Peter Jackson stirs up Hall H

Producer tubthumps 'District 9'

Pity director Scott Stewart. Though his “Legion” shared the bill with “District 9” for Sony Pictures’ Friday Comic-Con panel, everyone standing in line for Hall H came for only one reason: “District 9” producer Peter Jackson. That said, if the footage impresses for the lesser-known “Legion,” it could prove to be a brilliant strategy on Sony’s part.

First up was Stewart, who, after taking a few snapshots of the audience with his iPhone, started the clip. The story of a band of strangers in a post-apocalyptic world, one of whom is a diner waitress pregnant with the new messiah, “Legion” appeared to be exciting and visually compelling, juxtaposing hyper-violence and religious imagery to slightly campy effect – at Comic-Con, a very good thing.

The panel itself included Adrianne Palicki, Doug Jones, Tyrese Gibson and Paul Bettany. Aside from exchanging pleasantries about the joys of making their “angels with machine guns” film, the discussion focused on the film’s religious subject matter. Stewart said that “Legion” was “not a religious movie,” describing it as more of a cross between “Terminator” and “The Exorcist.”

However, when the “Legion” panel concluded, you could almost hear the collective increase in heart rates. When Jackson finally took the stage, he was greeted with an energetic and extended standing ovation. Knowing his audience exceedingly well, he opened with some tidbits about “The Hobbit” to head off non-“District 9” questions during the Q&A.

Then, after showing about seven minutes of footage from “District 9,” Jackson passed the baton to new director Neill Blomkamp and star Sharlto Copley. Jackson explained that the creation of “District 9” had been an “unusual experience” because of Blomkamp’s decision to do the film in a highly improvised manner without adherence to a formal script.

“I wanted the sci-fi to feel as real and grounded as possible,” Blomkamp said. Both Blomkamp and Copley also drew upon their South African roots in relating to the film’s overarching theme of oppression.

During the panel, Jackson continued to represent himself as the film’s mentor and advisor, chiming in only every so often so that Blomkamp and Copley could make their impressions on the fans.

Jackson also professed his desire to make more low-budget fare like the horror films of his early career. He claimed that bigger budgets made filmmakers too “safe,” afraid to take chances.

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