Comic Con 2011: Thursday 7/21/11 Review

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Well, the first day of Comic-Con 2011 is behind us, and SoCalThrills was there, having spent the entire day in the cavernous Hall H. For those who aren’t familiar with Hall H, this is the 6,500 seat room where the studios roll out their biggest and highest-profile projects for the masses to immediately dissect and judge. The Con got off to a pretty decent start today, and while not every panel was a homerun, there were enough great moments to classify the day as a success.

Twilight: Breaking Dawn (Part 1): First things first, I am not the target audience for this film. I get that, and this is why my thoughts on this panel should be taken with a grain of salt. Having said that, this panel did absolutley nothing for me. A few years ago, I was at the panel for the second Twilight film, New Moon. I remember going in to that presentation just as cynical and uninterested, and yet, by the time it was over, I found myself surprisingly curious. That year, they actually showed some relatively interesting clips, really showcasing the scope of the film. This year, director Bill Condon gave the fans what they wanted, but did nothing to entice the uninitiated. We got two new scenes, one featuring Jacob (Taylor Lautner) upset about something I didn’t understand involving rival wolf packs. The problem with choosing this sequence is that it had nothing to entice those who weren’t already familiar. It was a conversation out of context, and a poorly acted one at that. The next clip was of Edward and Bella’s honeymoon, and her preperation for their “first time.” It was tonally awkward, and felt completely out of place with everything that came before, but the audience ate it up, laughing and applauding with every ridiculous moment. There’s no doubt that this movie is going to make a fortune, but I just can’t wait for the whole thing to be over.

After this panel, Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me) came out to introduce a preview for his upcoming documentary on Comic-Con itself. It was quick and entertaining, but he barely set up the clip and then just left. It wasn’t so much a panel as a transition between panels.

Animation Showcase: This was a panel by Sony Animation to showcase two upcoming animated films from Aardman Studios, Arthur Christmas and The Pirates! Band of Misfits. The panel, moderated by popular KROQ radio personality Ralph Garman, was entertaining but forgettable. While both look fun, Arthur Christmas looks to be the more interesting of the two, with a computer animated look at just how Santa does deliver all those presents every year. It’s a tired setup, but the execution looks like a lot of fun, with entertaining voicework from James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, and Bill Nighy. The film looks to have a pretty large scope, and while I’m sure it won’t be anything all that memorable, I’m looking forward to the finished product. As for The Pirates! Band of Misfits, this is a stop-motion animated film featuring a who’s who of British actors, most notably led by Hugh Grant. The plot revolves around a pirate and his misadventures as he fights to become “Pirate of the Year.” This looks a little too silly for me, but I love the stop-motion animation, and am still looking forward to eventually checking it out next year.

Up next was a panel featuring Pee-Wee Herman, where he discussed both his recent stage work, as well as the possibility of a new Pee-Wee film to be produced by Judd Apatow. He announced that the studios were actually making a final decision today as to whether or not to give the film a green-light, and I really hope they do. Pee-Wee proved today that he still has a firm grasp on this character, and by the end, he had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. He came across very intelligent and extremely funny, especially considering how visibly uncomfortable his moderator was (Quint from Aint-It-Cool-News). The audience Q&A session was fascinating as he occasionally mocked those asking the questions without ever talking down to them. He revealed that the film would be a road movie in the vein of his original “adventure,” and it was clear that Pee-Wee can still be relevant even after all of these years.

Film District Studios: Following Pee-Wee came this presentation with a simultaneous look at two upcoming films, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Drive. Quint moderated this panel as well, and he was again visibly out of his element. Various cast members, directors, etc. from these two films were on hand, and they dominated the proceedings. This was a very conversational panel between some very large personalities, including Guillermo Del Toro and Ron Perlman. The films look great, with Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark looking to have some very real scares from it’s very tiny monsters. Drive tells the story of a getaway stunt driver who gets mixed up with some very bad people. Both look like great movies, and while the panel didn’t have any real flash to it, the films made an impression.

20th Century Fox: This was my last panel of the day, and definitely the best. The presentation began with a look at one of my most anticipated films from 2012, Prometheus. Alien is one of my all-time favorite movies, and this (sort-of) prequel has been on my radar since the day it was announced. Damon Lindelof, one of the geniuses behind Lost, helped write Prometheus and he served as moderator for the entire panel. While the film is still pretty early in development, they were able to show us enough footage to get everyone excited. Ridley Scott returns to the director’s chair for this sci-fi epic, and it’s very obvious in the brief footage shown that he really understands this material. The film looked like it belongs in the same universe as Alien, and that is more exciting that anything else regarding the project. I love the world of the original film, and the highlight of my day was getting a new glimpse at this world I’ve seen countless times before. After the footage, Charlize Theron came out for a quick back-and-forth with Damon, and finally, a satellite interview with Ridley Scott and actress Noomi Rapace. Scott and Rapace are currently in Iceland filming the opening scene of the film, and just looking at the backdrop for this interview gives me a lot of hope. It’s a gorgeous location, and I can’t wait to find out the context of the sequence.

Fox followed up Prometheus with a look at In Time, starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried. They showed an extended preview and then came out to discuss the film. Andrew Niccol (Truman Show, Gattaca) wrote and directed the film, which in typical Niccol style is about as high-concept as they come. In the world of this film, time has replaced cash as a means of currency. Everybody lives to 25 and is given one more year to live. That year is used as currency, so the poor die young, and the rich are essentially immortal. Because of the premise, the actors all had to physically look 25, even if there character is in their hundreds. The film looks very fast-paced and clever, and I can’t wait to see it later this year.

The last presentation was for the upcoming Rise of the Planet of the Apes. As the film opens next month, it didn’t feel quite as special seeing as much footage as we did. However, the movie still looks great, and motion-capture extraordinaire Andy Serkis (Gollum, King Kong, etc.) came out to discuss his work on the film. As I mentioned, they showed quite a bit of footage, and although I’d already seen a lot of it in the previews, it was still a really fun panel.

That wraps up our coverage for the first day of Comic-Con 2011. If all goes according to plan, tomorrow should have some great material to cover tomorrow, including Steven Spielberg’s first appearance at the Con as well as a look at some of the new and returning television series this Fall. Be sure to check back throughout the weekend for updates as we go.