The Projects: If the time-travel mechanics of the upcoming Bryan Singer-directed double-casted X-Men: Days of Future Past don’t mess with your sense of continuity, feast your brain on this: Two of the three movies presented at Fox’s Comic-Con panel today were sequels to prequels, while the third is a spin-off sequel featuring one of the main characters of one of those prequel-sequels. Whoa. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the follow-up to 2011’s surprise summer hit Rise of the Planet of the Apes that will bridge the narrative gap between that film and 1968’s classic Planet of the Apes, was the first to screen footage, followed by The Wolverine, the Japan-set Hugh Jackman solo adventure hitting theaters this coming Friday, and it was all capped off by a huge parade of famous mutants for the X-Men panel.
The Panel: Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) appeared to discuss the direction he’s taking the rebooted franchise—he uttered the phrase “I was an ape emotionally” in relation to watching the franchise’s previous film—and he was joined by stars Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, and motion-capture maestro Andy Serkis, who got the biggest response of the bunch. The Wolverine director James Mangold took the stage next to introduce a newly cut trailer for his upcoming film and introduced guest Hugh Jackman.
Jackman stuck around for the main event: the enormous—star-studded panel for X-Men— and sat down at the dais’ loooooooong table alongside the likes of Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Jennifer Lawrence, Peter Dinklage, Nicholas Hoult, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Evan Peters, Omar Sy, and a handful of producers. Veterans McKellen and Stewart also had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands, especially when McKellen praised the downfall of California’s Proposition 8 and flirted with the younger Magneto.
Footage Screened: Before the Dawn footage screened, Reeves warned that because it takes Weta Workshop ten to twelve weeks to produce a single apes effects shot, there wouldn’t be too many primates to preview. The clip was still relatively impressive, depicting a dark, grungy world in which surviving humans are fighting in a resistance against the growing ape populace, and ending with a close up of ape Che Guevara Caesar and his “bright eyes,” his face now smeared with red-and-white warpaint. Meanwhile, a new trailer for The Wolverine featured some new scenes demonstrating Logan’s badassery.
The very first footage from X-Men: Days of Future Past was intense and the 6,600-seat Hall H watched it rapturously. Intercut between the modern-day cast from the first three films and the 1970s-set cast of X-Men: First Class, it also showed the first look at some new characters, including the time-traveling warrior Bishop. With a snippet of Hans Zimmer’s Inception score playing in the background, the footage showed us basically everyone in the enormous cast in their element, ending with a plea from one Professor X to another: “Please, we need you to hope again.”
Snap Judgment: Dawn’s footage was the shortest, and the least crowd-goosing, but it still did its job to get people amped up for a major human-ape showdown, although it remains to be seen whether Rise’s success can be extended. The Wolverine trailer was probably the best one we’ve seen so far from the project, with plenty of evidence to back up Mangold’s assertion that this was a more hardcore iteration of the character, but what’s really the point when the movie is coming out in six days? We can all see for ourselves soon enough.
The X-Men footage, on the other hand, got the formidable crowd going and as soon as it finished rolling a number of voices rang out demanding an encore. They happily obliged, respooling it twice more before the panel was done. It’s hard to tell how convoluted the time-traveling will be, with Wolverine returning into his old body to help save the younger X-Men from getting on a chronological path to a devastating war, but at the very least it seems certain that this will be better than X-Men: The Last Stand.
The Big Revelations: Not too much slipped out for these films. We all pretty much know as much as we’re going to know about The Wolverine. During the Dawn panel, Serkis told the crowd that by the time this film takes place, Caesar has a teenage son, a wife, and a baby, and the apes are beginning to use the communication skills Caesar learned in his early years, developing speech and sign language. His “humanity” will also be tested during the battle between man and beast and eventually he’ll have to make a decision whether his moral code is more advanced or just primal.
For Days of Future Past, beyond the quick glimpses of new characters and ’70s hairdos afforded by the footage, plot details were scant during the panel discussion. Bryan Singer confirmed Deadpool would not be making an appearance in response to a fan question, and Fassbender semi-confirmed the comics-canon fact that Quicksilver will indeed be Magneto’s son by hinting, “He’s got excellent genes.”
Most Incisive Audience Question: The queries for the X-Men crew weren’t particularly cutting or fascinating—someone wanted to know about Deadpool and another asked whether we’ll see Gambit and Rogue make-out—but one man’s question about Hugh Jackman’s work in both song-and-dance and superhero action films led to a small impromptu refrain from the hypothetical Wolverine: The Musical: “I’m gonna slice ‘em!/I’m gonna dice ‘em!”