2017 SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON HALL H HIGHLIGHTS!
Article, Photo, and Video by Adam Mast
For movie fans, there’s no bigger place to be than Comic-Con’s massive Hall H every July. At least, that’s the way it used to be. The last few years have seen a seismic shift from film to television in the San Diego Convention Center’s largest ballroom and while the 2017 Con saw fewer studio presentations than ever before, there were still plenty of outstanding movie panels to behold. Some great television presentations to speak of too.
Getting into these presentations meant braving hours upon hours of waiting in lines to ensure a seat. In fact, we did more waiting in lines than we did attending actual presentations. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. And in fact, while it might sound weird to some, waiting in line and mingling with like-minded individuals is half the fun! You can’t beat passing the time, talking movies, sharing stories, and playing “Cards Against Humanity” with the likes of complete strangers who would ultimately become friends by the weekend’s end. Speaking of which, hello to Mike, Cory, Sarah, and Bo! Thanks for your part in making this Con so memorable! And props to our new pals Vince and Evie! Not only were they a blast to talk to, but they even brought us donuts and burritos for breakfast! In short, the Con brings folks together. It’s like a great big block party on the San Diego Harbor!
But as exciting and downright overwhelming as Comic-Con can be, it doesn’t come without a price. Beyond the sheer exhaustion of it all, the Con tends to be all about picking and choosing. It’s near impossible to see everything. While our crew (comprised of myself, Christian Navarrete, and Dan Bringhurst) did have the opportunity to bear witness to the ultimate in Cosplay and while we did have a limited amount of time to walk the massive pop culture and art filled exhibition hall, we were unable to see many of the hundreds of other panels that took place throughout the weekend. We also missed out on a lot of the massive offsite events all because we didn’t want to miss out on the greatness that Hall H had in store for us.
After all was said and done, what we did eventually see in Hall H has this particular fanboy convinced that we made the right choice. Here are a few highlights;
READY PLAYER ONE
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Warner Brothers always brings the showmanship to Comic-Con! While all the hype and anticipation seemed squarely aimed at DC’s look at AQUAMAN and JUSTICE LEAGUE, the big draw for me was Steven Spielberg‘s adaptation of Ernest Cline‘s holy grail of pop culture, “Ready Player One.”
Spielberg, Cline, and stars Tye Sheridan, T.J. Miller, and Ben Mendelsohn were on hand to talk about the making of this epic pop culture cinematic buffet and while everything about this panel had me as giddy as a school boy, just having an opportunity to listen to an iconic Spielberg talk in person was the icing on the cake.
Of course, one of the big highlights of the panel came in the form of the premiere of the trailer. Holy cow! What a treat! The Iron Giant, Freddy Krueger, and the DeLorean from BACK TO THE FUTURE in the same damn movie?! And that only touches the tip of the pop culture iceberg. This trailer played like absolute gangbusters!
True, WB dropped the trailer online shortly after the presentation ended, but no matter. Seeing it in this kind of environment, with 7000 other passionate fans was a euphoric experience, to say the least. Of course, the fact that the makers of the film were in the house as we watched the footage probably had something to do with that.
The question remains will READY PLAYER ONE feel a bit dated by the time it opens in March 2018? After all, with films like THE LEGO MOVIE, WRECK-IT RALPH, and THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE already having made the rounds, it’s clear that movie mash-up culture is already in full swing. Having said that, with The Beard at the helm, there’s plenty of reason to be excited about this movie. Spielberg is the primary reason for the existence of Cline’s book in the first place and the fact that he directed the movie is all kinds of awesome!!
BLADE RUNNER 2049
Warner Brothers didn’t stop with READY PLAYER ONE and DC, oh no! They had another big title up their sleeve in the form of the highly anticipated, BLADE RUNNER 2049.
Interestingly enough, the very idea of a sequel to BLADE RUNNER never set well with me. The original film was not particularly well received by the masses when it first opened, granted I loved it the first time I saw it even though my young mind couldn’t really comprehend what the film was really all about. The reason I resisted the very idea of a sequel for all these years is because Ridley Scott‘s original always felt like a one-and-done to me. I always felt like a sequel would taint the effectiveness of the first picture and honestly, who really wants answers to many of the mysteries BLADE RUNNER ponders? Not I. It’s the ambiguity that makes that visual marvel so damn appealing.
Of course, when I found out that Denis Villeneuve (INCENDIES and ARRIVAL) would be directing the sequel with Roger Deakins shooting, Ryan Gosling starring, and the venerable Harrison Ford returning as an aging Deckard, I began to warm up to the idea of a sequel. And after getting a look at footage by way of that fantastic teaser trailer from a few months ago, I have gone from being reluctant to the very idea of this film to eagerly anticipating it every second of every day.
The BLADE RUNNER 2049 presentation began with an audio refresher explaining what’s happened in the years since the first film. What’s become of the world and how have replicants evolved and such. This brief but informative refresher was followed by a holographic Jared Leto intro. Leto couldn’t make it to the convention in person but his appearance as a hologram was infinitely cooler. Leto would chat a bit about his love of the original BLADE RUNNER and eventually, the holographic image of the actor would break apart and fade away.
Then, Denis Villeneuve, Ryan Gosling, and Harrison Ford were brought to the stage and they brought the house down! Ford, in particular, appears to be far more cheerful in his golden years. Even when asked by a fan about his desire to bring back some of his most iconic characters (i.e. Indiana Jones, Han Solo, and Deckard), Ford was playfully cantankerous with his response.
In addition to a replay of the newest BLADE RUNNER 2049 trailer, we were treated to an exclusive scene from the film in which Ryan Gosling’s Blade Runner is desperately trying to locate a missing Deckard (Ford.) Gosling’s search leads him to an attractive, somewhat flirtatious replicant who aids him with a piece of evidence in the form of a recording of a conversation between Deckard and Rachel (Sean Young) from nearly three decades earlier. It was short but gorgeous to look at beautifully acted.
Refreshing that Villeneuve and crew opted to show a character driven scene rather than an action sequence. And incredibly creative and organic, the fashion in which this sequel calls back to a scene from the original movie. My excitement for BLADE RUNNER 2049 is already at a fever pitch and this presentation got me even more excited.
STRANGER THINGS SEASON 2
Netflix was all over the Con this year and while the increasingly popular streaming service had plenty of product to share with eager attendees (BRIGHT, DEATH NOTE, “The Defenders,” etc.) there’s very little doubt that the majority of the buzz was aimed squarely at “Stranger Things.” This nostalgia laced, 80s-set series feels like a combination of Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, and John Carpenter with a dash of “X-Files” thrown in for good measure. Season 1 exploded out of nowhere and anticipation for Season 2 couldn’t be any higher.
The “Stranger Things” presentation began with an affectionate look back at the first season by way of a stirring highlights reel. Then, moderator Patton Oswalt hit the stage and began to profess his love for all things “Stranger Things.” He then introduced show creators The Duffer Brothers, director Shawn Levy, and cast members David Harbour, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Noah Schnapp, Joe Keery, Matthew Modine, and Finn Wolfhard (Oswalt had a field day with this kid’s name) to the stage and proceeded to engage in a lively Q & A. Almost immediately, it was obvious that the chemistry these cast members share on the show, they also share in real life. It was a joy listening to these likable performers share stories about shooting this extremely popular show. Following the Q & A, Oswalt would introduce a few cast members we’ll be seeing in Season 2, including Paul Reiser (Burke of ALIENS fame.) One can only assume that Reiser will be playing a villain of some kind.
One of the most entertaining moments of the panel came when Oswalt began to field questions from the audience. The first question came from none other than surprise guest, Shannon Purser, better known as Barb from Season 1! The character of Barb was meant with much controversy amongst adoring fans and not surprisingly, Purser’s big question for the panel was;
“Will Barb be back?!”
The showrunners were quick to say she won’t be back but that Barb will be acknowledged in a big way in Season 2. So, for those of you miffed at the way this innocent character was dealt with in Season 1, chin up.
As expected, the cast and crew brought along a new trailer for “Stranger Things Season 2” and it was nothing short of fantastic! In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I say this trailer gave me chills in a big way. The images, the adventurous spirit of youth, the creep-out factor, that brilliant synth score, and the use of Michael Jackson‘s “Thriller.” I know it’s just a trailer but honestly, there isn’t a false note in this clip. It was designed to get the fans pumped and pumped we are.
October 27th can’t come soon enough!
If Warner Brothers served as the perfect Saturday Hall H opener than Marvel was the perfect closer! There was much talk about the studio’s big presentation at Disney’s D23 Expo a week earlier and whether or not there would be any exclusive content left to share with a very enthusiastic Comic-Con crowd. As it turned out, there would be!
The panel opened with a Marvel movie refresher sizzle reel featuring ANT-MAN cast members Paul Rudd and Michael Pena. This dynamic duo certainly brought the funny as they highlighted each Marvel property dating back to 2008’s IRON MAN.
Following the reel, moderator and fanboy extraordinaire Chris Hardwick hit the stage and brought Marvel CEO Kevin Feige out to rapturous applause. Feige would begin the presentation by making some big casting announcements. He revealed that veteran Michelle Pfeiffer will be playing Janet van Dyne in ANT-MAN AND THE WASP and that she’ll be joined by new cast members Walton Goggins, Laurence Fishburne, and Randall Park.
Feige would then go on to unveil some pretty big news regarding the Brie Larson-headlined CAPTAIN MARVEL. It appears that not only will Samuel L. Jackson return as Nick Fury but that he’ll have both of his eyes intact. How can this be? Because CAPTAIN MARVEL will take place in the 90’s, that’s how! Feige also went on to reveal that The Skrulls will serve as the film’s primary antagonists.
Of course, Feige and crew were most interested in focusing on two of Marvel’s biggest upcoming cinematic adventures. First up; THOR: RAGNAROK. On hand to talk about the film were hilarious New Zealand-born director Taika Waititi (WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS) and cast members Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Karl Urban, Tessa Thompson, and the forever quirky Jeff Goldblum. Following a brief Q & A, Waititi unveiled a clip from the film (featuring the director himself as the voice of a lovable rock creature called Korg) along with a montage of scenes that sort of played like an extended version of the new trailer. All in all, this movie looks fantastic! Everyone already knows about the epic gladiator battle between Thor and Hulk but beyond that, RAGNAROK looks action packed and laced with a ton of colorful (and fittingly quirky) humor. Waititi’s spirit looks to be all over this thing and I can’t wait to see it!
Up next; BLACK PANTHER. Feige brought along director Ryan Coogler (FRUITVALE STATION and CREED) and a handful of cast members including Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Forest Whitaker, Winston Duke, Danai Gurira, and the great Andy Serkis.
Coogler spoke of his love for the source material suggesting that while he has a love for most superheroes, BLACK PANTHER was particularly special to him because this was the first hero he ever saw who shared the same skin color and that was important to him growing up.
Coogler and crew brought along a sizzle reel that has yet to drop on line and in short, it was supremely badass! The tone of this movie is decidedly different from other Marvel properties. There’s large scale action sequences and tons of visual effects to be sure, but this flick is throwing a large dose of culture to the mix. Boseman looks incredibly fierce in the lead while Jordan looks equally effective as the film’s primary baddie. Additionally, Serkis looks exceptionally thuggish as a tough as nails secondary villain.
BLACK PANTHER looks to prove that Marvel is attempting to take chances with its upcoming superhero slate. Let’s hope that trend continues in Phase IV.
Marvel ended their presentation with a big surprise. Actually, it wasn’t that big of a surprise. Not to those who were familiar with the Marvel panel that took place a week earlier at D23. The studio decided they’d close out the show with an early peek at next summer’s all star superhero opus, AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and boy did this sizzle reel work the packed Hall H crowd into an absolute frenzy! INFINITY WAR finds the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Vision, Ant-Man, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Dr. Strange, and the Guardians of the Galaxy working together to take on the evil force that is Thanos (played by Josh Brolin) in the ultimate hero/villain showdown. This flick is the culmination of 10 years worth of epic shared universe superhero movies and where Marvel might go with Phase VI is anybody’s guess. Until then, let’s enjoy the ride!
That’s it for highlights from Comic-Con 2017 but you can bet we’ll be back in San Diego to do all over again in 2018.