Stars, sneak peeks thrill fans at comic confab

Category: 300 News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: July 23, 2006 | Publication: Hollywood Reporter | Author: Borys Kit
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SAN DIEGO (Hollywood Reporter) - The 2006 San Diego Comic-Con International, the nation's largest comic book convention, again proved to Hollywood that there is no better place to appeal to pop culture's smart set -- and even do a little damage control.

With an estimated attendance of more than 100,000, the event at the San Diego Convention Center, which ran from Thursday through Sunday, overflowed with aficionados who provided instantaneous feedback both positive and negative.

Even as some studios have excelled at wooing the crowd while others try to catch up, the Con, as it is known, continues to evolve into a broader cultural event, filled with exclusive movie sneak peeks, panels with popular filmmakers, industry parties and an exhibit floor brimming with the latest movie marketing gimmicks.

One of the biggest news announcements out of the Con was
Bryan Singer's confirmation of his talks with Warner Bros. Pictures about a 2009 sequel to "Superman Returns." Despite a perceived shortfall at the box office, particularly when compared with "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," and criticisms from the superhero fan base, the "Superman" director was given a hero's welcome Friday. Singer elicited even more cheers when he announced that he is in negotiations to direct the sequel.

Whether there would even be a sequel has been in question because the new "Superman" movie, with a budget in the $250 million range, hasn't delivered a resounding domestic box office bang. Sales to date stand at about $178 million; the studio expects it to hit $200 million.

"I haven't concluded a deal to do it yet, which is always tricky, but my intention is to do it, and my intention is to do it for 2009," Singer said. "Where this one introduced the characters . . . the next one will enable me to get all 'Wrath of Khan' on it," he added, referencing the 1982 "Star Trek" movie that is regarded as the critical savior of that franchise.

Singer took questions from the audience, some of whom took him to task for his creative choices in "Superman." Some fans complained about the lack of action scenes; others, that the movie is too much of an homage to the classic 1978
Richard Donner film; and still others knocked the movie's emphasis on the love story between Lois Lane and Clark Kent. One woman pointedly asked Singer whether he thought that having Superman father an illegitimate child compromised the hero's character.

"Love in the modern world takes many forms," he said. "There are many kinds of families that exist now, and sometimes pregnancies occur unintentionally, and it's a choice to have a child."

Singer did suggest some blame goes to Warners marketing for the movie's weaker-than-expected box office, saying cryptically, "A lot of people did some terrific work . . . (but) not everyone."

As for marketing directly to the Comic-Con crowd, studios have discovered that an appearance at the convention is best served with new or exclusive material.

Warners wowed more than 6,500 fans when it unveiled for the first time footage of its adaptation of Frank Miller's "300" comic book, which tells of an epic battle set in ancient Greece. After the "exclusively-made-for-the-Con" trailer was shown, the room demanded to see it again. It was so well received that it was shown again after the panel, which included Miller, director Zack Snyder and stars
Gerard Butler and
David Wenham.

Most studios used the tack of exclusive trailers and footage mixed with a star appearance to sate the fans' appetite for the new while dazzling with a bit of Hollywood glamour.

Audience members screamed themselves hoarse for Sony Pictures' "Spider-Man 3" presentation, which featured cast members
Tobey Maguire,
Topher Grace, Thomas Hayden Church,
Bryce Dallas Howard and
Kirsten Dunst and director
Sam Raimi in a self-deprecating mood -- as well as footage, some of it raw, from the movie.

Sony also unveiled the trailer for "Ghost Rider," its adaptation of a Marvel Comics anti-hero, and brought out director Mark Steven Johnson, and stars
Nicolas Cage and
Eva Mendes. Cage, who exuded the air of a spaced-out Elvis rocker, attracted a lot of kids during the Q&A, and Mendes, who displayed a flirtatious personality, proved to be more than just a pretty fixture, as were many of the other actresses during their presentations.

New Line Cinema has proven itself adept at seducing the Comic-Con attendees, and this year was no exception. Its "Snakes on a Plane" presentation is likely to be talked about for years, what with a snake handler freaking out the audience by bringing out larger and larger live snakes, culminating with a 250-pound, 19-foot-long anaconda, and an appearance by
Samuel L. Jackson, who had the audience eating out of his hand. The studio also showed 10 minutes of the movie, opting to appeal to fans since the studio decided last week not to screen the movie for critics.

The Weinstein Co. offered a high-octane presentation for the
Quentin Tarantino-
Robert Rodriguez collaboration "Grindhouse." Tarantino revealed that
Kurt Russell has been cast in his portion of the movie, and that contrary to earlier reports, the two movies each director is filming will not be 60 minutes each but two full-length films in one package. "Two for the price of $10," Tarantino said.

Universal Pictures presented a conversation between friends
Guillermo del Toro and
Alfonso Cuaron, director of Universal Pictures' "Children of Men." Universal chief Ron Meyer, a first-time attendee, watched from the front row of the VIP section. Since the movie had been under the radar, the footage of the futuristic thriller left the audience buzzing.

Paramount impressed with its work-in-progress presentation of the fantasy movie "Stardust," based on the Neil Gaiman story, and 20th Century Fox introduced footage of its dragon tale "Eragon."

While Walt Disney Studios generated enthusiasm with a first look at the third "Pirates" movie, a presentation about filming the trilogy was deemed too tech heavy by some, skewing toward a "making-of" featurette. The studio didn't promote its upcoming 3-D rerelease of "
Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas," though many conventiongoers were walking the floor in outfits inspired by Burton's creations.