One Warner Bros. inside source told The Seven Sees this year it was either ‘go big or go home’ for the studio at Comic-Con. Fortunately for all of us in attendance in Hall H of the San Diego Convention Center WB just didn’t go big, they blew the roof off the place with previews of the Zack Snyder directed Man of Steel, director Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim, a surprise sneak peak at their Godzilla reboot, and what was arguably the most anticipated panel of the weekend, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
The panel began with the black curtains on either side of the stage peeling away to reveal video screens that created a wide screen effect surrounding the front of Hall H, creatively used by the studio to uniquely present each film. With graphics and video on the screens to introduce each movie, moderator Chris Hardwick got things started with director Guillermo del Toro and the cast of Pacific Rim.
Like the other films in the WB presentation, this movie has been shrouded in a high level of secrecy. But those who were lucky enough to get one of the over 6,000 seats within Hall H were treated to a Comic-Con exclusive trailer for the giant monsters versus giant robots action pic.
“A movie like this, it’s easy to forget how unique you can make it,” director Del Toro told the crowd, “and I didn’t want to forget I wanted to make the movie not a war movie, but an adventure movie that had a huge romantic sense of adventure, grandeur, operatic battles that were not only great spectacle, but had huge emotional content in them and a sense of hope, because in a movie like this one we have 25-story robots fighting 25-story monsters. If you don’t have a sense of awe and scale everything is lost.”
What the crowd witnessed was an attack on the planet by huge monsters called Kaijus, being fought off by manmade robots of the same size called Jaegers, which are operated by two humans.
“They have two pilots in the cockpit in their head,” says Del Toro. “One pilot shares the responsibility to handle the right hemisphere, the other one handles the left hemisphere of the robot because the neurosurge from the robot would be too much for one pilot, and they fuse together through memories into one single mind. So, it’s a single mind with two pilots in the robot.”
Star Charlie Hunnam (“Sons of Anarchy”) joined the director on stage and revealed how he immediately jumped on board without even reading a script.
“I signed on site unseen,” said Hunnam. ”There’s probably only two filmmakers in the world, Guillermo being one of them, that I would take that leap of faith with. But it was extraordinary working with Guillermo. I mean he is a slave driver, I have never worked so hard in my life, but it’s extraordinary because however hard I was working, he was always working twice as hard. So, it was a really joyous, fun, hard, ass-kicking, wonderful experience.”
Fans will be happy to hear that del Toro did as much “physical stuff,” as he called it, as he could without using CGI (computer-generated imagery).
At the end of the Pacific Rim panel, it was a double dose of surprise, starting with the reboot of a classic.
Director Gareth Edwards came out on stage following a teaser trailer of sorts being shown only to the Comic-Con crowd at this point in time. With an old school news radio voice-over laid under images of destroyed buildings, trains, and roads, the footage had the Hall H audience’s full attention, curiosity filling the giant room until, among the smoke-filled footage, the spiked back of the monster could be seen. Godzilla raised his head and let out a roar that blended with the screams of the crowd going crazy with excitement.
After one more look at the Godzilla footage, the lights dropped and the wide screens surrounding the stage began turning red, white and blue. Once again, the audience was leaning forward with anticipation before Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis strolled out onto the stage to an eruption of cheers. The two shared an extended look at their movie, The Campaign, before exchanging in some witty banter with the crowd and moderator Chris Hardwick.
MAN OF STEEL
Another dip of the lights, but the wait was much shorter before the crowd knew what was coming next as the iconic “S” made its way across the screens, eliciting the response you’d expect surrounding a movie in which we’ve only really seen a production image or two and nothing else.
Once on stage, director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) addressed taking on such an institution.
“Superman is a big responsibility,” he told the room, “but I felt like Superman kind of needed to be reintroduced to a generation and I thought this was a great opportunity to do something awesome.”
Snyder doesn’t add much more before debuting a Comic-Con exclusive teaser of the movie.
Man of Steel seems to delve into a young Clark Kent who, well into adulthood, struggles with the powers he holds and the acceptance of others. This film does not have the same style we are used to seeing from Snyder, looking a little more grounded in the real world. That’s most likely due to the influence of Chris Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises) helping mold the film as both writer and producer.
The applause level was enough for Snyder to know fans approved of what they saw, leading to his introduction of the new Superman – Henry Cavill (Immortals, “The Tudors”).
“I just wanted to bring as much of the modern Superman into the world,” says Cavill, answering a fan’s question about what he hopes to bring to the legendary role. “I think with you guys who know everything about him, you’re there through thick and thin. But for everyone else out there as well who hasn’t quite experienced what Superman can be – hasn’t gone through comic books, hasn’t felt that world and seen how it’s changed – with this hopefully I bring a modern version that everyone can associate with.”
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
Fans had camped outside, stood in line for hours, and sat through several presentations in Hall H just to make sure they were in the room when Peter Jackson took the stage to show off the first ever footage from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Over the course of filming both Hobbit movies, Jackson released several video blogs from the set, and that’s exactly how he started the presentation at Comic-Con – with an extended behind-the-scenes vlog featuring the final days of filming, a production that lasted 266 days. So, it should be no surprise that Jackson walked out on stage carrying a camera pointed at the crowd, creating a Comic-Con video blog for those fans who couldn’t attend.
But for those there, the wait was well worth it when the cast, including Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Andy Serkis (Gollum), and Elijah Wood (Frodo) helped show off almost 13 minutes of scenes and footage from the “journey,” Jackson called it. And while you may read about the controversial 48fps (frames per second) that Jackson shot the film in, he showed it to Comic-Con in the currently used 24fps, and the footage still had a beautiful, almost illustrated, look.
Afterwards, Freeman addressed any fears he had about carrying such a huge project on his shoulders.
“In all honesty, and it might sound a bit disingenuous to say but, I honestly didn’t feel a huge amount of pressure,” revealed Freeman. “Once I met with Peter [Jackson], Fran [Walsh] (writer/producer) and Phil [Boyens] (writer), I felt relaxed with them. They were recognizable human beings, they weren’t trying to impress me, they weren’t trying to do that stuff to me which sometimes people can do which is how you realize how lucky you are. They weren’t doing that to me. They just wanted me to be in the film, and that made me really want to be in the film. And obviously you can’t really take intimidation or pressure to work with, you know, because you won’t do your best work.”
This time around, Andy Serkis, who famously brought Gollum to life in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, ended up gaining more responsibility than he originally intended.
“I was only supposed to be coming back for two weeks to play Gollum again, which I was greatly looking forward to, of course,” said Serkis. “And then about a month before I was about to come down to New Zealand I got an email from Fran [Walsh] that said, ‘Andy, I know you’ve probably got something going on, but Pete would like you to come direct the second unit. So would you mind coming down for a year-and-a-half?’”
The Comic-Con crowd can attest that he did exactly that, seeing Serkis in both his roles during the footage presentations. For those fans not in attendance in San Diego, Warner Bros. happily has given us our first trailer.