If you're expecting to hear news about tiny indie projects and foreign auteurs in the latter half of this week, you may be disappointed. Tomorrow night is the kick-off of San Diego Comic-Con, the biggest such event in the world, and one that, over the years, has become a major part of the marketing calendar for some of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters. While we still wonder about how effective if it is (see our recent piece), and several studios are skipping this year, including Paramount and Universal, there's still some big-name guests and unveilings taking place between Wednesday and Sunday and it'll undoubtedly be the major story of the week, movie-wise.
We'll be covering things from the show floor throughout, but whether you've got your passes ready or you're simply keeping an eye on things from afar, it can be an overwhelming selection, so we've picked out some key highlights of what to expect across SDCC — who'll be there, what'll be shown, and what announcements we might expect. If you are going, have fun, and if you're not, stay tuned for extensive coverage through Sunday, and either way, read on for our full 2012 Comic-Con preview.
Wednesday July 11th
6:00 p.m., Ballroom 20 – Special Sneak Peek Pilot Screenings
Wednesday night is Preview night, when fans with four-day passes get a little more time to get their bearings and explore before the madness truly gets underway on Thursday morning. As has become a tradition, Warner Bros Television are using the opportunity to showcase some of their big genre hopes for the upcoming TV season. The big draw, given the audience, is likely to be "Arrow," the CW take on DC Comics hero "Green Arrow," although given that it's from the writers of the "Green Lantern" movie, perhaps fans will be staying away like Kryptonite. Not far behind in terms of anticipation is "Revolution," an NBC show produced by J.J. Abrams and directed by Jon Favreau, set in a future where all forms of technology have ceased to exist. We've heard mixed word, but it does star Giancarlo Esposito as a post-apocalyptic despot, so we'd certainly check it out. There's also a pair of mystery shows: Kevin Williamson's "The Following" with Kevin Bacon as an FBI agent trying to track a serial killer (James Purefoy), and the ludicrous-sounding "Cult," about a TV show that's making its followers disappear. Supernatural soap "666 Park Avenue," starring Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams, completes the line-up. And if the idea of watching four hours of back-to-back network pilots isn't that enticing, the shows will also have their own separate screenings with Q&As across the weekend.
Time & Place TBD – "Dredd"
Recent history has seen "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" and "Cowboys & Aliens" premiere at Comic-Con, to not much box-office effect. Lionsgate is hoping that they can reverse the trend by screening comic-book adaptation "Dredd," starring Karl Urban as iconic 2000AD cop Judge Dredd, for fans on opening night. The film had a strong script from "28 Days Later" writer Alex Garland, but a troubled post-production and the arrival of the similarly structured actioner "The Raid" has stolen some of its thunder from the geek crowd, and the first trailer kind of looked liked balls. We'll see if the studio can turn the buzz around. We're not sure about ticketing arrangements, but keep your eyes peeled if you are going tomorrow night.
Thursday July 12th
10:15 a.m., Room 6DE – TheOneRing.net: The Truth About The Hobbit
Peter Jackson will be out in force later in the weekend, but veteran fansite TheOneRing.net have their own semi-unofficial panel to start up the weekend, featuring their embedded reporter from the shoot and a special visual presentation from WETA Workshop. Probably only for serious Tolkein heads, but it's not like Comic-Con will be lacking for them.
11:15 a.m., Indigo Ballroom – DreamWorks Animation
A rather low-key panel for the CGI cartoon giants, this seems promisingly centered on filmmaking, with the blurb focusing on the process rather than sneak peeks, with no titles being revealed in advance. That said, expect this fall's "Rise of the Guardians" to feature heavily, and we wouldn't be surprised if there were first looks of some kind from next year's "The Croods," "Turbo" or "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" as well.
12:45 p.m., Hall H – "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2"
Things get undewray in Hall H, the biggest venue, with the look at the latest "Twilight," now sensibly scheduled to allow the tween and mom crowds to depart for other pastures rather than showing things of no interest to them. Expect footage, a Q&A with Bill Condon and his cast, and a whole bunch of screaming.
2:05 p.m., Hall H – Walt Disney Studios
Having skipped last year for their own D23, Disney are back, displaying their two big animations hopes for the fall: "Frankenweenie," which will be presented by Tim Burton, and "Wreck-It Ralph," which will be boosted by appearances from voice actors John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman and director Rich Moore. But the big draw, for us anyway, would be the first chance to take a look at "Oz: The Great and Powerful," the mega-budget James Franco-starring "Wizard of Oz" prequel from director Sam Raimi, who'll be there. It's the studio's now-traditional March blockbuster, and the first signs of whether it'll do "Alice In Wonderland" or "John Carter" numbers should be visible. As far as we're aware, troubled 2013 blockbuster "The Lone Ranger" isn't expected to appear, but don't rule out a surprise appearance.
3:00 p.m., Indigo Ballroom – "Hotel Transylvania"
Non-Disney animation again being shunted into one of the smaller venues, this is the Adam Sandler-factory Sony CGI cartoon that opens in a few months. We've not been particularly enamored of it so far, but it does mark the feature directorial debut of Genndy Tartakovsky ("Dexter's Laboratory," "Samurai Jack") so it might be a pleasant surprise.
4:00 p.m., Indigo Ballroom – "Wilfred"
FX's cult hit starring Elijah Wood as a man who imagines his dog is his malevolent best friend, is quietly becoming one of the smartest and darkest comedies on TV, and Wood will be there with his co-stars and creative team to discuss the show, as well as preview an upcoming episode.
4:30 p.m., Room 24ABC – Masters Of The Web Panel
For inside baseball fans, this is the annual gathering of movie bloggers to talk about the state of both the film industry and the web reporting world, and is normally the cause or culmination of years worth of Twitter fights. "Dredd" star Karl Urban is moderating this year. Hopefully in character.
4:45 p.m., Hall H – "The Expendables 2"
With Lionsgate having safely dispatched Urban away so as not to remind their other big action star of his disastrous take on the same character, Sylvester Stallone will take to the big stage, with footage from the August release, and a who's who of action stars including Dolph Lundgren, Jean Claude Van Damme and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Fingers crossed that he'll be announcing a "Cocoon" remake with the same cast.
5:00 p.m., Indigo Ballroom – "Archer"
One of our favorite comedies on the air will follow up network-mate "Wilfred," with pretty much the whole cast, including H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler and Judy Greer, along for the ride. There's meant to be some kind of screening element to the panel too, although we suspect with the show not airing new episodes til next year, it'll be something you've already seen if you're a fan of the show.
6:00 p.m., Ballroom 20 – "Dexter"
We've never really had much time for serial killer show "Dexter," but it's consistently a ratings beast, and the main cast, including new addition Yvonne Strahovski, will be there to preview the upcoming season, including two minutes from the season premiere. Two minutes? Seriously? Fans of television that hasn't yet been driven into the ground might be tempted by a new trailer for season 2 of Showtime's "Homeland."
6:15 p.m., Hall H – "The Virtual Drive-In"
An admirable chance for smaller, independent genre pictures to get a little Hall H exposure, this panel will see footage from indie-sci-fi "Branded," "psychological noir" "Crave" starring Ron Perlman, and horror "Coldwater."
Friday July 13th
10:00 a.m., Ballroom 20 – "Community"
A TV-centric day kicks off with what should be one of the most interesting panels of the weekend, given that the cast of "Community" have essentially been on lockdown since creator Dan Harmon was fired. Chevy Chase won't be there, so it shouldn't be too outspoken, but most of the rest of the gang will be, and it'll at least be the first indicator of how the show will fare under new leadership.
10:45 a.m., Hall H – "ParaNorman"
The next animated flick to hit is August's "ParaNorman," the promising follow-up to the excellent "Coraline" from Studio Laika, and give how close we are to release (on Aug 17th), there should be some substantial footage shown alongside appearances from cast members including Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Kodi Smit-McPhee.
12:30 p.m., Ballroom 20 – "Firefly 10 Year Anniversary Reunion"
Sure to be one of the most oversubscribed events of the weekend, this sees Hollywood's new golden boy Joss Whedon reunited with the cast of his cult sci-fi Western show to celebrate their tenth anniversary. Even with Whedon's recent success, if you go in expecting a "Serenity 2" announcement, you're likely to be heartbroken, but it should be an entertaining hour regardless.
1:25 p.m., Hall H – "The Walking Dead"
Zombie comic adaptation "The Walking Dead" is now cable's biggest drama series, despite sucking pretty hard for most of its run to date. Last year saw Frank Darabont make his final appearance before being fired, but this year should be less dramatic, although much-anticipated new cast member David Morrissey, playing The Governor, will get his first proper airing along with much of the existing cast and crew.
2:45 p.m., Hall H – "Game of Thrones"
The cult of "Game of Thrones" only gets bigger and bigger over time, but the show will be back among its main constituency after the triumph of season 2, with cast members including Alfie Allen, Emilia Clarke, Michelle Fairley and Richard Madden set to appear. Production hasn't yet started on Season 3, so there'll be no new footage, but some casting announcements might well take place.
4:05 p.m., Hall H – "Resident Evil: Retribution"
The movies finally return to Hall H, but sadly, it's for a sneak peek of the latest in the we-will-never-understand-the-appeal "Resident Evil" franchise, in the form of fivequel 'Retribution.' This one sees a number of thought-to-be dead cast members, including Michelle Rodriguez returning to the series, and they'll be present, along with some 3D footage from the September release. Or you could just go get some fresh air.
4:35 p.m., Hall H – Sony Pictures
The Screen Gems release will lead right into the panel for parent company Sony, who have some of the most anticipated-by-cinephiles footage of the weekend. We're not sure "Total Recall" is in that category, but we'll be only a few weeks out from release, so they should have something more enticing to show from the Len Wiseman-directed remake than the flat sizzle reel last year. Far more enticing are Rian Johnson's "Looper," which will see the director joined by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt, and the first look anywhere at Neill Blomkamp's mysterious "Elysium." The film stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, and both will be in attendance. The panel is scheduled to be a whopping two hours, so we'd expect major chunks of footage from the near-complete "Total Recall" and "Looper," although clips from "Elysium" are likely to be lighter.
5:30 p.m., Ballroom 20 – Joss Whedon
The favorite son and Comic-Con staple, Joss Whedon returns at the peak of his career, having just made a billion dollars with a little movie called "The Avengers." This Q&A is presented by Dark Horse Comics, so is likely to focus on comics work, but the blurb also promises that it's a chance "to find out what he has in store for us next," so a major announcement may well be made.
6:45 p.m., Ballroom 20 – "Breaking Bad"
Not the most obvious fit for a Comic-Con appearance, but an exciting one nonetheless. This won't just see creator Vince Gilligan and his cast appearing, but it'll also see the premiere of the Season 5 opener, "Live Free Or Die," which the rest of us get to see on Sunday night. No spoilers, guys.
7:00 p.m., Room 6BCF – "Blade Runner" 30th Anniversary Celebration
For geeks keen on a bit of film history, this should be one of the highlights of the weekend: a panel, hosted by Paul M. Sammon, who wrote the seminal book on "Blade Runner," and was on-set throughout, on the making of Ridley Scott's sci-fi classic, with a number of cast and crew members on stage with him. Probably not Harrison Ford, though.
Saturday July 14th
10:00 a.m., Room 6A – "After Earth"
While Fox as a whole skipped this year, one of their big hopes for next summer, M. Night Shyamalan's "After Earth," will have a presence, albeit a low-key one. Neither the director nor stars Will and Jaden Smith will be there, but screenwriter Gary Whitta will host a panel that promises to focus as much, if not more, on the comic-book spin-offs and prequel novels that will precede the apocalyptic sci-fi film's release. Here's hoping there'll be some kind of footage regardless.
11:30 a.m., Hall H – "Django Unchained"
A movie-centric day in Hall H gets underway with a hotly-anticipated panel for Quentin Tarantino's latest. The director and unconfirmed cast members will be there — we'd wager Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz, but probably no Leonardo DiCaprio — and the footage is promised to be exclusive, so it won't be the same stuff that screened at Cannes. Even if it was, it's sure to be pretty entertaining.
12:45 p.m., Hall H – Open Road Films
Relative newcomers Open Road must be hoping that fans staying in Hall H to ensure seats for later on will be won over by what they have to show, as they're not exactly bringing out the heaviest hitters of the weekend. The company will have footage from two fall releases: promising semi-found-footage cop movie "End of Watch" with Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena (who'll both be there), and "Silent Hill: Revelation," the belated and unnecessary 3D sequel to the video game adaptation. Maybe director Michael Bassett can whip up the crowd for the latter, although the absence of his star, "Game of Thrones" actor Kit Harington (sidelined after breaking his ankle) won't help.
1:00 p.m., Room 7AB – A Conversation With Bryan Fuller
A smaller-scale panel that could be a pretty interesting hour, Bryan Fuller is a talented veteran TV writer ("Dead Like Me," "Pushing Daisies" among others) who's having a bit of a moment of late — he's behind two of the more intriguing TV projects out there right now, 'Munsters' semi-reboot "Mockingbird Lane" with Eddie Izzard, and "Silence of the Lambs"-inspired "Hannibal," with Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen as Lecter. Fuller's also writing "Pinocchio" for Tim Burton and Robert Downey Jr., and might end up spilling some beans on that project.
2:30 p.m., Hall H – Warner Bros & Legendary Pictures
Probably the biggest ticket of the weekend, this sees Warners eschewing the chance for a last minute push for "The Dark Knight Rises" (like it needs it) in favor of the first look anywhere at next summer's big superhero film, Superman reboot "Man of Steel." We'd expect director Zack Snyder and star Henry Cavill to be there, but not executive producer Christopher Nolan. Elsewhere, Comic-Con vet Peter Jackson will be bringing new footage from "The Hobbit," and Guillermo del Toro will unveil his massive blockbuster "Pacific Rim" — expect footage from that, as well as more than a few motherfuckers from the potty-mouthed Mr. del Toro. Rumors have also been flying that the "Godzilla" reboot from "Monsters" director Gareth Edwards will be there in some form, and given that the panel is scheduled to last a whopping two and a half hours, we wouldn't be surprised if there were more surprises in store too. "Cloud Atlas" seems to be a good bet, and we could see some kind of DC Comics announcement too…"Justice League" would be sure to bring down the house…
6:00 p.m., Hall H – Marvel
With a handy hour-long gap for fans to change their underoos, things pick up again with the Marvel panel. The only thing officially announced to date is "Iron Man 3," which having been filming for a few months now is certain to debut some kind of sizzle reel, but it's widely expected that the studio will be announcing some of their post-'Avengers' plans, so expect news on "Thor" and "Captain America" sequels, "Ant-Man," "Guardians of the Galaxy" and whatever else may be up their sleeves too.
7:15 p.m., Hall H – Kevin Smith
Film-director-turned-full-time-self-publicist Kevin Smith is another Comic-Con staple, and if there's one man with an ego healthy enough to follow Superman, Godzilla and Iron Man, it's him. He'll be hosting a Q&A, where he'll be sure to take tough questions like "Why are you so great?" and "How did you become so great?"
Sunday July 15th
10:00 a.m., Hall H – "Fringe"
The movie studios pretty much bail on San Diego after Saturday night, leaving Hall H to TV world on Sunday. Things kick off with the cast and crew of the excellent "Fringe," while "Supernatural" follows on at 11:15 with "The Cleveland Show," for some reason, and "Sons of Anarchy" showing up at 1:45 and 2:45. The big swinging dick of the day is likely to be the BBC's "Doctor Who," that'll be debuting the first footage from its latest series.
2:00 p.m., Room 7AB – Max Brooks
With the troubled "World War Z" getting extensive rewrites and reshoots, Paramount decided to skip Comic-Con with the project, but Max Brooks, author of the source novel, is hosting his own panel, described as "Zombie Survival 101," where he'll talk about his career and give tips on how to make it through a zombie uprising. Among his tips: don't let Marc Forster direct your movie.
2:30 p.m., Room 23ABC – Super Secrets: Lifting The Curtain On The Man Of Steel
We've avoided mentioning the comics-related panels for the most part, being a movie website and all, but on a thin day, there's one that looks kind of interesting even for the casual fan: a session hosted by veteran "Superman" writer Mark Waid and biographer Larry Tye examining the creation and history of the most iconic superhero of them all. If you're pumped up for "Man of Steel" after Saturday, this could be a nice primer on the character.