Saturday is the busiest and buzziest day of Comic-Con, with the major studios taking over the massive Hall H with a varied slate of mega-budget blockbuster hopefuls, genre curios, remakes, cartoons, potential Oscar nominees, and January dumping-ground dreck. The Warner Bros./Legendary program, which kicked off today’s Hall H schedule featured six full panels and a sneak peek-ish original scene from a long-in-the-works videogame adaptation – the studio wound up conquering Twitter just by putting a couple of logos together.
Obviously, it would be ridiculous to offer any kind of qualitative assessment of these projects: Comic-Con panels are basically extended infomercials (albeit occasionally very charming infomercials). But here’s a semi-scientific ranking of how much positive buzz each project generated. (Fun Fact: Batman appears in at least two of these projects.
1. Untitled Batman/Superman Project
Duh. Bringing director Zack Snyder onstage at the conclusion of the panel was a smart move; having him announce the follow-up to Man of Steel, while the film is still having a healthy run at the box office, shows that Warner Bros. is serious about building up the DC-verse onscreen; and adding Batman into the mix shows that Warner is interested in (to quote a savvy businessman) Aggressive Expansion. The surprise-guest reveal was taken straight out of the Marvel playbook – and announcing the Batman-Superman crossover early in the day means that, for the first time in years, Marvel might not have the biggest news of the biggest day at Comic-Con.
Most of the movie panels at Comic-Con are carefully constructed to show a lot of things without actually showing very much. Alfonso Cuaron’s upcoming space-terror film took the opposite tactic. The auteur expressed some mild disappointment with the Gravity trailer for moving too fast and adding in explosion sounds: “As we know, there’s no sound in space.” He then showed an eye-popping sequence from early in the movie, where Sandra Bullock and George Clooney float above earth doing repairs on a satellite before suddenly falling into a hail of space debris and falling through space – and this all appeared to happen in a single shot. The panel mostly focused on how they shot the film, with Bullock suspended for several hours a day inside of a cube while they filmed from outside using a robot – a robot that they invented for the movie. The film sounds like a tough sell – it’s basically Open Water in space – but the panel made it look like an utterly unique experience. (Also, perhaps you’ve heard of this Sandra Bullock lady?)
3. The LEGO Movie
Co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller overdelivered on their first two film projects – the eye-popping Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and the surprise-hit 21 Jump Street film – and sure enough, their newest project looks much more interesting than what you’d expect from a movie called The LEGO Movie. The directors professed their love for the world of LEGO-motion movies – you know, those short films that weird cousin used to make with his LEGO blocks, the kind of videos that basically invented YouTube back in the day – and their film mixes together CGI and genuine LEGO blocks. It looks unlike anything else…and it also promises to feature characters from a wide variety of Warner Bros. franchises. The directors couldn’t confirm all of them…but they did announce that Jonah Hill was voicing Green Lantern and Cobie Smulders was voicing Wonder Woman. (Hey, we’ll take any kind of Wonder Woman announcement we can get.)
Director Gareth Edwards already made a great movie about giant attacking sci-fi creatures: The indie gem Monsters, which was made for about two dollars. His next movie is decidedly more expensive, and the footage screened from the Godzilla remake looked impressive. At one point, a huge monster – which looked a bit like Mothra, although it wasn’t flying – attacked an airport. Suddenly, behind that huge monster, an EVEN LARGER shape loomed up…and you could just make out a quick shot of the iconic monster before it cut to black. It looked good, and anything starring Bryan Cranston is guaranteed to get a credibility boost – but given that we’re currently living through The Summer Of Cities Being Destroyed, the scenes of devastation weren’t exactly gamechanging. The main question, left unanswered by the panel: Have people really been waiting for a new Godzilla movie? (They sure weren’t waiting for Pacific Rim, a which was basically three Godzilla movies in one.)
All You Need Is Kill Edge of Tomorrow
Tom Cruise at Comic-Con! Tom Cruise at Comic-Con! The star walked onstage and received the loudest non-Batman-related cheers of the whole event. He was a force of nature. He told host Chris Hardwick that they had something in common: They both played Stacee Jaxx, the faded rock-star character in Rock of Ages. They did a duet of Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is.” Then Tom Cruise gave a shout-out to costar Bill Paxton, who was in the audience. Cruise insisted that Paxton come onstage. Then he started quoting Paxton’s lines from Weird Science and Aliens. He somehow got Paxton to say “GAME OVER, MAN!” onstage. Tom Cruise at Comic-Con! However, the crowd’s rapturous reaction to the star obscured a relatively quiet reaction to the actual footage screened, which featured Cruise and Blunt in exoskeletons jumping through various explosions. Edge of Tomorrow has a catchy concept – a man goes through the same battle over and over, dying and then waking up at the start of the day. Still, it probably would’ve made a bigger splash if they kept that original title.
Legendary wrapped out its slate with a brief demo scene from Duncan Jones’ upcoming videogame adaptation. The scene they showed was pretty cool. It also could’ve come from pretty much any fantasy movie of the last ten years: A guy walks through a wasteland, holds up his sword, and gets attacked by a giant digital creature-thing. Jones is a talented director, and no actual footage has been shot yet. So mark this as a “wait-and-see.”
7. 300: Rise of an Empire
The parallel sequel to Zack Snyder’s bloody megahit is arriving about three years too late and features only supporting characters from the original film, alongside newcomers Eva Green (who looks badass) and Sullivan Stapleton (who looks like a fading carbon copy of Gerard Butler circa 2006.) The good news is that the footage screened looked flat-out cuckoo-crazy, with ship battles and a bizarre scene where a normal-looking dude descends into a glowing lake and emerges hairless, golden-skinned, and covered in body piercings. Still, you got the sense that the heat is off 300: When creator Frank Miller’s name appeared onscreen, there was one very quiet cheer in all of Hall H, which indicates that the onetime geeklord’s status has fallen considerably. (Pray for Sin City 2.)
8. Seventh Son
Jeff Bridges sure looks like he’s having a lot of fun in this movie. Playing a wizard who fights lots of digital things using magic or whatever, Bridges sounds like he’s doing an impression of Merlin in The Sword and the Stone. The movie looks not great, and it’s in the January death slot. But if you were at the panel, you got to hear Bridges read a quote by Solzhenitsyn about the nature of evil. So Seventh Son has that going for it, which is nice. What’s Seventh Son again?