It would be hard to conceive of an entertainment event more fervently, unabashedly mainstream than Comic-Con. The once-marginal, now-supersize confab of giant movies, giant television shows, and giant comic books features appearances by some of the hottest movie stars on the planet, as well as several of the most popular and generationally revered filmmakers. So I thought it was an ironic moment, to put it mildly – at once deeply sincere and fascinatingly shrewd – when one of those supernova directors, Peter Jackson, got up on Friday afternoon and told a crowd of 6,500 fans, “I wish you could just take the amount of energy in here, bottle it, and give it to Hollywood executives to drink.”
Man, those stodgy Hollywood executives! Those party poopers! If only they would get on board the Comic-Con love train!!
Casting the suits of Tinseltown as uptight bad guys who need an energy-drink boost of enthusiasm is rarely, if ever, an unpopular thing to do. Especially if, in the same breath, you’re giving props to all the T-shirted fanboys and fangirls in the room, casting their enthusiasm as a kind of cool maverick spirit-of-the-people insurrectionary fervor. It’s a fans’ world, you see – the executives just live in it, or (as Jackson implied) stand in the way of it.
The reality, however, is that if you had to choose one single group of people who have been responsible, more than any other, for the transformation of Hollywood into a fantasy-mad, action-jammed, special-effects-dominated comic-book dream factory – the sort of place, in other words, where Comic-Con can be what it is, and where Comic-Con royalty like Peter Jackson and James Cameron can reign…well, that group would have to be the executives who designed and rule the movie industry in the blockbuster age. Those executives purchased a lifetime supply of that fantasy-mania energy drink a long time ago, and they have never, ever stopped imbibing it. And that makes it a flattering notion indeed that the happy hordes who gather at Comic-Con are engaged not just in a collective act of enthusiasm, but a ritual of rebellion.