San Diego Comic-Con 2008
San Diego Comic-Con 2008

Highlights and selected coverage from San Diego Comic-Con International, July 23-27, 2008

 

THURSDAY, JULY 24TH

The Day the Earth Stood Still

The Massie Twins and photographer Joy Dominguez got to sit in for the star-studded panel for Fox’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still” remake, opening December 12th, 2008. Director Scott Derrickson, producer Erwin Stoff, and stars Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly all got to voice their enthusiasm for making the film. Derrickson made a short film early in his career as a film student, which played at a film festival in India, where he got an opportunity to join director Robert Wise for a private dinner. Wise directed the original “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” and provided invaluable advice for the aspiring young filmmaker. His principle tip was to make a horror film as the first feature – which led to Derrickson directing “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.”

Erwin Stoff had talked about remaking “The Day the Earth Stood Still” nearly 15 years ago, and a draft finally showed up that showed the intensity and sincerity he’d been hoping for. Scott believed that in order to re-imagine a classic film, he needed a really good reason. The original 1951 feature was a product of its time, a commentary on the cold war era. Times have changed and now different issues can be addressed in a similar fashion with the powerful and compelling story of “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Additionally, he was shocked to learn that so many nowadays audiences are unfamiliar with the original black and white classic. Erwin recognized the unique idea behind watching ourselves through the eyes of an alien – we are the aliens in the film, and it is through their point of view that we realize it.

Keanu Reeves tried to have a very objective view of everything he looked at while filming. His character, Klaatu, is an entity trapped in a human body – the feeling of containment was present, and Reeves mentioned that while the original character was more human than humans, he’s definitely not that guy. Based on the exclusive footage shown, this film is certainly darker and his role is more chilling.

Scott wanted to pay homage to the original film while also updating the premise. It’s science fiction, but it’s in the real world and feels believable. Gort will have a startling update, as the instrument of enforcement, and the spaceships are more ergonomic and organic. Redesigning characters and creatures for modern times was the most challenging part – ultimately modernization seemed less appealing for advanced civilizations, which is a concept not uncommon for science fiction literature, but unique for science fiction cinema.

Jennifer Connelly plays Helen, a scientist who becomes the object of observation for Klaatu, especially involving her son Jacob (played by Jaden Smith). Through their relationship Klaatu gains an understanding for human interactions and humanity in general. The exclusive footage was fast-paced, intense and aurally abrasive, but looks to be an interesting addition to science fiction cinema.

Max Payne

“It’s not minimum pain; it’s not medium pain; it’s Max Payne.” That was the tagline that got director John Moore the studio interest which would see the production of the feature film “Max Payne,” based on the highly successful video game franchise. The story was already unique and emotionally gripping, so John felt that all he had to do was to focus on the adaptation into a different medium – the story was already incredibly well fleshed out just from the game. When you remove the controller from the player, you have to give them something completely kick-ass. When describing the camerawork showcased in the ultra-cool, ultra-violent advance footage, John mentioned that the idea was to make the viewer feel like Payne – so kicking the shit out of the camera was an effective way to immerse the audience.

Mark Wahlberg stepped onto the stage to overwhelming applause – and he ate it up. “It’s like a concert in Japan,” he quipped. Just sit there and people applaud. “It gets you all warm in the pants.” The clapping was enough to get anyone feeling good, and he continued with some pretty funny comments, including a mention about his street record and arrest record – both of which gives him the credibility to play the role of a man who’s lost his wife and child and is out to take revenge on anyone in his path to ultra-bloody justice.

Mila Kunis joined the panel, and she plays Mona Sax, a woman who knows her way around weaponry. Kunis had to learn to take apart guns, endure weapons training, as well as kick some ass (including Wahlberg’s) all while wearing five-inch heels. She also gets to lay down some interesting lines of Russian cursing. Ludacris plays Jim Bravura, an Internal Affairs man who likes to give Payne hell. He understands his vigilante revenge scheme and isn’t afraid to wield his sharp intellect to intimidate his opponents. Wahlberg praised Ludacris for taking on the role of a 60 year old white guy and committing himself to filmmaking.

John Moore went on to discuss the new Phantom camera systems and technology that will be used to simulate the game’s popular “bullet time” effect. Slow-motion’s been done before – this new high-tech digital harddrive shoots 1000 frames per second, giving fans some completely new ways to appreciate slowed down mayhem. And the exclusive teaser reel cut together for the Con didn’t disappoint.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

As a special surprise for the 6,500 people attending the Hall H presentations and movie studio panels, Hugh Jackman stepped onto the stage to show some exclusive footage of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” He literally just got off the airplane from Australia, and wanted the opportunity to shake the hand of Wolverine character creator Len Wein, who was in attendance.

Jackman also profusely thanked the raving crowd for their support and participation with the upcoming Wolverine movie – and rewarded us all with some never-before-seen footage from the Wolverine film – cut together perhaps hours beforehand. Featuring the stunning characters of Gambit and Deadpool, the entire auditorium went ecstatic with excitement over the footage. Jackman promised that the film is undeniably “badass.” And our very own Joy Dominguez, who happened to be up front and center taking pictures, got to personally shake Hugh Jackman’s hand. AWESOME!!!

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Push, Knowing, and Twilight

The Massie Twins and photographer Joy Dominguez sat in on the first ever Summit Entertainment panel at Comic-Con, where three major upcoming films were being showcased. First up was “Push,” director Paul McGuigan’s action thriller concerning psychically-powered innocents being hunted by even more paranormally enhanced assassins. McGuigan showed off a clip of an action sequence in a Chinese fish market involving “Bleeders,” evil henchmen equipped with a deafening scream that causes temporary paralysis and exploding fish. It made for an intense scene; however with the powerful speakers in Hall H, the Bleeders’ screams were as damaging to the audience as they were to the actors onscreen. Chris Evans, Camilla Belle and Djimon Hounsou were among the cast that attended the panel and Dakota Fanning made a late appearance due to traffic delays.

Next was Nic Cage’s newest thriller/disaster film from director Alex Proyas entitled “Knowing.” During a school time-capsule project a young girl opts to write down a page full of numbers instead of the expected scribblings of spaceships and flying cars. When Cage discovers the text several years later, he finds that the numbers predict every major natural disaster and cataclysmic event down to the time and number of deaths caused. Now it’s up to him to find a way to solve the mystery behind the cipher before the numbers run out and the world faces possible annihilation. While the premise may seem perturbing, the director’s accomplishments, including The Crow, Dark City, and I, Robot, should provide proof that Proyas knows how to handle sci-fi thrillers.

The final Summit Films presentation evoked a deafening roar from almost every female audience member, and “Twilight,” based on Stephanie Moyer ‘s wildly popular novel of the same name, will likely be their biggest coming attraction due to the built-in fanbase and attractive young cast. The attending panel included director Catherine Hardwicke and author Stephenie Meyer, plus stars Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Cam Gigandet, Edi Gathegi, Rachelle Lefevre, and Taylor Lautner.

Robert Pattinson and Cam Cigandet were the target of much of the Q & A session, however few of the panelists could even get a word in edgewise over the incessant screams of the fans. The only thing that really stood out about the discussion was Pattinson’s conditioned hair and Kirsten Stewart’s reply to a question regarding the physicality of her role, in which she mentioned that she got off to the violence and took it like a champ. I guess she answered all my questions before I could ask them.

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FRIDAY, JULY 25TH

Watchmen

The 1986 12-issue comic book “Watchmen” has often been considered unfilmable. A feature film adaptation has long been in the works, and especially after the success of V for Vendetta, Watchmen was a natural choice for further development. 300’s visionary director Zack Snyder was finally brought aboard, and then after that, things quickly proceeded. Having been a longtime fan, he knew the importance of staying faithful to the source material, as well as updating a few things for current audiences.

San Diego Comic-Con International 2008 brought crazed fans the opportunity to sit in on a panel discussing the film’s progression, and it featured director Zack Snyder, Malin Ackerman (portraying the second Silk Spectre), Billy Crudup (as Dr. Manhattan), Carla Gugino (the original Silk Spectre), Jackie Earle Haley (as main character Rorschach), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (as The Comedian), and Patrick Wilson (playing Nite Owl). Exclusive footage only available to attendees featured the special effects surrounding many of the lead characters, as well as the spaceship, mushroom clouds and mass destruction in the film.

The Massie Twins got an exclusive one question interview with the panel, and opted for a query to director Snyder.

The Massie Twins: Were there any characters or events that were omitted for the film, and were there any new characters created for the film that were not found in the graphic novel?

Zack Snyder: Is that a two-headed person? Oh wait, they’re twins. That is so cool. The answer is, yes and yes.

Apparently we should have asked a question that couldn’t be answered in two words or less. But the trailer reel, featuring music and violence not found in the original theatrical trailer, was certainly worth it.

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The Wolf Man

Legendary special effects and makeup wizard Rick Baker joined the Universal panel to discuss the newest effects-heavy extravaganza “The Wolf Man.” This remake of the 1941 classic horror film is directed by Joe Johnston, who wanted to do the old man-in-makeup routine as opposed to the typical CG werewolf. Wasting no time enlisting Baker, who grew up and pursued his profession because of the old classic Universal monster movies, the special sneak peek reel features plenty of blood, violence, and practical werewolf makeup and effects. Will it be rated R? It’s a little too early yet to tell, but more than likely the answer is yes.

Benicio Del Toro joined the panel, who plays Lawrence Talbot, the title monster, along with costar Emily Blunt, who plays the lead female love interest Gwen. Del Toro was always a monster film fan, and actually enjoyed the 3-hour makeup process to put on all the prosthetic pieces, hair and more (it was the lengthy removal that became tedious). “He cried like a baby,” teased Baker. “Everyone thinks he’s a macho man, but he’s a pussy.” “A teddy bear,” corrected Del Toro, laughing. Emily Blunt claimed she was the perfect choice for the role of Gwen, because she can run and scream. It’s a vintage horror film, and not really a slasher, so she knew she wanted the part.

The Massie Twins got an exclusive one question interview with the celebrities of The Wolf Man panel:

The Massie Twins: What’s the best part about working with Emily Blunt?

Benicio Del Toro: The chase.

Emily Blunt: What are your names?

The Massie Twins: Mike and Joel.

Emily Blunt: What are you doing later?

The Massie Twins: Anything you want.

Sadly the talent was whisked away before we could actually obtain Emily’s contact info. Otherwise the evening could have been quite unique. So as consolation, we got to enjoy over two hours of quality time with Kevin Smith.

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Kevin Smith, Judd Apatow, Zack Snyder and Frank Miller

WARNING: The following panel contains Kevin Smith, and is therefore intended for mature audiences.

A moderator from Entertainment Weekly set up the tone of one of the best panels ever to grace Comicon. “Geek is good,” stated the moderator, who then introduced Con favorite Kevin Smith, director Zack Snyder, hilarious new face Judd Apatow, and veteran artist, producer and now director Frank Miller. Here are some of the highlights:

What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

Kevin Smith: I just wanted to get my cock sucked.
Judd Apatow: When I was 16 or 17 and I got laid for the first time, I remember asking the girl, “Was it good for you too?” and she said, “Ehh.. I guess it’ll get better.” So I guess it’ll get better.
Zack Snyder: Star Wars was my inspiration.

At what point did you know that Watchmen and The Spirit were going in the right direction?

Snyder: When we finally got Nixon in there, I knew it was all good. Any movie with Nixon in it is good.
Miller: There was this scene where The Spirit slips on a giant water tank. I thought, “that’s The Spirit.”

Comedy is so subjective. How much of an influence or impact do negative internet comments make to you guys?

Smith: I live and die by it. I’ve got no sense of self-worth.
Apatow: I track test audience reactions, including how much penis can be shown on the screen before a room is cleared. There is a certain definite amount of penis that can be shown that will completely clear a theater. I read negative comments online before, and would start to feel bad, but then I’d notice the author’s name was something like Danny Glover’s Dickblood. Then you don’t feel so bad.
Snyder: The internet scares me – but I do look for positive reactions and buzz. It helps to determine what the fans want.

Is geek culture here to stay?

Smith: I think so, yeah. All I can say is thank god for Quentin Tarantino.
Snyder told a story about when he was filming a commercial with Harrison Ford, and he thought they were buddies, and he admitted that he had a life-size Han Solo in Carbonite at his house, to which Ford replied that he shouldn’t have mentioned it. Further questions involved inspirations, Watchmen, video game spinoffs of films, the towing of the promotional Pineapple Express car, and the line: “Ask Rogen what Apatow tastes like.” Kevin Smith also confirmed that he had no plans of being in front of the camera, and that the shapely people should be onscreen. He also mentioned that Superman Returns should have been gayer, and that his opinions of other people’s works interest the audience more than his own projects. Frank Miller, as usual, was either in another world or was on some powerful drugs.

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Zack and Miri Make a Porno

At some point in everyone’s life, they should attempt to attend one of Kevin Smith’s panels at any convention. Needless to say, it’s something you have to be there for, and it should not be missed. To promote Smith’s new film “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” Smith brought out many of the principle cast members to join in the always funny, always raunchy fun.

The panel included Kevin Smith, Justin Long, Traci Lords, Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Jason Mewes, Ricky Mabe, Katie Morgan and Scott Mosier. The conversations that arose from the many questions asked of the panel included the quote “boringly enjoyable” when describing working with Smith, the mocking of two guys making out at the Q&A microphone (who just had their heads a little too close together), and an unshakeable NC-17 rating involving heavy thrusting and something utterly unspeakable (Smith didn’t elaborate). Elizabeth Banks mentioned that it’s difficult to work under Smith because it’s hard to breath under all that weight, Mewes admitted that if he were to ever act in a serious drama it would have to be when Smith directs a prison movie, Seth Rogen was coerced into telling gay jokes about Ian McKellen, how much Seth loves weed, and Smith described his immobile sexual practices – to a young teenage kid. “Don’t listen to the fatman – get on top of a woman!” joked the rest of the panel, who were aware that the boy’s mother was in the audience.

Fans were upset about the leveling of Mooby’s, Smith admitted that the only topic he wouldn’t touch was rape, Jay and Silent Bob are not going to be making any more feature film appearances, and he again had to defend himself against the making of Vulgar, the clown rape film he didn’t make. Traci Lords was compared to the Miley Cyrus of porn (since Traci got into the porn industry when she was 15), Smith claimed that his wife said he should make films like Wes Anderson – and fuck like Wes Anderson. Smith’s earlier panel with Lucy “Flawless” Lawless came up, in which she was generally saucy, porn star Katie Morgan convinced the audience that practice makes perfect, and Superman and giant spiders and Rogen’s acquiring the job of writing the new Green Hornet movie was discussed.

Smith will be working on a mini-series of Batman for DC, Zack and Miri will probably create a new porn comedy genre, and Smith loves courtroom drama musicals. The entire two-hour panel was nonstop vulgar humor and riotous jokes, and with the exclusive Zack and Miri footage that was shown, this was again one of the best panels of the year.

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Star Wars Update

This year’s Star Wars panel had some interesting knew things to take a look at, although the general enthusiasm from the audience appeared greatly lessened. The Force Unleashed, a new video game from Lucas Arts is a momentous occasion for the Star Wars world, as well as the upcoming Clone Wars movie and TV show; Director of Fan Relations Steve Sansweet moderated the Comic-Con 2008 panel.

Set between Episode III and Episode IV, The Force Unleashed is available September 16th, 2008 on all of the major gaming systems. The exclusive launch trailer and cut scene footage featured the entire sequence viewed after ending level 1. Darth Vader, who the player can control, saves a Jedi child from death to raise as a padawan. In another startling cut scene, Vader is commanded by Emperor Palpatine to kill his new apprentice as an act of loyalty.

To introduce the animated TV show debuting this fall on TNT and Cartoon Network, Star Wars: The Clone Wars will be released this August. It is a feature length computer animated movie that sets up the many events of the upcoming show. Discussing everything from whether or not a lightsaber can cut Superman to the respect Lucas has for editors, the panel demonstrated the depth of fandom that exists just within the creative team.

Supervising Director Dave Filoni, Producer Catherine Winder, Editor Jason Tucker, and Writer Henry Gilroy (the comic book adaptations of Episode I and II) joined the panel at the San Diego 2008 Comic-Con International. Whatever the expected involvement of creator George Lucas was with the new project was completely unknown to the creative team. But once he began to see the footage, he kept coming back, exclaiming that the crew was not just making television, but making cinema. And each episode after the movie will be like its own mini-movie.

Lucas was painted out to be quite intimidating by Filoni, who explained that he answered directly to George, and that whether his ideas got rejected or not was based on Lucas’ mood. Nerve-wracking and intense, handing over his new footage each week might be comparable to presenting Emperor Palpatine with something that you absolutely don’t want to be unimpressive. Lucas wanted audiences to experience the genesis of the series on the big screen, and so the TV show was adapted to a feature length film. The Comic-Con audience was then treated to footage of the entire Act 1 of the Cloak of Darkness episode. What a way to keep Star Wars alive!

SATURDAY, JULY 26TH

Terminator: Salvation

The Massie Twins spent the duration of the Terminator Salvation panel waiting in line to ask a question. Subsequently, little of the lengthy Q&A was recorded. The panel included director McG, who confirmed that they’re out to make a movie that will satisfy the fans, and if that meant an R-rating, so be it. Sam Worthington plays Marcus Wright, and he joined the panel, along with costars Bryce Dallas Howard, Moon Bloodgood, Common, and Anton Yelchin. A life-size T-600 was also on the stage, and to the delight of the audience, its eyes glowed and its head shifted from side to side.

During the Q&A, the highlight was two fans who dressed up as Sarah Conner and the T-1000, who asked the panel and the crowd if they had seen “this boy” as he held up a picture of young John Conner from Terminator 2: Judgment Day. They were followed by a young Asian man who did a hilarious Arnold Schwarzenegger impression that so tickled McG, he invited him onstage – Sarah and the T-1000 also followed him onstage. The Massie Twins unfortunately stood at the microphone for nearly 15 minutes as McG blabbed on about his acquiring Christian Bale and the rest of the ethnically diverse cast, and so the panel ended with a replaying of the exclusive trailer, which showed at least moderate promise that the film would display nonstop action and adventure.

Bolt

Disney Animation Studios veterans Chris Williams and Byron Howard presented the first half of the Disney Pixar panel, and treated audiences to nearly twenty minutes of the new computer animated film “Bolt.” The moderator asked them what it was like to work so closely to John Lassetter, and they gushed over his talents and his ability to make people feel good.

Bolt stars the voices of John Travolta as the title character, Susie Essman as Mittens the cat, and Malcolm McDowall as the villain, as well as James Lipton, Randy Savage and Diedrich Bader. Bolt is the star of his own action TV show in which he possesses super powers and must continually protect his owner Penny. It’s all fake, however Bolt believes he really possesses uncanny strength, super woof, and lightning speed. But when he leaves the set to embark on a real adventure, he must come to terms with the fact that he’s not a superhero at all.

The footage shown included animatics, storyboards, stills, partially rendered and fully finished segments of the film. The first sequence demonstrated the superpowers Bolt wields during the action TV show, and the second involved two costar cats tormenting the unaware super dog. The final and longest sequence shows Bolt as he begins to realize that the powers he uses on the set of his show don’t carry over into real life – and that it takes courage and luck to defeat the enemies. The main attraction is his sidekick Rhino the hamster, who rolls around in a plastic ball and provides nonstop comedy.

Up

Pixar’s regular Pete Doctor came onstage to discuss his newest project, set for the summer of 2009, entitled “Up.” As always, Pixar chose an unusual setting and even more unlikely main characters. Carl is a 78 year old man who promised his wife many years ago that the two of them would travel to a South American waterfall for the adventure of a lifetime. But as the years flew by, they never got around to it, and she passed away. Just as poor Carl Frederickson is about to be moved to an assisted living home for the elderly, he devises a plan to use thousands of balloons to lift his house into the sky and float away to South America.

The Pixar creative team journeyed to the inaccessible Venezuelan mountains themselves to get a feeling for the environment they wanted to create for the film. Many are so isolated that humans have yet to set foot on them. Doctor treated the audience to footage of Carl sailing away in his balloon-rigged house, as well as stills of one of the principle supporting characters, Russell, a young boy scout who is desperately trying to earn a badge for assisting the elderly.

Celebrity voices include Christopher Plummer, Ed Asner, and Bob Peterson, and the score will be composed by Michael Giacchino (who also did the music for The Incredibles. Pete Doctor then fielded questions from the audience. When asked how Pixar chooses which genres to pursue, he explained that they don’t specifically try to target genres so much as they find a story that they want to make. Pixar basically does whatever they want to do. “Up” will be using a new stereoscopic 3D technology for the big screen, but Doctor was unable to comment extensively on that, since “Up” hasn’t reached the point in which they can really start the process.

Doctor admitted that one of “Up’s” characters appears briefly in “Ratatouille,” and that “Easter eggs” exist in nearly all of their films and on their DVDs. He also spoke about his respect and adoration for Miyazaki, who partially influenced some of the designs and ideas that circulate in his mind – he personally worked on the translation of “Howl’s Moving Castle.” “He pays so much attention to small details.” That kind of thing is something Pixar pursues. He concluded by answering a question about motion capture – and that is that they have no plans to use motion capture or rotoscoping. “Up” and Pixar’s other films utilize caricatures that have more life than motion capture. “Good ol’ key frames for us,” he stated, to a very loud and welcome applause.

SUNDAY, JULY 27TH

The Massie Twins and Joy Dominguez decided to catch this panel just to take some great pictures of the stars who graciously showed up and were welcomed to a packed room. We were treated to a never-before-seen episode of the FX show, involving cannibalism and hunting humans. When asked, the trio agreed that there was no subject they shied away from on the show.

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WEDNESDAY, JULY 23RD (Preview Night)

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