This weekend, comic and movie fans descended upon San Francisco's Moscone Center as Wondercon, the Bay Area's little brother of San Diego monster Comic Con, got under way for three days of superheroes, hype and hits-in-the-making (oh, and people in costume like this guy at right. See more photos here).
The most-anticipated award definitely went to Kick-Ass, the raunchy, violent, based-on-a-comic flick starring Nic Cage as Big Daddy, Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl, Aaron Johnson as Kick-Ass, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Red Mist. The panel also included Clark Duke as Kick-Ass's BFF, the comic's creator and the screenwriter. They didn't show much more than what you've probably already seen in the green and red-band trailers, which was unfortunate--the audience clearly wanted more.
But though it had been a long day for the panelists, they all seemed in good spirits.
"I'm Aaron's life coach, actually, I focus on health and nutrition," joked Duke, proving throughout the discussion to be as funny offscreen as on in both this movie and Hot Tub Time Machine. Aaron mumbled into the mic. "Anyone get that?" Duke asked the crowd.
"Doesn't f***ing matter," Johnson said. "I didn't even get a name card! I'll be Nic Cage," he said, reaching toward his name card. Cage paused, leaned toward the mic, and then sat back, mouthing "nevermind" as the audience laughed.
On the furor developing over how Moretz's young character is portrayed as a cursing killing machine, Jane Goldman, writer: "I'm always seeing women and children portrayed as victims, and she's not. I think it's actually less offensive. She's tough."
Cage (who's next to impossible to tell when he's being serious, or if it's his really dry sense of humor--and who unfortunately along the way gave away a huge spoiler that had some in the audience groaning "I didn't know that!" that I won't reveal here): "I have the mind of a student. I can't always sing the songs I want; they're too easy, so I have to sing those I don't know. You know, shooting a 12-year-old in the chest made me really uncomfortable, so I figured I'd better do it."
Moretz was asked what her parents felt about the edgy role. "My mom read the script first, and she thought it was awesome, different than what most kids play."
Cage was battling laryngitis thanks to allergies caused when shooting in Lousiana. "If I sound like an old black blues singer, that's why," he growled, sparking laughter. He told the crowd he based Big Daddy's style and speaking manner on Adam West's Batman. "I like to make bad sounds good. The coolest thing is that Big Daddy had a belt just like Batman in the '60s and I thought Big Daddy should talk like that. I dated a girl years ago; her dad was a cop with the glasses and mustache--I always thought he was weird. So I thought Big Daddy would be that guy."
Mintz-Plasse, who originally auditioned for the lead role ("[director] Matthew Vaughn hated it immediately," he admitted), on Red Mist's look: "They were going for David Bowie. I thought it was more Rihanna, really. I got Adam Lambert once but I refused to agree with that! Actually though, this script was funny, violent, everything I wanted to see in a movie."
Someone from the audience asked each cast member if they could be any superhero, what would they be? Cage: "I'd be the Silver Surfer so I could fly through the universe and beat up Superman." Mintz-Plasse: "I'd be Galactus, so the Silver Surfer could feed me planets." Moretz: "Aaron would be Hit-Girl. He likes purple Spandex!" Johnson: "Oh, sh**!" Duke: "Aaron and I would be the Wonder Twins." [They fistbumped as the audience laughed.]
Ultimately, Cage seemed honestly enthusiastic when it comes to making movies out of comics. "The thing about it is, you can create a character from scratch. Comics are like the modern mythology of our time, like our Greek myth. They give us power. You know, it's like the cop who wears a Batman t-shirt underneath his uniform because it gives him the strength to do what he does. Comics are beautiful. They're here to stay."
A sentiment that was perfectly okay with the 4,000 people sitting before him.
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Before the Kick-Ass presentation, which had way too many audience questions and not enough preview of the movie, the ballroom got a chance to see some trailers they might not have, including Russell Crowe's Robin Hood, Predators (which got HUGE applause and cheers, as did Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), and Eclipse, which did not. Cries of "Twi-Light-Sucks!" and booing resonated throughout, and I felt sorry for some of the tween girls in the crowd who couldn't have heard a line of dialogue if they'd tried. Clearly the San Francisco comic set doesn't care much for sparkly vampires and Kristen Stewart.
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Unnanounced on the bill was a surprise appearance by director Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Dark Knight), on hand to present a bit of his extra-mysterious Inception, which was a mammoth effort involving shoots in six different countries. If you haven't already seen this trailer, watch it and see if you can deduce any of the plot--I couldn't, and the clips they showed were hardly more revealing.
Leo DiCaprio stars as what is called the "lead extractor," and apparently works as a sort of psychic security guard who can create scenarios in people's dreams. It's next to impossible to know what's going on, but Nolan described it as a heist pic, and DiCaprio is either a good guy helping people protect their subconscious, or a bad guy who teams up with other psychic folks trying to steal things from people through their dreams. It also involves lots of explosions, scenes of people racing downslope on skis, underwater shots of unconscious people, and folks tied together and spinnning in midair suspended by nothing. It's heady, weird, and completely engrossing -- at least for the five or so minutes we got to see that finished with the tagline, "Your mind is the scene of the crime."
Nolan, whose influences include Kubrick and Ridley Scott ("There's a bit of Blade Runner in everything I do"), says he places a lot of emphasis on practical effects as well as the necessary CG. "I use the CG where it's appropriate, but I like to have as much as possible based in real in-camera shots. I was fascinated by 2001; I wanted to work on sets that would rotate and suspend."
On the story: "I've always been fascinated with dreams, the idea that what your mind is doing is creating and perceiving its own world at the same time. There's tremendous creative protential there. We addressed this through a heist film; they're a group of individuals who can create a consciousness for people, and it's really also a heist and action film on a grand scale."