Hey folks, Harry here with a pair of reports from WonderCon up in San Francisco. Seems that there was an awful lot of fun to be had up there, and tons to see and hear. If what I hear is true, the happiest man at WonderCon was Paul Dini - but engagements will do that to a fool in love. Heh. Anyway - let's get into it...
I am sure you will get plenty of e-mails about today’s WonderCon events and I thought I would add my own experiences on the random chance that I might remember something that others forget to mention.
First on the agenda: The Cave. I’ve read very little about this movie and never thought it would be something I would be excited about. From the synopsis (and stupid taglines) it sounds like a cheesy B horror flick that won’t have any scares, takes itself too seriously, and is embarrassing to watch. Pretty much another Uwe Boll flick. Boy was I wrong, or at least cleverly duped by this trailer. Rather than try to explain what it looked like, I noticed Apple just put it up this weekend so I’ll let you watch it yourself and then if you are still interested you can read what Cole Hauser (the star) had to say about the film. Otherwise skip to the paragraph after next.
Personally, after seeing this on a large screen in a dark room with deafening speakers (best for sound scares) I was very much intrigued am looking forward to seeing it again. It has that Pitch Black feel to it: It is very dark and likes to hide it its monsters from the viewers, it uses “monster view” to maximize scares, it is not special effects ridden, and has no bankable stars to speak of (although Cole is in both movies). And while the two movies may seem too similar, I didn’t immediately think “rip off” after seeing this trailer. In fact it seemed very fresh and exciting at the time, but that’s probably due to the overall atmosphere of the room and the minimal expectations I had for the movie. Then again, that’s what makes movies like these so good. Watching the trailer online and with pre-conceived “rip off” idea probably isn’t the best way to be introduced to this flick. Oh well, too late for that, I’ll enjoy it at least. Then again, the lower expectations you have, the more likely the actual movie will blow you away, so knock yourselves out! Anyways, Cole was fascinating and easily bonded with the crowd. He said they built the second largest water tank for the film (behind Titanic’s), and that the monsters reactions were like “opening up a beehive”. You could tell he was very passionate about this movie. He evaded discussing what the monsters looked like and their origins but I think the trailer gives you an overall idea of what to expect. Moving on...
War of the Worlds
The hosts “premiered” the new Japanese trailer which had nothing we hadn’t seen before. Then they confirmed that tri-pods were used and that the invaders were not from Mars. The hosts also mentioned famous scenes and characters from the book (the steamboat in particular) and 1953 movie will show up in the film. Further more, they mentioned how intense the movie is (maybe too much for small kids) and how it relies on character development over effects shots. They want it evoke the same personal connection that the radio-broadcast did in 1938, presumably without the mass hysteria part. Finally, we were shown a new documentary which included several minutes of new footage, although none of it involved effects shots. It mostly focused on humanity banding together and suddenly being placed in the role as refugees. There were many shots of Tom leading Dakota around various locations, and one of him exploring the wreckage of a passenger airplane. Nothing too spectacular visually but emotional nonetheless.
This was definitely the most interesting and entertaining presentation of the day. Joss Whedon started off the presentation by announcing his run on Astonshing X-men will last another 12 issues and will wrap up with a “Giant Size” issue after that. Tragically, I’ve never seen Firefly (although I do own it... it’s a long story) so as I newcomer to this series I was deeply impressed. Joss, Nathan Fillion, and Adam Baldwin were absolutely hilarious and played off of each others jokes while Summer Glau sat there looking gorgeous. The clip shown was a full scene from the movie and involved the Serenity crew robbing a bank. The scene had a few short fights (including one shot where Adam’s character trips a guard, catches his feet in mid air, and pile drives him), some humorous moments involving guns and guards asking for bruises (to appear as if they fought back), and ended with a Reavers ship containing a rival psychic arriving which forces the crew to defend the people th ey just robbed. Joss mentioned that you will learn more about the Reavers in this movie and where they come from (apparently when you reach the edge of space you lose your mind). He also explained that his inspiration for the Reavers followed the Western theme of the fear of Indians. The main “villains” of the Old West were Apache Indians, and people were frightened of a group of savages who knew the terrain and would torture and mutilate anyone they captured. Of course he was talking about the Indian stereotype of the time and did not mean to insult anyone. He then went on to say that if the movie is successful he would love to do more movies/TV episodes but until then the future of the series is up in the air. He joked that if it is a success then he’s sure Fox will milk every type of media from it (soundtrack CDs, etc). At present there will be a 3 issue comic series that ties the end of the TV series with the movie, and each comic will have 3 variant covers created by different artists (his “dream team”). Next, he addressed the dismissal of the music composer and the replacement being David Newman (Galaxy Quest). He seemed really excited about this and even claimed that River’s new theme nearly brought him to tears. The only question he evaded was when confronted that one of the nine crew members was going to have a very limited role in the movie (“Next question” was the reply). Finally, Buffy/Angel/Spike movies were addressed but Joss claimed they were out of his hands but he was interested.
Kevin Smith was funny, witty, and crass as usual. Both he and Jason Mewes spent a few moments forcing the sign language interpreter to sign vulgar remarks. Kevin talked about the Passion of the Clerks and how Randal, Dante, Jay, and Silent Bob were the only returning characters. He wants Randal and Dante to be the headliners and doesn’t want any cameos from famous people because it will take people out of the movie. When asked what caused him to go back to them he mentioned that after spending so much time working on Clerks X, and the fact that Jersey girl flopped, he wanted to go back to his roots and make an indie film again with the same people he started with. He also mentioned that there will be a Mallrats X and Chasing Amy X within the next couple of years, and the cast of Chasing Amy will reunite at Vulgarthon to film a special feature for the DVD. I had to leave this presentation early to catch a sparsely attended lecture by Paul Dini, Mark Evanier, Stan Berk owitz, and other famous animation writers so I missed any other shocking revelations from Kevin and Jason. The animation panel gave some wonderful tips for aspiring writers, and then went on to defend the new Loonatics show by comparing the re-imagining idea to Batman Beyond, Tiny Toons, Baby Looney Toons, and Muppet Babies. The general consensus was they hate it when people judge a show before its even been written and they reminded us that this show will never replace any of the previous Looney Toons that we know and love.
I walked in late to catch the last part of Christian Bale’s discussion of Batman Begins. Luckily this included the phenomenal six minute preview of the film which everyone is talking about. The film definitely lives up to the “Begins” part of the title because Batman wasn’t even shown until the last minute. Here’s a recap of the preview:
Bruce and Rachel are playing around the manor and gardens when Bruce goes to hide behind a wall and falls through a wooden cover deep into a cave where he is attacked by bats. Rachel runs for help and Thomas Wayne comes to save the day. Thomas then explains to Bruce that the bats didn’t attack him out of anger but out of fear, and even those who cause fear are more often than not frightened as well. Next, we have the Wayne family watching an extravagant theatrical production until something scares Bruce and he begs his family to leave. As they leave they are confronted by a single man with a gun, and we see Thomas step in front of Martha only to be shot in the chest. Next, Martha screams and we see her pearl necklace broken and hear the scream silenced by a gunshot. We then flash forward the funeral where Alfred consoles young Bruce and a man tells Bruce that he will run the empire until Bruce is ready to take over. This leads directly into a conversation between Carm ine Falcon (Tom Wilkinson) and an adult Bruce in which Carmine tells Bruce that just because his family was shot doesn’t mean he understands the realities of the city. Carmine basically tells Bruce that if he ever wants to relate to common people he will have to go thousands of miles away where he will not be recognized as “the prince of Gotham”. The conversation blends directly into a shot of the snowcapped mountains seen in earlier previews, and it shows Bruce confronting Ra’s Al Ghul asking to be trained. Bruce says he wants to” learn to strike fear into those who use fear to prey upon others”. The next few shots have him brutally training with Ducard (Liam Neeson), and eventually triumphing in one session after being taunted by Ducard. At this point we see Ra’s telling Bruce that Gotham must be destroyed and that it does not deserve his pity to which Bruce replies that it is not beyond repair and that he will return to Gotham to take care of it. A montage of Bruce build ing the suit follows and then the preview goes into a series of quick shots: You hear a street thug talking to another about the appearance of a “Bat Man” which is similar to the opening in the Tim Burton movie. You see Batman flying through a window surrounded by real bats(!). You see Carmine pointing a gun at someone. You see Batman jumping down from a roof straight into the camera. You see Ducard sliding down an icy slope towards a cliff. You see Batman shoot a hook from a “gun” and riding it to the ceiling while holding someone (again, much like the first movie).You see very quick individual shots of Morgan Freeman, Katie Holmes, and Gary Oldman. You see the Wayne manor on fire. You see Batman apparently gliding through the air using a device in his cape. And finally you see the Scarecrow douse Batman with a liquid and then light him on fire. Batman runs towards the window, jumps out and falls a few stories completely engulfed in flames… and that’s the end.
It is obvious from the preview that “fear” is a predominant theme in the movie, which makes the inclusion of the Scarecrow make more sense. He also looks very homemade and gritty (like some guy who put a handmade mask over his head) as opposed to some over the top costumes found in the previous movies. One of the things that really stands out is the tone of this film. It does not feel like a comic book movie or even a batman movie, but more of movie about redemption. If the preview didn’t use the names Bruce, Wayne, Alfred, or Gotham then I swear you could play the first four minutes to an audience who wouldn’t be caught dead in a comic book movie and they would demand to see the entire film. This feels like a serious, character driven film which happens to have a caped crusader at the end of it, very much like Unbreakable. And hearing Christian Bale talk about it proves even more that they know what they are doing. Christian admitted that Batman and Superman are “Am erican Mythology” and they were going to treat it with the care they would an adaptation of a serious piece of literature. He emphasized the movie’s treatment of the psychology behind the characters (including the bit about Batman being the true personality and Bruce Wayne being the mask). He said during his analysis of the character that he decided Batman is capable of killing the criminals but doesn’t because of his fathers teachings. I get the feeling that the relationship with the parents plays heavily in this film, very much like Uncle Ben in the Spider-man films and the Kents in the Superman films/tv shows. But even with all the seriousness Christian promised that the fight scenes will blow you away and are the best to be put on film. They are very artistic (like Crouching Tiger and Equilibrium) but still grounded in reality. Considering the serious actors involved, the emphasis on human emotion, and the overall presentation of the film, I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie is a serious contender for Academy Awards next year: its that good. With a presentation like this, I knew it would be hard pressed to top it at WonderCon. Which leads us too…
Star Wars Episode III
And what a surprise, it was a let down. Now don’t get me wrong, the film still looks great. But the presentation was disappointing. They previewed the same trailer from the Incredibles, and then documentaries that can be found on Hyperspace and the Original Trilogy DVDs. There was absolutely nothing new. Although the documentaries did show a few things I hadn’t seen, I could tell others in the audience were severely disappointed. They also displayed previews of the new games coming out this spring which seemed pretty cool, but I found it sad that the Ep. 3 game had better footage than the movie preview. At least it actually showed the lightsaber battle between Anakin and Dooku (along with some awesome footwork which I assume was copied directly from the movie). The presentation felt like one big commercial to buy Star Wars merchandise (buy our games! pay for Hyperspace! Go to our conventions!). Again, the presentation of the movie wasn’t bad and I still have high hopes for the movie. But after all the luscious morsels we got from other movies during the day, I thought LucasArts could at least throw us a bone we hadn’t already picked clean weeks ago. One interesting bit of information we did get was the release of the official trailer will happen in March (but on what film?).
And that was WonderCon. Sorry my synopsis was a little long, but I figure giving you all the information and letting you sort out the juicy bits is better than shortening it and possibly depriving you of something really cool. Until next time, keep grappling those whombats.
Wow - thanks WolfBro! Great report. Here's another look at the festivities...
I was at WonderCon and was at all the panels - Hitchhiker's Guide, War of the Worlds, Serenity, (skipped Kevin Smith to eat), Fantastic Four, House of Wax, Batman Begins and Star Wars. The glory of the Batman Begins footage and Christian Bale left me shaking from the impact of it. This movie is going to be the Batman I've waited all my life for.
You've got the Batman Begins panel covered, but one last thing I wanted to mention -- Christian Bale said something that struck me as an interesting side not to Bill's Superman speech in Kill Bill. He said that as he sees the character, Bruce Wayne is the disguise -- Batman is who he really is.
But I did want to fill you in on more of the information from Rick Carter and Doug Chiang in the War of the Worlds panel. Rick Carter is the production designer and Doug Chiang is most likely the conceptual designer, which is what he was on Star Wars Episode I and II. I want to work in effects so naturally I'm a big fan of both.
Rick explained that when H.G. Wells wrote War of the Worlds the popular notion from a French astronomer was that there were canals on Mars, meaning civilization. We know so much about the planet now that it would be a leap of faith to say that the invaders with their war machines originated on Mars. Rick and Doug also described this film as an intensely realistic movie, and said that Spielberg wanted to give us the feel that we were living through it (not their exact words - I'm doing this from memory, and I took in a lot yesterday).
They couldn't say much about the Wells' tripods because Spielberg wants to save the surprise and we didn't see them in the footage, but they did show a few things from the film:
*A quick shot of red weed snaking over a country farm *a city on fire at the end of a long freeway packed with cars *A lighted ship tipping over (Thunder Child?)
At the start of the panel they showed a Japanese trailer that was completely different from the Superbowl trailer. The longer footage they showed had Cruise and Spielberg talking about the movie intercut with film of them shooting on location. I remember Cruise saying "We've been invaded full on." Spielberg said that the film will show Americans becoming refugees and all of us being forced to unite since the threat doesn't come from each other, it comes from ... (and here he pointed to the sky) ... up there. The footage that followed made this film seem real for the first time. I wish they would have shown it a second time as I had a sense as I was watching it that there was so much detail I was missing.
If my day in the big room at WonderCon told me anything, it's that this is going to be an incredible year for film.
One last thing, Elisha Cuthbert is incredibly beautiful in person, and Peter Mayhew is incredibly tall.