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The Best & Worst At Comic-Con: Which Films & Studios Had Good, Bad Or Middling Reactions

The Best & Worst At Comic-Con: Which Films & Studios Had Good, Bad Or Middling Reactions

Well, Comic-Con is done for another year. The San Diego Conference Center is currently getting a thorough hosing down, hungover cos-players have done their awkward walks of shame, and film press are returning to their various corners of the world longing, like ourselves, to watch and write about something difficult, European and subtitled.

While some studios skipped the four-day festival entirely, those who were there came out in force, with some of the biggest films of this year and next wowing the crowd, from Neill Blomkamp's "Elysium" to Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." But not everything went down a storm, with a few films disappointing, or at least underwhelming, in Hall H and elsewhere. So what film and studios had a good Comic-Con, and who left San Diego with their tails between their legs? Read on to find out, and you can find links to most of our coverage from the past week below as well. And many thanks to our roving reporters Jeff Otto and Todd Gilchrist for their San Diego coverage; we hope they’re sleeping it off as we speak.


"Frankenweenie"/"Wreck-It Ralph"/"ParaNorman"
Animation was pretty much a home-run across the board this year at Comic-Con. "Dark Shadows" may have been a bit of a wash-out, but Tim Burton seems to be back on form with "Frankenweenie," which looks like his most complete and emotional film for a while, and went down well with crowds. You can catch up with the special Comic-Con trailer here. Disney's other big animation of the year, video-game pic "Wreck-It Ralph," was just as popular, unveiling an impressive ten minutes of footage that gave the impression that the Mother Mouse might actually outdo Pixar this year (although we'd like to hear reactions from a crowd that wouldn't give a standing ovation to a Zangief cameo before we're completely sold). Focus and Laika's "ParaNorman" perhaps suffered a little from coming a day after "Frankenweenie," but still got a warm reception, and could be a very pleasant little August surprise.

With genre shows increasingly crossing over to the mainstream on TV ("The Walking Dead," "True Blood" and "Game Of Thrones" are pretty much the biggest shows on cable at this point), more and more small screen offerings moved into Hall H, and drew crowds that could rival even the biggest movies. Few revealed anything particularly scene-stealing, but it's enough for fans of these shows (and "The Big Bang Theory," and "Glee," and "Community," the latter of which gave a little hope that the new season might not be a disappointment following the departure of the show's creator Dan Harmon). And few moments all weekend seem to have been more emotional than Joss Whedon's reunion with the "Firefly" cast, even if breathless reports of a revival are misplaced. It's clearer than ever that genre fans can get their kicks on the small screen, although it remains to be seen if any of the shows that debuted pilots at San-Diego, including "Arrow," "Revolution" and "The Following," can amass enough fans to fill Hall H next year.

Since most stuff unspooling in San Diego is based on existing properties, displaying more original sci-fi fare can come across as a breath of fresh air, and Sony certainly landed a win with footage from September's "Looper" and March's "Elysium." The former, Rian Johnson's film, is starting to look like a real cross-over hit, with a series of increasingly confident trailers and a warm reaction to footage, although Sony will have to focus on getting the word out to the general public from here on out. And any worries of a sophomore slump for "District 9" helmer Neill Blomkamp were put to rest by a highly promising reel for "Elysium," which seemed to display the same mix of original sci-fi design, political undertones, extreme gore and hardware, but with a bigger scope and cast, led-by A-listers Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. Here's hoping the full thing delivers next March, but that Sony showed a good seven or eight minutes of the film (with incomplete effects) this far out suggests they're confident in what they have.

"Django Unchained"
Coming to Comic-Con with a western with no fantastical elements is a fairly ballsy thing to do, but when that movie is directed by Quentin Tarantino, you know you're playing to the home crowd, and eight minutes worth of "Django Unchained" blew the roof off in Hall H. Getting one of the bigger reactions of the weekend, Tarantino, accompanied by stars Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Don Johnson, Kerry Washington and Walton Goggins, had a major homecoming, and it looks like the geek audience are in the bag for this one. The clip seems to have been pretty much the same footage that showed at Cannes a couple of months back, but there likely wasn't much audience crossover. It does, however, perhaps indicate that Harvey Weinstein (who was there too in the shadows) sees the film as a commercial play first and foremost, rather than an awards picture, something we'd be inclined to agree with. But you never know…

Warner Bros/Legendary
No one hit Hall H harder than Warners, and this year along with frequent genre partners Legendary, they unveiled three major hitters with one little surprise in there too. "Pacific Rim" seemed to be the big crowd-pleaser, as crowd-favorite Guillermo Del Toro unveiling footage that blew the audience away prompting a Twitter firestorm. The surprise "Godzilla" teaser got an equally good reaction, even if the film doesn't seem to have a start or release date at this point, and "The Hobbit" was warmly received by fans, with Peter Jackson's decision to screen the footage in 2D 24FPS, rather than the controversial CinemaCon 48FPS presentation, seeming to be a wise one, even if it perhaps stopped the film from being a talking point in the same way. Reaction seemed a little more muted for "Man Of Steel," but that may be down to the epic, meditative nature of the footage shown, rather than from disappointment (although our man on the floor Jeff Otto was a little nonplussed).

Perhaps more of a victory lap than a major push, Marvel followed Warners with a strutting confidence that comes with having just made one of the most successful films in history, and seemed like they knew exactly what they were doing. "Iron Man 3" footage was, by all accounts, highly promising, suggesting that Shane Black's given the series a new lease of life after the disappointing sequel. As ever, Robert Downey Jr and Don Cheadle charmed the pants off everyone, while Edgar Wright's test-footage for "Ant-Man" suggested that, whenever the film actually gets made, it'll be something very impressive. That the company could generate serious excitement and debate merely with a PowerPoint display of titles shows how high they're riding in Hollywood these days.


Screening the complete film on Preview Night in order to get the buzz out early, "Dredd" went down pretty well with the comics crowd for whom it was made, with a faithful take on the character, and plenty of ultra-violent action to go with it. But is the film likely to follow "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" and "Cowboys & Aliens" into the curse of the Comic-Con premiere? Many reviews, including our own, expressed plenty of reservations about the film, and there are few signs of it escaping the geek ghetto, particularly as Lionsgate continue to market it exclusively at them. Selling the film to a wider audience is going to be necessary soon in order to let this stand up against other competition like "Gangster Squad" and "Looper" around the same time.

"Oz: The Great & Powerful" & "The Lone Ranger"
Disney had great success with its animation fare (see above), but impressions of the live-action was more mixed. You've likely seen the trailer for Sam Raimi's "Oz The Great & Powerful" already, as it was released soon after its debut on the Disney panel, so you know that it's a promo of two halves: a highly promising black & white section (which will ultimately take up only the first reel of the film, as in the original), followed by a rather green-screen heavy second half that's a little reminiscent of an Oz-ed up "John Carter" or "Alice In Wonderland." It could be a lot worse, certainly, but we need more to be convinced, particularly with James Franco looking a little out-of-sorts in the lead role. Though on the plus side: flying monkeys. Even less warmly received was "The Lone Ranger," which was a surprise on the Disney panel, and looked to be pretty massive in scope, but it also seemed to mostly be a movie about trains, and one with a more serious tone than the "Pirates of the Caribbean." And if "Cowboys & Aliens" taught us anything, it's that overly-serious genre-mashup westerns aren't necessarily destined to be box-office smashes. Still, there's plenty of time to get the message out, particularly as the film is still shooting.

"The Expendables 2"
Sadly overshadowed by the death of Sylvester Stallone's son the day after, Sly got one of the biggest audience reactions of the weekend, appearing with Arnie, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews and Randy Couture. Schwarzenegger's appearance was a major crowd-pleaser, but it's a shame that the film seems to be such an afterthought, with a clip displaying in-jokey dialogue between Arnie, Sly and Bruce Willis. We suppose that there's an audience who'll see this regardless, but again, we wish they were pushing outside the base a little more. Still, the vintage poster was nice.


"Total Recall"
Sony might have been flying the flag for original sci-fi with "Looper" and "Elysium," but they were also pushing one of the more unoriginal films on display with their "Total Recall" remake. Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale and Bryan Cranston were all winning in their appearance, and our man on the ground didn't hate what was seen, but like many others, didn't think that the clips provided an overwhelming reason for its existence either; most viewers seemed to find that the film was close to the original, but stripped of the Verhoeven-ian touches — i.e. all the fun bits. The latest "Resident Evil" wasn't that much warmer received by the geek press, but at least that film's proven its built-in audience by now: time will tell if "Total Recall" can bring in fans.

"After Earth"
While the director and cast didn't bother to show, Sony showed off one of their big summer 2013 hopes, "After Earth." In fairness, it may have been aimed more at building buzz for the extra materials like books that are going to spun off this thing,, but no one seemed particularly wowed by what was seen, as far as we can tell, and given that the film comes from director M. Night Shyamalan, who's steadily alienated fans and critics after "Lady In The Water," "The Happening" and "The Last Airbender," the film could have used more of a push than a half-hearted, dull viral video.

Open Road Films
One has to admire the ambition of new distributor Open Road Films in booking out a Hall H slot to showcase their upcoming wares, clearly hoping that a slot before Warners and after "Django Unchained" would help them get the word out about their new offerings. But the first film, "End Of Watch," was a poor fit for the audience, being a cop movie, and few were won-over by the film's found-footage aesthetic. "Silent Hill 3D: Revelation" was on safer ground, but as a six-year-on sequel to a film that not many love, still had an uphill struggle, and the follow-up seems to mostly promise more of the same, with a younger cast. A low-wattage selection of guests — Michael Pena! Someone called Adelaide Clemens! — didn't help much, and we're not entirely sure why the company bothered in the first place.

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Ryan Gowland

Disagree totally about The Lone Ranger. The trailer was a surprise and not given an introduction, so most of the silence was due to people not knowing what the trailer was. Once Johnny Depp appeared, the crowd went nuts. I'd say it was the boost Disney was looking for after all the reports over budget overruns and other problems.

Total Recall fell flat because it didn't show much more than what has already been revealed in the promotional footage. Screening an action sequence would have had a better effect.


I really don't get the purpose of Comic-Con. I could understand if they showed film screenings, but just to see trailers and a few minutes worth of footage is not necessary.


Good move, Sony: "Yeah, we don't have Will Smith. We don't have Apu Shyamalan. But we have this crappy Facebook trailer! See?"

tyrannosaurus max

Just letting you know, not in a mean way; I believe this headline has a typo.

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