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Comic-Con 2014: Hollywood’s Highs, Lows and No-Shows

As the place where Hollywood now launches the marketing campaigns around its upcoming films, TV shows and videogames — like “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” to smaller films like “The Giver” and “Horns,” along with new and returning TV shows “Game of Thrones,” “Flash” and “Gotham” — this year’s Comic-Con revealed the runaway successes and upcoming headaches for the industry’s marketers.

Here are the biggest takeaways from the fanfest that wrapped Sunday:

“Mad Max” Rules: For a film that didn’t have much interest in it going into Comic-Con, George Miller’s “Mad Max” (pictured, above) played huge for Warner Bros., earning raves from the thousands who watched the first trailer and action sequences from the film that rumbles into theaters next year, spreading positive word-of-mouth like wild fire across social media platforms. It’s certainly the darling of this year’s Con.

“Jupiter” Descending: Warner Bros. had a bigger problem beyond the need to complete special effects sequences when it made a last minute decision to move sci-fi actioner “Jupiter Ascending” from the summer to February 2015: a lack of interest in the movie. A trip to San Diego’s Comic-Con won’t help. A presentation in which star Channing Tatum’s mic didn’t work and the Wachowski siblings weren’t present, didn’t build any additional buzz around the expensive film, which could now result in a costly write-off for the studio. If you can’t get the Comic-Con crowd to want to see your film, you’re pretty much dead in the water.

Super-Sized Fun: Close behind is the reaction to a surprising amount of completed footage for Marvel’s “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” out May 1, 2015, that included superheroes Iron Man fighting the Hulk during a panel that included 11 of the film’s stars, including Robert Downey Jr., who tossed red roses to his fans like a rock star. The first look at “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” had the Caped Crusader facing off against Superman in a moody, rain-drenched tone-setting sequence that played extremely well with the Comic-Con crowd, as did the first official shot of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.

No Dinosaurs: After using Comic-Con in 2012, to first announce a “Godzilla” movie, Legendary’s attempt to rally fans around its next monster movie, “Skull Island,” based on King Kong’s home, backfired a bit, especially as a revved up crowd was interested in seeing the first footage of “Jurassic World,” which it is co-financing with Universal. Nothing was presented from the dinopic, leaving audiences seriously underwhelmed and confused.

M.I.A.Jurassic World” wasn’t the only holdout this year, with “Terminator 5” and “Fantastic Four missing from the Paramount and Fox panels.

Mixed Marvel Arts: Marvel was the only studio to make news at Comic-Con with a release date for “Guardians of the Galaxy 2,” set for July 28, 2017, announcing the sequel a week before the first film bows in theaters. But the rumored Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel announcements never happened.

First Time’s a Charm: The appearance of first-timers and fan favorites Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Radcliffe, Matthew McConaughey and Christopher Nolan helped elevate the profiles of films “The Penguins of Madagascar,” “Horns” and “Interstellar.” Nolan, who said he wanted to “see what all the fuss was about,” had never taken Batman to the show.

SEE ALSO: ‘Batman v. Superman’ Was the Most Popular Film at Comic-Con

The Whole Picture: More than ever before, studios showed up with more than just clips and trailers. Several films were screened in their entirety including “Hercules,” “Into the Storm,” “The Maze Runner,” and “Let’s Be Cops.” Is Comic-Con evolving into the newest niche film festival?

Say Anything…Except That: Trotting out stars but not letting them speak was a new trend, with Warner Bros. having Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill on the panel for “Batman v Superman,” but not handing them microphones to speak about the project or take questions from fans. Maybe they wanted to avoid what happened to Fox, when Dylan O’Brien divulged sensitive information on the death of a character during “The Maze Runner” panel, forcing him to awkwardly backtrack.

High-Tech: Installations were big draws outside of the San Diego Convention Center with Lionsgate scoring with “The Hunger Games Experience” that brought “Mockingjay — Part I” to life with a high-tech visual display of the first trailer, costumes and props from the film with promotional partner Samsung, while Ubisoft built an elaborate obstacle course for “Assassin’s Creed: Unity” that had more than 1,000 people participate.

Speakers of the House: Nerdist’s always-lively Chris Hardwick now has some serious competition at Comic-Con, with Craig Ferguson expertly moderating the “Game of Thrones,” “Inside ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Writers’ Room” and DreamWorks Animation panels, while Stephen Colbert was a pro with Warners’ “The Hobbit” panel, and Jessica Chobot charmed during Legendary’s presentation.

Fan Appreciation: The key to a successful Comic-Con panel is to know your audience, and few projects demonstrated that skill quite as ably as ABC’s “Once Upon a Time.” The show’s Q&A started on the right foot by bringing much of the main cast (including fan favorites Emilie de Ravin and Colin O’Donoghue), while producers kept fans engaged with two spoiler-laden preview clips from the season four premiere (one of which showed returning star Giancarlo Esposito, while the other gave fans a first glimpse at the show’s versions of “Frozen” characters Anna and Elsa). Two light-hearted spoof clips took fans on set and into the writers’ room, and “Community” star Yvette Nicole Brown struck just the right balance between fan and interrogator as moderator, leading to an altogether enchanting hour.

(Laura Prudom and Alexandra Cheney contributed to this report.)

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