This year's Comic-Con International in San Diego is in the rearview mirror, and all that's left is to look back on the show and ponder the highs and lows of another massive celebration of geekery in all its forms.
Last year, my very first “Geek Beat” column assessed which studios, projects or other movie-related elements of the show generated the best kind of buzz at Comic-Con, and which elements fell short of expectations. One year and another convention later, here are the biggest hits, misses and lingering questions from the 2014 edition of San Diego Comic-Con:
Ever since the first time Iron Man streaked across the sky in footage that debuted during Comic-Con in 2007, Marvel Studios has seemingly owned the annual convention – and this year was no exception. Despite not having any major announcements to make this year, the studio more than made up for its lack of big news with a cornucopia of exciting new footage, appearances by (and subsequent question-and-answer sessions with the casts of multiple films, and a slew of props, cinematic tie-in projects, and the sort of synergistic approach to the event that makes it feel like the studio is everywhere you look both on the ground in San Diego and online throughout the convention. Marvel is so good at what it does during Comic-Con that it made Ant-Man, the Vision and Rocket Raccoon seem more important than Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman this year. That's one heck of a superpower, right there.
Every year, there are one or two movies that debut footage at Comic-Con and suddenly find themselves thrust into a much brighter spotlight on the virtue of an amazing trailer or clip. That's what happened with Mad Max: Fury Road over the weekend when the first trailer for George Miller's long-awaited sequel premiered Saturday. In the time it took for people to see the trailer and then let everyone on social media know what they thought of it, Fury Road went from being a project only a few people were talking about to one of the most discussed films of the last 48 hours.
It's a good time to be a giant monster, as both Godzilla and King Kong were the subjects of some pretty big announcements over the weekend. Not only will Godzilla be reuniting with (and fighting) some of the classic creatures from his his past in the sequels to Godzilla, but King Kong will receive his very own origin story in the form of Skull Island, a prequel to King Kong. Clearly, giant monsters are the new zombies, and I couldn't be happier about this trend.
With just a week until Guardians of the Galaxy hits theaters, Marvel could've let the film coast through Comic-Con and put the focus on its further-off films. After all, excitement is high for the film, early reviews are fantastic, and the formerly lesser known heroes that debut in the film were one of the most popular team-up costumes at the convention. Even with all of that in the film's favor, Marvel still chose to make the official confirmation of an upcoming sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy the grand finale of its wildly popular Saturday panel. At this point, it's pretty safe to say that if the film underperforms at the box office, it won't be for lack of promotion on Marvel's part.
Finally, if there's one filmmaker who seemed to be everywhere at this year's Comic-Con, it's Guillermo del Toro. When he wasn't piloting robot Jaegers in a virtual-reality world, he was taking fans on a terrifying tour of the Crimson Peak mansion, talking Pacific Rim 2, or fielding questions about his “dark” version of the Justice League. Not only did it seem like he was involved in just about every sort of project Comic-Con is known for, but he was more than happy to talk about them in various panels, interviews and other forums.
Sure, it was nice to finally see Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, but this year provided another reminder that Warner Bros. doesn't really get the way Comic-Con works. Rather than make a big deal out of revealing Wonder Woman during the studio's panel, Warner Bros. released the image online ahead of the event, allowing it to circulate without any connection whatsoever to the convention. At one point over the weekend, I saw a few people on various social media networks question the authenticity of the image, completely unaware that Comic-Con was happening that weekend. The whole situation felt like a very inauspicious debut for what's supposed to be one of DC's top-tier heroes.
Even beyond the debut of Wonder Woman, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had a somewhat stunted presence at the show, with Gadot, Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck only appearing on stage long enough for a few photographs and then departing without saying anything about the film or doing the usual question-and-answer session. Even director Zack Snyder, whose experience with 300 makes him well acquainted with the power of Comic-Con buzz, seemed as if he happened to be passing through San Diego that weekend and thought, “Hey, why not drop by Hall H for a quick hello?” While the brief clip from Dawn of Justice that he screened was certainly exciting (and was received warmly by just about everyone who saw it live or in rough video recorded on smartphones), very little else about the film's Comic-Con presence seemed to impart the appropriate level of spectacle that bringing together Batman and Superman should carry with it.
By the way, you wouldn't know it from their presence at Comic-Con, but the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have a pretty major movie coming out soon. Compared to the omnipresent Guardians of the Galaxy, the Heroes in Half-Shells seemed practically nonexistent in photos and reports from the convention. You'd think that with a new movie coming out and this being the Turtles' 30th anniversary there would be more than just a life-size pizza thrower in the parking lot and a few panels that – from what I hear – were more laid-back, Leonardo-type events than raucous affairs that Michelangelo would appreciate. So what happened? Is Shredder to blame? I bet this was the work of Bebop and Rocksteady.
And now that we've all seen that leaked Deadpool test footage, doesn't it feel like 20th Century Fox missed an opportunity to do something big with the ol' mouthy mercenary at Comic-Con? Given the reaction to the footage online, I'm fairly certain that if this teaser had been shown at a panel over the weekend, the convention could've just ended right then and there and everyone would be happy to go home, secure in the knowledge that they saw the coolest thing the show had to offer.
THE LINGERING QUESTIONS
A few days before Comic-Con, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had the entire online world talking about his apparent video confession that he'll play Captain Marvel (a.k.a. Shazam) in an upcoming Warner Bros. movie. Everyone expected the official confirmation to come during the convention – especially with Johnson there promoting Hercules – but the announcement was never made. So what happened?
During the Screen Gems panel, director Sam Raimi casually mentioned that he was working on a television series based on The Evil Dead, his horror-comedy film franchise that made Bruce Campbell a god among geeks and set Raimi on the path to Hollywood. In a subsequent exchange on Twitter, Campbell indicated that “the plan” was for him to star in the series. Now the question becomes: Is the world ready for an Evil Dead television series? And what form will it take if it does happen?
Last but certainly not least, is everything okay with Ant-Man? I've gone on record with my belief that Edgar Wright's departure from this long-awaited Marvel movie is actually a step in the right direction, but following development on this film is like riding an emotional roller-coaster. Just before the Marvel Studios panel, news broke that three of the previously announced supporting cast had left the film. That seemed like a bummer, but then everyone seemed to love the footage that was screened during the panel, and everything was back to being okay again. Ant-Man seemed to leave Comic-Con on a high note, so... let's see what this week's news cycle brings us, I guess.
Question of the Week: What were your favorite (and least-favorite) stories from this year's Comic-Con?
Rick Marshall is an award-winning writer and editor whose work can be found at Movies.com, as well as MTV News, Fandango, Digital Trends, IFC.com, Newsarama, and various other online, print, and on-air news outlets. He's been called a “Professional Geek” by ABC News and Spike TV, and his personal blog can be found at MindPollution.org. You can find him on Twitter as @RickMarshall.
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