Studios Go Gigantor at Comic-Con: ‘Pacific Rim,’ ‘Godzilla,’ ‘Man of Steel,’ ‘The Hobbit’

Studios Go Gigantor at Comic-Con: 'Pacific Rim,' 'Godzilla,' 'Man of Steel,' 'The Hobbit'

The studios have boxed themselves into a corner. Because you can't just keep piling money into VFX to lure audiences to theaters, as their current (failing) tentpole strategy attests. And digital 3-D isn't exactly an event anymore–both "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Ice Age 4" saw lackluster 3-D performance. Even 35 mm holdout Chris Nolan, while he won't go 3-D, does do IMAX. And filmmaker Peter Jackson captured filmmakers and studios' collective anxiety quite well at a press conference as he explained why he's keen on shooting 48 fps –after he showed the Comic-Con hordes "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" footage that was not in the new format.

"48 fps has the potential of being quite an important moment for the film industry," he said. "We have to provide a theatrical experience to bring audiences back to the cinema. We're at an age where there is dwindling attendance, particularly amongst younger people. We have to use the technology we have to figure out ways to make the cinema experience more spectacular and immersive." (But, citing the disastrous 48 fps intro at CinemaCon, Jackson realized that audiences have to experience the entire movie, not a snippet of it.)

As one noisy explosive sci-fi actioner after another filled Hall H, from "Total Recall" and "Looper" to "Resident Evil" and "Elysium," it all started to look like one dystopian blur. Making something stand out and look different is better than looking the same as everyone else–that's why Hasbro's gizmo-oriented "Battleship" failed to lure the Comic-Con hordes or anyone else. Filmmakers who possess a powerful storytelling imagination are the Holy Grail–along with the ability to conjure up a believable on-screen universe.

"Resident Evil" may not be your cup of tea, but to his credit Paul Anderson and his team have created a world that audiences want to return to. Places like Middle Earth, Gotham and Metropolis pull even more people into their orbit, although Zack "The Watchmen" Snyder's "Man of Steel" footage did more to introduce a new cast led by Brit hunk Henry Cavill as Superman as alien outsider, plus Russell Crowe (also sounding Brit) as Jor-El, Kevin Costner as his human father, Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Michael Shannon as villain General Zod. We know Snyder ("300") can conjure up sizzling visuals. Did he and Chris Nolan and David S. Goyer find a way to make Superman relevant again? That remains to be seen. He'll have to do more than repeat the word "awesome." (See panel videos below.)

When Snyder started working on the movie with Nolan and Goyer, he says they decided to work from the comic books and ignore all the other movies. "We had to act as if no films had been made, even though we loved them," said Snyder. "We had to say, 'this is a Superman movie for the first time,' start with that logic." So no John Williams: "Hans Zimmer will do something awesome."

Legendary's hire of Brit indie Gareth Edwards of micro-budget "Monsters" fame to do yet another "Godzilla" is a step in the right direction, as a brief exclusive snippet of monstrous destructive dust-spewing footage dazzled the crowd: "Now I have become death, the destroyer of worlds," intones the voiceover. "It's very grounded and realistic," Edwards told Hall H. "What would it be like if this all really happened?"

That's also what Guillermo del Toro said about his big-budget homage to kaiju movies (like "Godzilla"), "Pacific Rim" (July 13, 2013). Written by Travis Beacham, the movie pits giant flying monsters form the deep against massive robot fighters commandeered by a mind-melded pair of pilots (led by Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi). It's all original, Del Toro declared. "You'll see some set pieces that have never been seen on film."

He locked his ace designers in adjoining rooms to concoct the monsters, robots and look of the world. "I wanted them to give 110%," he said, "to use their creativity, passion and madness for fuel to make this movie. When you get a big budget people get crazy or lazy. I wanted to get as close to crazy as I could."

Del Toro hates pristine and fake CG and motion capture; he dirties everything up, hits the camera with oil and water and shaking, even scratches the lens," trying to see the big kaiju "rooted in place and atmosphere and elements, like rain snow and mud." He rigged the streets with hydraulic pavement to bounce cars and buildings, shaking the entire set with physical components. "I want to create a sensation of adventure movie with something the size of a skyscraper, so homongous that it could face a tornado and win."

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