After hearing the horror stories about traffic on the I-5, I decided to head down early from L.A. for Day 2 of Comic-Con. O.k., 2 a.m. might have been a little bit too early. Needless to say, my parking spot was great. But, even at 4 a.m., never underestimate the throngs of Con goers already in the area willing to sit, sleep and squat for a spot in line for Hall H, where the movie studios were set to show off some of '09's most eagerly anticipated comic book flicks, including Watchmen, The Wolfman and Frank Miller/Will Eisner's The Spirit (coming to theaters on Christmas day).
By 8 a.m., the line was hudreds deep, and various superheroes were already on the grass (more pics of superheroes, celebs and other Comic-Con sights in our extensive Photo Gallery). By 10 a.m., make that thousands. By 10:30 a.m., good luck grabbing a seat for the presentation scheduled at noon.
Here's a rundown of all of Friday's big movie panels. First up, the crowd went bonkers for Warner Bros.' Watchmen, based on what many consider to be the greatest graphic novel ever publihed. 300 director Zack Snyder and Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons arrived onstage with an entourage of well-received "heroes": Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jackie Earle Haley and Patrick Wilson.
Some fantastic footage was shown that's basically an extended version of the trailer that went out last week with The Dark Knight. For someone like me who was probably the only one in the audience who hadn't read the source material, it was cool to find out a little more on each of the characters, explicitly shown in the footage. The clip, as Snyder aptly described, brought out the "non-PG" aspects of the film, with the destruction of Vietnam, Billy Crudup's transformation into Doctor Manhattan, and other scenes being projected in full bloody, gory and--true to Snyder's work in 300--stylized detail.
Speaking of bloody, the next up on stage was Universal's The Wolfman, which included the film's creature creator/legend Rick Baker (American Werewolf in London and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and the movie's stars, the fetching Emily Blunt and fan favorite Benicio del Toro.
As with the Watchmen footage, the studio showed an exclusive Wolfman clip twice. I didn't really get it too much the first time. It's basically just the Wolfman story told straight, about a late 19th century beast/man who is ravaging the countryside, and can only be killed by "silver bullets." An old townsman narrates the opening of the clip, which is followed by footage of the hunt, and a reunion between estranged son del Toro and A-list papa Anthony Hopkins. There are partial shots of Benicio in character as the beast (nothing too revealing), and a couple more shots of him from the morning after, face bloodied and clothes in tatters. Most gruesome are visuals at the beginning of the clip of a man literally bitten in half.
The clip also seemed to leave Comic-Con viewers a little wary. While the CGI-enhanced visuals of the previous Watchmen panel were a nihilistic hit, The Wolfman, with its unshowy production values, simplistic narrative, and hardly a CGI image in sight, drew somewhat muted applause. That is, until Baker pointed out, before the second showing, that this is intended to be an "old-fashioned, gothic horror film." That being the purpose, this may still work, and Del Toro is always someone to watch.
The last huge movie presention of the afternoon could have been the most highly anticipated (although it's a close call with Watchmen). Lionsgate's The Spirit arrives with a lot of fanfare...it's directed by 300 / Dark Knight comic book creator Frank Miller (who co-directed Sin City)...it's based on comic book legend Will Eisner's original Spirit series...and it stars Samuel L. Jackson as colorful villain The Octopus.
Several sequences from the film were shown, including a clip with Eva Mendes underwater, bullets grazing her form-fitting outfit (Miller added that the scene actually wasn't filmed in water at all); another clip featured Gabriel Macht as superhero The Spirit, flirting a la screwball comedy style with Sarah Paulson's Dr. Ellan Dolan; and, in addition to the trailer, a final showdown scene between The Octopus and The Spirit, with the villain using an oversized wrench and an actual toilet as his weapons of choice. Overall, if you liked Sin City, this looks to be more of the same, with some classic '40s comic book style elements and more current techniques and themes thrown in for measure.
One other note, for Comic-Con fans and buzz forecasters...of the studios' trailer presentations, the big hits by far (at least measured by fan applause) were Tropic Thunder, Pineapple Express, Quantum of Solace, Terminator: Salvation, and once more, keep an eye on Watchmen, a likely hit...and another unconventional one a la The Dark Knight. Here's to the smart comic book movies.
Quotes from Day 2:
"Who's your favorite Watchmen?" - To Zack Snyder, from a fan dressed up as The Dark Knight
"Good question, Batman...I like the girls best." - Zack Snyder
"Having a cigar in my mouth...it really helped get me into the mood to kill people." - Jeffrey Dean Morgan, on what he used to prepare for his role in Watchmen
"He's a big p***y." - Rick Baker, on what it's like to work with Benicio del Toro
"No, that's 'teddy bear.'" - Benicio del Toro
Samuel L. Jackson, on the toy versions of himself -
Not Nick Fury, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (from Iron Man)?
"Nick doesn't have one yet. When I was a kid, Nick was a white guy. Now, he's finally evolved into something that makes sense to him: a black man."