Each year San Diego’s Comic-Con, which wrapped Sunday, rolls out an array of top genre stars and helmers, and each year there are unexpected moments for both presenters and auds. In his first appearance at the Con, Steven Spielberg may have been surprised that his “Jurassic Park” news managed to upstage
his planned “Tintin” presentation, while Francis Ford Coppola grappled with a tech snafu. Universal broke the usual promo protocol by not showing footage of “Snow White and the Huntsman,” but attendees were satisfied with the director’s presentation on the pic.
Paramount had only “The Adventures of Tintin” to promote this year and went big by enticing Spielberg to push the 3D motion-capture-animated pic with producer Peter Jackson. Yet when Spielberg took the Comic-Con stage for the first time, what the 6,000 fans and media filling Hall H wound up blasting around the Web was Spielberg’s reveal that a fourth “Jurassic Park” is but a few years away.
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U took its swings on Saturday, world preeming “Cowboys & Aliens” for a rowdy throng at a converted opera house just a few hours after hosting its “Snow White and the Huntsman” panel. With nothing yet shot on “Snow White,” U relied on its stars, first-look concept art and footage from commercials whiz Rupert Sanders, who’s making his feature directorial debut. Though the appearance of stars Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron drew attention to the panel, it was Sanders who stole the show with a fairly lucid and promising picture of where the potential fantasy franchise is headed.
“It’s not a little girl sitting around a well with tweety birds,” said Sanders, describing a reel of “Huntsman” test footage that was at turns artfully surreal and action-packed. “This is all the down-and-dirty filmmaking that got us here.”
Sony also chose to put relatively unknown directors front-and-center for its “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” presentation, highlighting the daredevil directing techniques of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. Rather than Nicolas Cage, the star of the panel was footage of the helmers pulling all kinds of crazy stunts to get shots, like dangling over a dam and rollerblading behind speeding motorcycles with a camera in hand.
Sony’s most important task, however, was promoting its reboot “The Amazing Spider-Man,” described as darker and more character-driven than its predecessors. To that end, the panel’s main talking point was star Andrew Garfield’s love for the webslinger: Thesp made his entrance in a cheaply made Spidey suit and posed as an obnoxious fan grabbing a mic; when he yanked off the mask to reveal the ruse, his professions of love for the Peter Parker story turned serious, with Garfield saying at one point that as a skinny kid growing up, “Spider-Man saved my life.”
A dazed-looking Rhys Ifans, who plays the villainous Lizard, was the last to join the panel, then left his own impression on Comic-Con when word got out of an altercation between the Welsh thesp and a security guard over smoking backstage. But it was the “Spider-Man” footage that will reverberate, and it looked good: Garfield is a convincing goofball high-schooler whose gangly frame fits the suit, and it’s clear that director Marc Webb is delivering on his promise for a grittier Spidey.
Coppola presented one of Comic-Con’s most intriguing new ideas in years but failed miserably to execute it. For his upcoming ghost thriller “Twixt,” Coppola said he would take his show on tour, changing the scenes and score in real time, mixing and editing on the fly for a live-performance feel. Though film geeks were ecstatic at the possibilities, Coppola will need to hone his technique before hitting the road: Twice he had to stop and start over, and he spent as much time fumbling with digital controls as projecting footage.
Coppola also dipped into the 3D debate that took place at nearly every panel, suggesting that the medium will evolve to a point where glasses are not needed, and only certain scenes will open the third dimension. And Jackson, in town on a break from shooting “The Hobbit,” said the “price issue needs to be addressed” on 3D tickets. “It’s starting to backfire a little bit. With the right movie it can make a good film great and a great film amazing.”
Spielberg agreed, saying, “I’m certainly hoping that 3D gets to the point where people do not notice it, because once they stop noticing it, it just becomes another tool and an aid to help tell a story.” He said more collaboration with filmmakers is needed “because it’s not just like putting a new lens on a camera and forgetting it. It takes a lot of very careful consideration. It will change your approach to where you put the cameras. So, 3D isn’t for everybody.”
Not for Jon Favreau, whose 2D “Cowboys & Aliens” had its world premiere Saturday (two nights after the “Iron Man” helmer and Comic-Con staple DJ’ed a private party in the Gaslamp District). Favreau bounded out onto the stage to a roar of applause, telling the crowd that his movie is like that odd Christmas present under the tree you could never quite guess at — and didn’t know you wanted until you opened it.
“We’ve had a lot of Christmas presents this summer,” Favreau said, “but there’s one that everybody’s been shaking the box, and reading the label, and they say, ‘From Santa?! “Cowboys & Aliens,” what is this?!’ Well, you’re the first people to unwrap the present. We hope you enjoy it.”