(Movie Article by T. Ward Porrill) Last month, an unprecedented 100,000 plus attendees descended upon the San Diego Convention center to get sneak peeks at upcoming installments of their favorite comic books, movies, and TV shows, as well as to meet and greet with their favorite authors, actors, and fellow geeks. This was without a doubt Comic-Con’s biggest turnout to date causing for some major congestion in and outside the convention halls. For many, it provided the annual super-summit with much more excitement (not to mention swag o’ plenty) but for others, it was a sign that the “˜Con had gotten way too big for its Superman Underoos. Here’s this intrepid (and yes, swag-coveting) reporter’s take on Comic Con ’07.
The Good: No doubt the biggest draw for many of the attendees were the panel discussions for the biggest films and TV shows coming late ’08 or early to mid 2008. We’re talking “Iron Man,” Beowulf,” “Indiana Jones and The Search for a Cool Title,” J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” and “Cloverfield,” “Stardust,” ” “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” “Chronicles of Narnia 2: Electric Boogaloo,” “Shoot “˜Em Up,” “Get Smart,” “The Mist”, and Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” remake/reboot/rehash or whatever they’re calling these days. TV fans got either advance screenings of upcoming pilot episodes for new series such as “The Bionic Woman,” “The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” “Chuck,” and “The Reaper” while stalwart viewers of programs like “Battlestar Galactica,” “The Simpsons,” and “Heroes” got, well, bupkis, although at least most of the cast members showed up to show their allegiance to their vast fanbase. In the case of “Lost” however, writers Damon Lindeloff and Carlton Cuse broke the news during their truly hilarious panel discussion that viewer favorite Harold Perrineau will return to the show after sitting Season 3 out — and then proceeded to bring him out to the delight of the attendees. After showing clips from the upcoming — wait for it — video game of “Lost” (yawn) the revered authors of the show concluded their panel discussion with some baffling “footage” of an island quake interrupting a Dharma Iniative training video. What this was supposed to portend is anyone’s guess, but Lindeloff and Cuse made for a very entertaining discussion in which the writers would attempt to keep one other from giving too much show information away by ringing one of the bells placed in front of their place cards.
Even better was the panel for J.J. Abrams light-years away (okay, 2008) installment of “Star Trek.” Though the most ardent “˜Net surfers already had the inside scoop that Zachary Quinto from “Heroes” would assay the role of young Dr. Spock, many attendees were thrilled when the Nimoy doppelganger was brought on stage to make after the announcement was made that Thursday afternoon. But the moment that made both Trekkies and non-Trekkies hearts go a-flutter was when a fan (or “plant” depending on your point of view) asked the panel discussion what the real Dr. Spock thought of the casting decision, to which the moderator replied, “Let’s go ahead and ask him,” and none other than Leonard Nimoy himself appeared on stage. Seeing Quinto and Nimoy standing side by side was no doubt the eeriest moment of the “˜Con, though the footage of the creepy, all-CGI, cast from “Beowulf” was a close second.
The major highlight for this film fan, however, was the moment during the Paramount Pictures panel (say that three times fast) after Jon Favreau showed some kick-ass footage from “Iron Man” when suddenly John Williams’ theme from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” played over the PA system in Hall H and the image of Steven Spielberg broadcasting from the set of the latest Indy movie appeared on the giant monitor screens. After introducing stars Harrison Ford, Ray Winstone, and the ubiquitous Shia LeBoeuf , Spielberg announced he had a little surprise for Comic Con attendees and proceeded to bring out a director’s chair with the name “Marion Ravenswood” on it.
Karen Allen was then escorted into frame by Spielberg, much to the delight of the packed crowd in Hall H. Though Kevin Smith had a different, and more acerbic take on Spielberg’s semi-appearance at the Con (go to YouTube to see Smith’s always-hilarious presentation) it was truly a goose-pimple inducing moment for all fans of The Man With the Hat.
Now for a few poison arrows….
The Bad: Due to the capacity-filled turnout of the convention, many of the major presentation panels had way more attendees show up than they had seats to accommodate them all. This is nothing new for Comic Con regulars. The way of the “˜Con is that if there is a particular panel discussion or screening you want to see, you line up as early as possible to ensure your admittance. However, the powers-that-be egregiously underestimated the popularity of certain movies. Case in point: the panel discussion for “Heroes.” Clearly, the recently Emmy-nominated phenomenon is one of the most-watched shows on TV right now, but unfortunately that wasn’t enough to get it booked into Hall H, by far the largest room in the Convention Center. Ergo, if you were not already in the room it was booked for when it opened at 10am (and had already sat through the panels for “Bionic Woman” and “Battlestar Galactica”) then nothing less than teleporting yourself into the room would have gotten you in for the afternoon discussion, which featured not only the cast in attendance but future episode-director Kevin Smith and strangely enough, Danny Bonaduce as well (he apparently was in the Q A line.) The line of people who had no chance of getting literally wrapped around the circular confines of the convention center’s upper level. Remember the scene in “This Is Spinal Tap” where the band gets lost backstage and ends up making a complete circle? It was just like that, only far less funny. Oh well, at least there were plenty of distractions on the Exhibit Hall floor to soothe the tempers of scorned attendees.
Speaking of the Exhibit Hall, one other source of frustration was the location of some of the higher profile signings and presentations. To wit, the “Death Sentence” autograph session featuring stars Kevin Bacon and Garrett Hedlund, and James Wan, the director of “Saw,” (you know, the good one.) Although tickets were given out in advance for prospective attendees, the actual event was so disorganized it seemed as if Jigsaw himself had organized it. First off, the illustrious guests of honor were nearly a half hour late to the signing, but considering it was held on the busiest day of the “˜Con, you kinda had to give the guys a pass. However, this was made worse by the fact that the celebs were deluged by the marketing team behind the event, so us weary fans had to look on for a good ten minutes while they all joked around and mugged for some photo ops. Aggravating the situation even more was the fact that passersby on the Exhibit Hall floor (i.e. non-ticket holders) started to horn in on the line wrapped around the event booth so they could take photos of Bacon Co. with their cell phone cameras. Very annoying to say the least. The coup de grace however was when the event staff for Fox Atomic told us ticket-holders not let anyone cut in line ahead of us, which basically meant they were asking us to do their jobs for them. Finally, after about forty-five minutes of sheer aggravation, the line began to move and all the beleaguered ticket holders got their few minutes of face time with The Center of the Movie Universe, as well as his autograph on the “Death Sentence” poster. Good times.
One last complaint: Hey, Warner Bros — what, no “Dark Knight” teaser or swag? We all know “The Invasion” needs far more advance publicity than the Caped Crusader’s next installment, but still, if Spielberg could make some time to pimp for “Indy IV” couldn’t have someone from the film have made an appearance to stoke the flames of our collective desire for the next sure-to-be-awesome Batman movie? Sure, the viral marketing campaign featuring Harvey Dent and the Joker has been cool in a cryptic kind of way, but hey, I’m just sayin’.
And now for The Ugly: Variety contributor Anne Thompson reports in her Thompson on Hollywood blog that both “Transformers” producer Don Murphy and L.A. Times writer Geoff Boucher were involved in two separate attacks while walking around the famed Gaslamp area in downtown San Diego during Comic Con weekend. Both attacks were apparently gang-related and though Bouchard went to the ER with staples in his head (!) producer Murphy states in his reply to the Thompson blog that 6 people in his group of 12 were attacked but without any harm and thankfully, two of the assailants were arrested. It’s a shame that unnecessary violence has to occur in any city, of course, but for it to happen during a weekend that is supposed to be about fantasy and escape it’s just, well, a crime. It’s a sad reminder that the crime-fighting superheroes that we all idolize can really only be found in comic books, movies, and our imagination.
So for you future Comic Con attendees — and there are new ones being born every day — I offer you a few simple Con-mandments:
Thou shalt be careful where you tread.
Thou shalt be kind to the people around you.
Thou shalt be patient whenst thou wait.
And thou shalt be grateful for the divine swag thou art given.
Just keep your hands off of mine!