well as the direction the film would be going in, I felt like this could end up being pretty awesome. There wasn't much to go off of, but I thoroughly enjoyed the panel and was excited to see what they were going to come up with when shooting begins later this year.
7. Tr2n - The reason this isn't higher on my list is because I actually missed the official presentation during Disney's panel. Thankfully the wonders of the internet allowed me to actually watch the trailer, albeit in very bad quality, and in turn I felt I needed to include it on this list. The footage would've been breathtaking in person in high definition, but even the version I saw made me excited at the end. In combination with this news about John Lasseter's involvement has instantly shot this movie high up on my most anticipated list for the next few years (since it's not actually due out until 2010). Easily one of the best surprises at Comic-Con that has shown many people what true talent is capable of creating.
8. Tropic Thunder - Technically this wasn't a panel or a presentation, but I did have the chance to see it at Comic-Con and it kicked some serious ass! I've got a soft spot for war movies and this fit right into that niche on top of being one of the funniest comedies all year long. This is definitely going to give Apatow's Pineapple Express a run for its money and it will probably end up somewhere near the top of my best of the year list as well. I knew it would be good from the trailers, but it definitely surpassed all of my expectations, and it's always a relief when a highly anticipated movie does that. When I wasn't laughing my ass off, I was definitely smiling and enjoying all that the movie offered.
9. Friday the 13th - Last but not least is this lone horror remake that needs some extra special attention. Although I visited the set and liked what I saw, I still wasn't fully sold. Not until the trailer, and especially the last scene where Jason chases down a girl lying on the ground, did I realize that this movie is going to kick some serious ass. I don't care that it's not a direct remake of the first Friday the 13th or that it's not as faithful to the tone of the originals, because it looks entertaining and intense and that's what it needed to capture my interest. I want a movie that is going to scare the living crap out of me and also be entertaining and I think this Friday the 13th remake is going to do just that.
There were a few key presentations I missed, including Drag Me to Hell and Land of the Lost as well as a few others, but alas we'll get our taste of those soon enough. And as for let downs, Frank Miller's The Spirit tops the list and Max Payne comes in a close second. I had high hopes for both and both looked pretty bad - not what I was hoping to see for either. Coming off of Comic-Con this year, I feel like there's an exciting line-up of movies in the works, from Watchmen next March to Terminator Salvation next May to The Day the Earth Stood Still this December to Ninja Assassin next January. Another Comic-Con down and another twelve months to go until we do it all over again! What are you looking forward to the most?
Photo at the top courtesy of San Diego Shooter on Flickr.