Hollywood has definitely come to realize the power of the Comic-Con International audience. In terms of reaching their genre fans – where most of their franchise viewers lie – there is no place that they can more easily reach their core audience than here at the con. Paramount Pictures seemed to realize this, and tailored their San Diego presentation accordingly.
The studio kicked things off by bringing out the three-man comedy troupe behind the movie "Hot Rod," the Lonely Island Boys. This talented team consists of director Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, and SNL star Andy Samberg. They began things by showing a clip of the movie, where Ian McShane (who plays the father of Samberg's character, Rod Kimble) tells his son that he won't ever amount to anything.
Rod naturally gets upset, goes out to be alone, and then recklessly does what every young angry male desperately desires – he dances. With a wink and a nod to Kevin Bacon, Samberg shimmies and shakes in a way that's highly reminiscent of the abandon factory in "Footloose." From the laughter of the audience, it's safe to say they enjoyed the homage.
The Lonely Island Boys grew up together and said they've been making shorts since they were kids. Fans may be familiar with their SNL Digital Shorts, "Lazy Sunday" and "Dick in a Box." They indicated that they enjoyed making a feature with a full crew so they didn't have to "tape the microphone to a wall."
Next up was "Stardust," based on the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name. Gaiman came to present a clip to the crowd along with screenwriter Jane Goldman. The movie is about a young man (played by Charlie Cox) who wants to retrieve a falling star (which is played by Claire Danes) to bring to his girlfriend. The scene from the movie showed Michelle Pfeiffer (the story's villain) making an attempt to kill the girl. The scene was full of fun and fantasy (and a unicorn!).
Gaiman answered questions about the movie after the showing. When asked how faithful the movie was to the book, the writer replied that about "80 percent of the book is in the movie." He explained that changes had to be made, otherwise "the hero wouldn't be born until you were half an hour into the film."
When comparing the two formats, he said, "It's more like the Earth 1 and Earth 2 versions of the story, which is a reference I can only make here (at CCI)."
Another fan asked about the possibility of a "Sandman" movie, to which Gaiman replied, "I would rather see no 'Sandman' movie than a bad 'Sandman' movie made. Like Raimi did for 'Spider-Man' and Jackson did for 'Lord of the Rings,' 'Sandman' needs a director that gets it." He then added that we're more likely to see a "Death" movie first, as he is directing it (and definitely 'gets' it).
Gaiman then walked off the stage the stage, only to walk back on. This time, he was joined by screenwriter Roger Avary to talk about the movie "Beowulf," which the two wrote together. They both talked about the film (directed by Robert Zemeckis) enthusiastically. The two explained how the film came to be.
It seems that Avary had been attached to work on a "Sandman" movie at one time, but eventually he and the studio parted ways. Gaiman was talking to him after this and asked what he was working on next. Avary said that he was trying to make a "Beowulf" (one of the oldest stories in the English language) script, but couldn't get the story to work in script form. The story has two halves, which makes it difficult to fit into a script's three-act structure. Gaiman, however, had an idea that would make this work.
Gaiman said the two of them went down to Mexico after that, "drank lots of cheap beer," and wrote the script. This was 1997. After that, they pitched the script around town, and the film came close to being a reality several times, but it just never got off the ground. Finally, Zemeckis called and said he wanted to make it. He envisioned a computer-generated world where they could do anything imaginable. The actors shot their motion capture portions in 2005, and the movie is finally coming to theaters this November.
One special note about this film is its format ... which is actually formats. The film is being released in 2D ("normal" format), 3D, Real-D (a new form of 3D), and IMAX 3D all on the same day. Avary described the various formats as the difference between "blowing your mind and blowing your head right off."
They also briefly mentioned the cast, which consists of Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Crispin Glover, and John Malkovich. Gaiman said that he and Avary used to have "bullshit sessions" where they'd dream about their ideal cast. It turns out that the actual cast is nearly identical to the one that they fantasized about, which they said pleased them to no end.
Following this, the poster for Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd" (based on the musical) was revealed. The film stars Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, and Sacha Baron Cohen ("Borat").
The next presentation got fans excited, even though they're not sure what they're excited about. J.J. Abrams ("Mission Impossible III," "Alias") came out to talk about the mysterious trailer that's been seen in theaters and online. Known both as the "Untitled J.J. Abrams Project" and "1-18-08," the footage shows a farewell party that is suddenly interrupted by horrific noises, shaking ground, and falling debris. It ends with the head of the Statue of Liberty crashing through the streets.
While Abrams didn't spill any details on the title of the movie (which he is only producing), he did explain its origins. He said that he was in Japan with his boy, and they went to several toy stores where they saw lots and lots of Godzilla toys. As this occurred, Abrams came to the realization that America needed its own monster.
He quickly added, "I love King Kong. He's adorable." But explained that he wanted to see an American monster movie that was "insane and intense." A notion was born, and audiences will have the film on, well, 1-18-08.
"The Spiderwick Chronicles" was up next, based on the popular series of illustrated children's fantasy books written by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. The two authors were present, along with special effects guru Phil Tippett.
From the footage shown at the con, it was clear that Tippett and his crew were very faithful to illustrations laid out in the children's books. He also showed some clips on how they filmed these scenes to incorporate the computer-generated effects. Apparently, some faeries are funny and cute, while others are pesky or downright malicious.
A presentation via video was next. Producer Judd Apatow ("Knocked Up," "40 Year Old Version") and director Steven Brill gave fans a peek at the trailer for "Drillbit Taylor." The film stars Owen Wilson as a homeless man who is hired by a bunch of high school nerds looking for a bodyguard. The audience laughed their approval at the footage they saw.
After this, Paramount kicked things up a notch as they headed into the home stretch of their presentation.
First was "Iron Man." Director John Favreau appeared on the large screen in front of the crowd and said that there wasn't much to show yet except some rough animations. He then proceeded to show a clip ... which turned out to be from the (very) old "Iron Man" cartoon. It hasn't aged well.
Favreau then appeared on stage as the lights came up after his little joke. He said the principal photography was done and lots of editing was going on. And next, he showed the footage he brought from the movie.
The footage gave a great sense of how Robert Downey Jr. was playing Tony Stark. The character is equal parts egocentric, witty, and charming. Then we got to see him captured, learned about the need for a device for his heart, and saw him build the first Iron Man suit (the bulky grey metallic one).
In this suit, we get to see him fight his captors. And then, the red and gold suit. It looks as fantastic as it ever did in the comics. The clip closed with Iron Man flying through the skies with some jet planes. The effects seemed seamless. Favreau closed by letting fans know that the suits (created by Stan Winston studios) seen in all the footage were actual suits, and that the only CGI shot was the one of Iron Man flying. The film arrives in theaters May 2nd.
To top this, Paramount felt it necessary to crack the whip – Indiana Jones' whip to be exact. Steven Spielberg made a video presentation from the set of "Indiana Jones 4" and was joined by actors Harrison Ford, Ray Winstone, and Shia LaBeouf. Spielberg actually referred to the film's title as "Indiana Jones and the ..." as a teaser.
The director let the fans know that this film is being made specifically for them. And with that in mind, he wanted to bring out one more actor on the film. Spielberg left the screen and came back holding a chair that had the name of Marion Ravenwood on it.
For those who don't remember, Marion was Indiana Jones' love interest in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." And then, suddenly, Karen Allen (the actress that played Marion) walked onscreen and sat in the chair with a big smile. The original gang is back.
So how does Paramount top that to wrap things up? They managed ...
J.J. Abrams came back out with his team for the new "Star Trek" movie. Joining him were producers Stratton Leopold, Bryan Burk, and Damon Lindelof, along with screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. Abrams quickly mentioned that when he started working on Trek, he wasn't planning on directing – just producing. However, the script was so great, he couldn't say no.
Then he turned his talk towards casting. He asked, "How do you top the original?"
He confirmed they are looking for a Kirk, but haven't found one yet. The director also said that they are trying to find a place for William Shatner in the movie, but they want to make sure any role offered is "worthy of Shatner."
And to wrap things up with a bang, Abrams offered one more piece of casting news. He said they managed to get an original cast member to come back and don pointy ears again. Leonard Nimoy then walked out onto the stage. Fans stood and gave him a huge round of applause. Spock returns ...
Nimoy said that several of his family members and friends were asking him why he had decided to go back to "Star Trek" once more. The actor smiled and gave his response.
"It's a great director and great script. It's logical."