Travel is hell, from the American Airlines flight out of Logan that was canceled–after three hours on the tarmac spent entertaining a cranky one-year-old–to the seventh circle of hell in San Diego known as Hotel Circle. I’m actually not staying there, but I always seem to wind up there in the middle of the night. I miraculously made it into Hall H in time for the Tron panel, and stayed there all day, ducking out to sit on the floor and try to recharge my laptop and BlackBerry, which were drained from my long travel stint. Thus I was rarely tweeting and lost one blog post when my computer expired, and failed to realize my Haunted Mansion story was in preview mode until this morning. Arrgh. A flock of journos fought over the one wall outlet near Hall H. The Wrap’s Sharon Waxman stood on the side, plugged into the Hall H sound booth power strip. If you’re willing to take the chance of not getting back into the Hall, there’s a pleasant Wired Cafe. EW’s Nicole Sperling files to her blog straight from her BlackBerry. Covering Comic-Con isn’t for sissies. Thanks to Luke Thompson, filing for Deadline, for giving me a cereal bar yesterday.
Comic-Con is more massive than ever, and the studios are playing it like the masters they are. While it’s fun to see the digital marketers in their element, manipulating the hordes in order to send the fans out into the world to plant their seeds of viral knowledge, the hype machine is on full-blast. Disney came into what has been called Comic-Tron weighted with huge expectations after teasing the Con with early footage of their Tron sequel two years ago.
This time the studio unveiled eight minutes of glorious, shiny, ear-popping 3-D. While the environment of the movie is spectacular–and the fans were duly wowed–I was most struck by Digital Domain’s pursuit of the VFX Holy Grail begun on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: creating a believable talking digital human character who is played by Jeff Bridges as a 35-year-old. This is not Avatar aliens. This is someone we really know, interacting with other live actors.
Of course Comic-Con is also known for resistance to the studio Borg, spurning the likes of City of Ember, Jonah Hex, Max Payne and Zathura in sessions past. Studios can get the crowds excited about a movie, but word gets out just as fast when it doesn’t deliver. Passionate genre fans can help to launch a tricky movie. They pushed Lionsgate to pick up Kick-Ass, but it didn’t cross over, much like Joss Whedon’s Serenity and Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, which played strictly to the faithful.
This year Universal is using Comic-Con to boost its youthful comics/videogame-inspired actioner Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which they screened in full for a select group of lucky winners and press after writer-director Edgar Wright moderated his own panel of 13. (A review comes later.) If Patton Oswalt, who handles moderating chores for Disney, can’t host every panel, then let the filmmakers do it. Judd Apatow and Edgar Wright know their own cast members better than anyone and understand how to play the room.
As Slashfilm’s Peter Sciretta said to me Thursday night, “I’m running behind.” I was so tired after Scott Pilgrim that I blew off Machete and Expendables parties and went to bed. Such is Comic-Con.