It seems Universal Studios is relying a lot on love from comic book fans this summer. They're distributing the new "Incredible Hulk" movie for Marvel Studios, in addition to releasing two other films based on popular comics: "Wanted" (from the Mark Millar graphic novel) and "Hellboy 2: The Golden Army" (based on the Mike Mignola creation). These last two movies were the topic of a special panel held at the 2008 New York City Comic Con on April 19th.
Universal began things with an introduction of the director of "Wanted," Timur Bekmambetov. He introduced two clips that were shown especially for fans present at the panel. The first showed the moment when the film's main character Wesley (played by James McAvoy) meets Fox (played by Angelina Jolie). A huge shoot-out and car chase ensued that was big-screen mayhem at its finest.
As Bekmambetov confessed, "It was a lot of fun. We wrecked a lot of cars."
The second clip showed the moment Wesley meets the Brotherhood of Assassins, of which Morgan Freeman's character is a member. It's a great scene that is very reminiscent of the comic book source material. There are some slight differences though - one of those being Wes' "disease."
Wes has an ailment in the film where his heart beats very fast (400 beats per minute, according to the clip we were shown). He takes pills because he believes he's sick. "He's not sick though, it's actually his power," the director explained.
Morgan Freeman tells Wes that the quicker beats give him more adrenaline and, therefore, quicker reflexes. McAvoy's character is then informed that he is one of seventeen with these powers, and that he must kill the man who killed his father.
Bekmambetov said he first encountered "Wanted" after "Nightwatch" was released in the U.S. He also stated, "Mark (Millar) was consulted during filmmaking and likes the movie."
For fans unfamiliar with the Russian director, he made two movies that brought him the attention of American studios: "Nightwatch" and "Daywatch." When the panel opened itself up to questions, someone asked Bekmambetov about a rumored "Duskwatch" sequel.
The director told the audience, "Consider 'Wanted' my 'Duskwatch.'"
Another fan asked about the lack of costumes in the movie (as the comic book was based around super-villains instead of assassins). Bekmambetov explained that he was trying to ground the film in reality. He said, "Can you imagine a super-assassin walking down the street in a leather outfit? Everyone would know he's a super-assassin."
The latest "Wanted" trailer then premiered to the audience's delight, and the Russian director then left the stage to make room for a Mexican director - Guillermo del Toro, writer and director of "Hellboy 2: The Golden Army."
He happily took the stage and announced, "Now it is my privilege to introduce a bunch of cool motherfuckers..." At which point he brought out Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Doug Jones (Abe Sapien), Selma Blair (Liz Sherman), Luke Goss (Prince Nuada), and "Hellboy" creator Mike Mignola.
Some amazing footage was shown in a special trailer made for the con.
Everything you liked about the first movie is back, but this time, it's been "turned up to eleven." When the lights came up from the trailer, the movie's monsters were on the stage with the other guests. These creatures could easily give the odd monsters from del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" a run for their money.
The panel was then opened up to questions, and fans rushed for a chance to speak with del Toro (who seemed to have a huge following at the con).
One of the first questions was about a character not present at the panel - Johann Kraus. The questioner wanted to know who would be providing the voice for this character. Del Toro informed the audience that he had been looking everywhere for the right person, including a German actor but "the vocal quality was terrible. It sounded like a prolonged stomach cramp or fart. Then, on a good day, I had an idea that Seth MacFarlane should be the voice of Johann."
Seth said "yes," and the rest is Hellboy history. For those unfamiliar with MacFarlane, he is the creator of the television series "Family Guy" and voices many of the characters on the show, including Peter, Stewie, and Brian Griffith, as well as Quagmire. Fans loudly indicated their approval of the MacFarlane decision to del Toro, who smiled.
As for the overall production of this film, the director said, "The studio gave me an $85 million budget to compete against movies costing three times as much - this took a toll on my gonads."
Mignola was asked about his thoughts on the direction del Toro has taken his "Hellboy" characters. He responded by saying, "At this point, it almost feels like they're Guillermo's."
The next audience member at the microphone asked the director what his next project was, and if "The Hobbit" (which he was rumored to be involved with) is still a possibility. Del Toro addressed the Hobbit portion of the question first, saying that he was still interested, but that there are legal issues to be dealt with. In addition, it's a studio film which takes time.
As for other films, the writer-director mentioned a couple which he was developing, including "The Count of Monte Cristo" and HP Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness." Once again, however, he talked about the studio aspect and said the development on these could be long.
As you might be able to tell from his comments, it sounds as though del Toro needs a small "studio break," and he said as much. After "Hellboy 2," the director announced that he is going to do one of his own films. His next project is one he created called "Saturn and the End of Days."
"It's about a kid named Saturn who is watching the Rapture on the way back and forth to the grocery store." The director further clarified, "It's how a child views this craziness while trying to take care of everyday errands."
Del Toro added that he loves the freedom of indy movies, and if he could only pick one kind of movie - studio or indy films - to make the rest of his life, he would definitely stick with indies. "I don't want to compromise what the movie needs - not necessarily what I want, but what the film needs."
The next question asked of del Toro was his thoughts on CGI and special effects. He said, "I don't hate CGI, but I hate 'lazy CGI.' If you're doing CGI when you can do it live, then fuck you."
The director then went on to talk about the creatures you might see in one of his films (like "Pan's Labyrinth" or "Hellboy") and where the ideas and actual costumes come from. He happily explained, "We run a 'summer camp' on our sets. If you're a costumer or you do creature designs, bring me your portfolio. We always get two to three guys from cons like this who come to work on our productions."
He then added with a chuckle, "We torture them a lot."
Del Toro also wanted fans to know that if they are interested in design, there will be a book coming out for "Hellboy 2" which will include all the used and unused designs. As a matter of fact, one of the director's favorite designs was of a "giant three-headed ball-licking dog," but unfortunately, it didn't make it into the movie. At the con, he did promise to post design sketches of it on the internet this week in honor of an aspiring fifteen year old filmmaker who was in attendance.
The panel then concluded shortly after this, but before we sign off, here is one more quote from the humble (and entertaining!) director:
NYCC Audience Member: You're great and such a huge inspiration.
Del Toro: Thanks. Jenny Craig said the same thing.
Now discuss this story in CBR's TV/Film forum.