Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
There was no way for me to make it to Comic-Con this year, and it sounds like a grand time was had by all. The next best thing for me has been reading all the great coverage sent in by our regulars and by the rest of you guys. Beaks, in particular, always makes me laugh, and these reports make it sound like Oscar Wilde was trotting around the dealer’s floor in full dandy garb. Check this out...
There were, as expected, a few goofs in my Comic Con article yesterday. Fortunately, I’ll be able to rectify one of them today. You see, there was one other “Winner” at the Convention…
Universal – For some reason, I doubted the intensity of FIREFLY’s fan following even as the studio did the unlikely and greenlit a feature film based on a show cancelled after one season (as we all know, it took STAR TREK ten years to wrangle that honor). Stupidly, I remained unconvinced as Joss Whedon was introduced to the second biggest ovation of the Con. Stubbornly, I chalked up the wild cheering throughout the SERENITY trailer to the fans still being jazzed over sitting in the same room as the beloved creator of BUFFY.
Then, Whedon announced that he had nine more “things” to show the fans.
I was certain that I wouldn’t see a more Beatles-esque reception than that accorded David Wenham and Billy Boyd during the New Line presentation. I couldn’t have been more wrong had I walked the Convention floor dressed as Garth Ancier. As the crew of the Serenity strode out onto the stage, the faithful gathered in Ballroom Twenty knocked the decibel level up several deafening notches. This was *the* entrance of the Convention. Nearly the entire room leapt to its feet (I qualify that only because I remained seated to take notes). As the cheering continued unabated, I glanced back to see a female fan with tears streaming down her face. This kind of frenzied affection can’t be faked. And if such genuine enthusiasm can be communicated to a currently oblivious general public between now and April 22nd, 2005, this initial cinematic voyage of SERENITY might just spawn a sequel or two (one of the actors dropped a “trilogy” hint).
Judging from the exclusive Convention teaser cut together by Universal, I must confess to still not understanding what elevates this show above the visually similar likes of BABYLON 5 or FARSCAPE. I tried watching FIREFLY during its single-season run, and while I appreciated the idea of reviving the televised western genre in outer space, the show’s charms eluded me. (Note to those ready to tear me a new one in talk back: I’ve rededicated myself to finally watching the complete series on DVD.)
Personal misgivings aside, the thought of Joss Whedon being able to train most of his energies on a single film is encouraging. Though fans would love for him to have several shows running concurrently, quality control is key, and we’ve not yet seen what the guy can do unburdened by the rigors of keeping numerous shows up to his above-average standards. Judging from his pained reaction to every BUFFY or ANGEL question lobbed his way from the Whedon-centric crowd, it’s pretty obvious that the continuing adventures of the FIREFLY universe is what really turns him on.
It’s a shame that Hercules the Strong wasn’t present at the Con, as there would’ve been no one more equipped to explain in complete, excruciating detail why the footage shown to us blasted the roof off the ballroom (there are descriptions of the footage floating all over the net, and if you’re a FIREFLY devotee, I’m sure you’ve hunted one or two down by now). There were also all sorts of little keywords that bore a significance that largely eluded me (e.g., the mere mention that “Reavers” will be turning up in SERENITY, and potentially *seen*, particularly set the crowd off like April Wine taking a county fair stage.) You were missed, Herc.
Still, this neophyte is sold. I’ll be giving the complete run of FIREFLY another spin in anticipation of SERENITY based solely on this impressive presentation. Thanks to talk backer The Prankster for reminding me how brilliantly this went over.
New Line – It’s been a comedown year for the Robertson Blvd. kids since February, with the studio releasing such ungeeky fare as LAWS OF ATTRACTION (miss) and THE NOTEBOOK (a palpable hit even if it gave me hives). But few know how to do Comic Con like New Line, and I’ve got to give them a lil’ dap for using this genre gathering as an unlikely springboard through which to amplify the HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE buzz. That the red-band trailer elicited big laughs from an impatient crowd waiting for the RETURN OF THE KING: EE panel foretells good things for the stoner comedy.
Wisely, LORD OF THE RINGS batted clean-up, bookending glimpses of H&K and CELLULAR (which continues to look eminently forgettable, though I’m hoping the trailer is just poorly cut-together, and that madman David Ellis will deliver a no-frills thrill ride) with David Goyer’s BLADE: TRINITY, which kicked things off energetically enough. The two “never before seen” sequences offered up were actually seen by me back in February, but they’re a lot further along in the post-production process now. The better of the two was the first scene, a cold-steel how-do-you-do efficiently passed along from Jessica Biel’s character, Abigail Whistler, to a gang of vampire punks. Biel’s always had an assertive onscreen presence, but she’s never had an opportunity to develop it into something more indelible. In Abigail, however, she’s finally found a character that plays to her innate strengths, and, man… this girl’s got the kind of muscular swagger that made Sigourney Weaver a movie star. Frighteningly toned *down* from her appearance in this film, Biel’s still plenty sinewy, and was easily the most gorgeous woman I saw at the Con (remember that Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson and Matt Stone were also in attendance). The series might still be named for Wesley Snipes’s vampire slayer, but this installment looks like it belongs to Biel.
It’s inevitable that BLADE TRINITY wouldn’t be able to contend with the buzz generated by its A-list comic brethren (e.g. BATMAN BEGINS and THE FANTASTIC FOUR), but, in talking with people around the Con, the indifference expressed toward this film was troubling. Granted, December 10th is a long way off, and New Line has but only begun to market; still, the film has got to find a way to set itself apart (and get serious traction against OCEAN’S TWELVE and the wire-fu epic THE HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS). Sell Biel. If this series is to continue, it’s going to be due to her appeal.
Predictably, the RETURN OF THE KING EE panel was a massive slam dunk. Boyd and Wenham entered to female squeals, and couldn’t be asked a single question without having to wait for the shrieking hubbub to die down. There was a healthy bit of footage shown – most notably, the long awaited last stand of Saruman. That was nifty, but what really got me giddy was the brief shot of the Mouth of Sauron holding up Frodo’s mithril outside the gates of Mordor, an addition that will make “For Frodo” a heartbreaking moment of defiance in the face of certain defeat. There was also an extended bit depicting Gandalf facing down the Nazgul during the Battle of Pelennor Field that was pretty hair-raising. And what about that avalanche of skulls?
I know I’ve said that TEAM AMERICA and THE INCREDIBLES are my two most anticipated films for the rest of 2004, but the more I think about it, RETURN OF THE KING EE, with its fifty minutes of additional footage, is right there with them.
Sony – They’ve got SPIDER-MAN 2. All they had to do was show up, trot out Sarah Michelle Gellar in front of 7,000 Buffy fans, and call it a day, which they mostly did. RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE looks awful, but so did the first one, and I ended up… tolerating it. I’ll withhold judgment.
(Again, there’s a SMG interview on the way!)
Lucasfilm – A massive missed opportunity. Or not. Actually, I’m beginning to believe that Lucasfilm is no longer interested in expanding (or winning back) their once gargantuan fan base, which is fine, but only the shrill legion of apologists sure to populate the below talk back could’ve been happy with the endless two hour corporate pep rally that concluded with a title announcement notable for its cheers of relief rather than surprise.
Steve Sansweet, Head of Fan Relations (or the buffer between George and people with whom he’d prefer to not interact), set the grating, QVC-like tone by announcing that this year was a “Perfect Storm” of product convergence. Not since Rick McCallum boasted of ATTACK OF THE CLONES’s f/x that “We didn’t want to just push the envelope, we wanted to lick it” has a Lucas underling so offended my analogic sensibilities. Thus, with all the dead-behind-the-eyes gusto of a television weatherman, Sansweet dazzled us with his forecast, starting with the four-disc STAR WARS DVDs. Jim Ward provided the audience with the details, repeatedly, and unenthusiastically, assuring us, “It rocks.” (“Excuse me, stewardess. I speak geek.”) Though I will not be buying this set thanks to several needless (and confirmed) alterations that have been made to the already tarnished films I grew up with, I will allow that the 150 minute documentary, ninety minutes of which will premiere on Bravo a week earlier, looks awfully spiffy. Promised interviews with James Cameron, Ridley Scott, and Peter Jackson on how the original trilogy influenced their work and allegedly unseen footage unearthed from deep with the Lucasfilm vaults sound terrific, while the segments shown, particularly the Kurt Russell and William Katt screen test which ran concurrently with Brian De Palma’s CARRIE auditions, indicate that it’s all been compiled in the typically smooth Laurent Bouzereau fashion. I look forward to watching this sometime soon on Frosty Skywalker’s or Moriarty’s obnoxiously tricked-out entertainment systems. (Mori still can’t reasonably explain to me why his television needs a blower.)
The following interview with Carrie Fisher was way too brief (she’s still blessed with a wicked wit), and could’ve easily been extended at the expense of the video game promos, one of which had nothing to do with STAR WARS. (Though the one that allows you to kill Ewoks, and the audience’s bloodthirsty roar upon the revealing of this, makes me think a EWOK POACHIN’ game would be a profitable item. You win when you hunt them into extinction, return to your home planet seriously shitfaced, and bludgeon your wife and children with the hilt of a lightsaber you souvenired off a dead Jedi in the Clone Wars. Game developers: call me!)
Finally, there was the Q&A with McCallum and Hayden Christensen, which only threatened to get ugly once when a disgruntled fan asked if Jar Jar, “the Jamaican jerk who ruined the whole series” (his words, not mine), would be killed in REVENGE OF THE SITH. Other than that, the only info that quickened pulses was the behind-the-scenes shot of Hayden donning the Darth Vader mask, and Rick and Hayden repeating the claim about the Anakin/Obi-Wan duel being one of the longest one-on-one fights in film history (outlasting, one assumes, Gregory Peck v. Charlton Heston in THE BIG COUNTRY and Roddy Piper v. Keith David in THEY LIVE). Judging from what was shown, it does look like a pretty vicious (for STAR WARS) brawl.
Still, for a two hour presentation that had folks buzzing for weeks in advance, the lack of substance was disappointing. An hour would’ve sufficed.
Warner Bros. – It’s not that BATMAN BEGINS needs the extra promotion – the fans are sold on the talent and talk of respecting the source material alone – but couldn’t WB have mustered up something a tad more substantial than a half-hearted videotaped greeting from Chris Nolan and a distracted/annoyed Christian Bale? David Goyer did his best to allay the geeks’ anxiety over what they must believe is an inevitable intrusion by a studio known for its fumbling of D.C. properties, but the prevailing sentiment, voiced straight to the panel, was one of “I’ll believe it when I see it on the screen”. I know I’m thrilled to hear Goyer say that they’ve been left alone on this project, but I won’t begrudge fandom their suspiciousness. Just a sliver of footage, like what Whedon showed for SERENITY, would’ve likely done the trick.
(I have an interview with Goyer on the way, so we’ll talk more about BATMAN BEGINS then.)
CONSTANTINE was the other big title on the docket, and I’ll give the studio credit for unveiling an eighteen minute collage of scenes that actually made this appear somewhat worth seeing. I’ve never touched a HELLBLAZER comic in my life (I wish I had more time to read comics, guys, but my time is dominated by writing, movies and conventional book readin’), so I can’t say whether they’ve nailed its mood, but what I saw had an overwhelming sense of irrevocable doom that reminded me of ANGEL HEART. Philippe Rousselot’s cinematography has the muted green tint of Bill Pope’s MATRIX work mixed with a drab red that gives Francis Lawrence’s world an overriding ominousness. The medley concluded with a rousing gun fight scored to Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” that, while appropriate, does recall the ending to a certain Michael Mann flick.
Keanu Reeves, Francis Lawrence and Djimon Honsou participated in a Q&A, and, as expected, damn near every question went to Neo. It all went off without too much of a hitch; although, Keanu did almost find himself on the bad side of fandom when he boasted that they had a great screenwriter working on CONSTANTINE: Akiva Goldsman.
WB also debuted the trailer for Peter Hyams’s adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s A SOUND OF THUNDER. It was nice to see Mr. Bradbury introduce the clip, but we now have visual proof as to why this has been delayed.
20th Century Fox
So, the action in AVP looks great, but the characters are resoundingly one-dimensional. It isn’t possible that some pseudonym-ed internet critic predicted this earlier in the year, is it?
As I mentioned yesterday, I had to miss this presentation, but Fox still lands in the “Loser” category for generating the least buzz of any studio in attendance. No one with whom I discussed this panel had much to say about it, so perhaps it’s a triumph that AVP remains a lukewarm must-see for its key demographic than an avoid-at-all-costs like, say, CATWOMAN. Meanwhile, who knows what to think of THE FANTASTIC FOUR? Harry liked the since-revised Mark Frost draft more than I did, but I love three-fourths of the casting (still unsure about Alba). I did happen to spot Michael Chiklis and Ioan Gruffudd hanging out in the press room, and they had the casual interaction of old friends, which is, of course, key to this film’s success. I wish director Tim Story the best of luck.
Be on the lookout for those forthcoming interviews, and also stay tuned for reviews of OPEN WATER, BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS, SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW and so much more.
Beaks got his terms wrong. My television does not need a “blower.” It needs a “fluffer,” and that’s only when he’s over. He’s adorable.