Comic-Con is upon us, filling many attendees with equal measures of delight and dread. The Con (which gets an entire chapter in my book "The $11 Billion Year") has evolved from a comics convention to a sprawling monster that takes over downtown San Diego and its convention center on one congested July weekend. Details are arriving on what movies the studios will showcase at the Con,which launches Thursday July 24 and runs through Saturday July 27. Not all of the panels will be in Show H–many are traveling off-site to play to press directly, away from the fan hordes. (More and more, television is taking over the entertainment side of the Con, as events like HBO’s "Game of Thrones" and AMC’s "Walking Dead" panels gobble up attention.)
Warner Bros. is presenting at least four titles on Saturday: "Mad Max: Fury Road," "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," "Jupiter Ascending," and "Into the Storm." The latter — the least-anticipated of that quartet — will have a pre-Con fan screening on the Wednesday before events begin.
Peter Jackson will finally make the trip over the Pacific (he often sends video messages from Wellywood) to be on the main stage with his title. George Miller will present a first look at the Outback franchise’s newest installment starring Tom Hardy, and attendees will peek at the next postponed (and commercially worrisome) Wachowski outing. We’ll see how much more we get than a few trailers already online, a couple of clips and a teaser–in the case of "The Hobbit," perhaps the one Jackson recently promised on his Facebook page.
Will there be any sign of WB’s much-touted Zack Snyder "Superman vs. Batman" starring Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill? That is the question.
Disney’s Marvel will present Saturday as well with Marvel producer-star Kevin Feige as host: well-buzzed "Guardians of the Galaxy" is ready to open, so a screening is not out of the question, while fan star Joss Whedon should be on hand with some footage from "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" — their biggest title of the next few years and, by the end of 2015, not unlikely to be their highest-grossing title yet — seems destined to show something.
Tom Hiddleston is in town promoting Legendary’s "Crimson Peak." Could anything top his dramatic Hall H appearance to the screaming hordes as Loki in 2013? Feige knows how to play to the fans and will come up with something big: Variety suggests it will be Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson finally announcing his role as Shazam/Captain Marvel.
Universal, now home to Legendary Entertainment, will present in Hall H Saturday as well. Comic-Con fave Writer-director Guillermo del Toro will promote his gothic horror tale "Crimson Peak," co-written with Matthew Robbins and Lucinda Coxon and starring Mia Wasikowska as an aspiring author dealing with the aftermath of a family tragedy: "trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds…and remembers." Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Hunnam co-star.
Also promising is psychological thriller "As Above/So Below,"set in the twisting catacombs beneath the streets of Paris, where many bodies are buried. "When a team of explorers ventures into the uncharted maze of bones, they uncover the dark secret that lies within this city of the dead." Written by John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle ("Quarantine") and directed by John Erick Dowdle.
Expect at least a mention of "Warcraft," which has finished filming. (Star Travis Fimmel will be on hand to promote “Vikings.”)
The indies are showing as well, as Weinstein Co. made a splash with "Django Unchained" and Quentin Tarantino in 2012–he’s back to promote a Dynamite/DC Entertainment "Django/Zorro" crossover series co-plotted by Tarantino and following the events of "Django Unchained."
TWC will present Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s latest "Sin City" iteration in Hall H on Saturday, along with a star-studded fete Thursday night. Needless to say the movie based on Lois Lowry’s YA bestseller "The Giver" will also get a Hall H panel (Thursday) complete with "Tron" star Jeff Bridges. Will Meryl show? Unlikely.
The Sony panels will start off at the Indigo Ballroom of the Hilton Bayfront on Thursday. First, there’s Rob Letterman’s film version of Scholastic’s book series "Goosebumps" (August 7, 2015), written by R.L. Stine (400 million books sold worldwide). Jack Black, who stars as the author, will be on hand with Letterman to explain how Stine’s monsters are coming to life.
Director Chris Columbus will explain (on video) his next movie, "Pixels" (May 15, 2015), which pits attacking intergalactic aliens who misinterpret video-feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war, using the games as models for their various assaults. The U.S. President (Kevin James) calls upon an ’80s game videogame champion (producer-star Adam Sandler) and old-school arcaders Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad to save the day. (Reminds us of "War Games"). Requisite lone female Michelle Monaghan plays the team’s "unique weapons specialist." The action-comedy is directed by Columbus from a script adapted by Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling from a Patrick Jean short.
On Thursday Paramount presents family-friendly brand-movies "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "SpongeBob Square Pants" and "Project Almanac" in Hall H with roundtables to follow. But can they resist a peek at “Terminator: Genesis”? I don’t think so.
DreamWorks Animation and Focus Features are heading to San Diego to promote their animated movies: "Penguins of Madagascar" and "Home" will present at the Bayfront Hilton Thursday and Laika’s "Box Trolls" in Hall H Saturday, respectively.
Entertainment Weekly is all over San Diego with a fat advance Comic-Con preview issue as well as three panels: the annual Visionaries panel on Thursday afternoon in Hall H, tellingly focused on TV this year, with showrunners Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci ("Sleepy Hollow," "Scorpion"), Julie Plec ("Vampire Diaries," "The Originals"), and Greg Berlanti ("Arrow," "The Flash"); "Brave New Warriors," a Friday Ballroom 20 discussion among actors about playing iconic characters, and their second Saturday "Women Who Kick Ass" panel in Hall H with Maisie Williams, Tatiana Maslany, Katey Sagal, and Natalie Dormer.
Also expected, somewhat cynically, are the duds, which many take as filler material as stars attempt to explain why you should go see their movie. Last year’s "I, Frankenstein" and "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" promos come to mind. But there was much much more.