So, San Diego Comic-Con has closed its doors for another year. For those of you who only know “Comic-Con” as something The Big Bang Theory makes jokes about from time to time, it is essentially a gathering of fans, artists, exorbitantly-priced merchandise and gigantic film corporations that happens annually in San Diego Convention Center. As more and more comic properties have been getting adapted into films and television series, more and more studios have started to send down actors, writers and exclusive clips and trailers for the excited crowds willing to sweat it out in Hall H for the better part of four days.
However, this year there’s been an unexpected absence! Marvel Studios, creators of the Avengers films and every franchise attached to them, barely attended this year: most exciting thing we got from them was a lip-synching war between the casts of Agent Carter and Agents of SHIELD. Presumably Disney didn’t want them diverting attention from their other geek blockbuster franchise poised to make all of the money in the world. But more on that later.
So with Marvel out of the picture, the time was ripe for both DC Comics (owned by Warner Brothers) and 20th Century Fox (owners of the X-Men and Fantastic Four film rights) to show us the progress they’ve made on their big tangled webs of interconnected superhero movies. DC began by unveiling a new trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and its first trailer for Suicide Squad. Their unique selling point seems to be that their movies will be darker and more grounded than Marvel Studios’ universe of snarky quips and dancing trees.
Batman v Superman, therefore, examines consequences. Superman is now feared and distrusted by the government and the public after that one time he literally flattened a city in Man of Steel, which has also placed him in the crosshairs of Ben Affleck’s Batman. With Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor stirring things up in the background, the time looks ripe for epic battles and impassioned monologues on the human condition. Some of the particularly exciting moments were the action-packed battle between the two heroes on a rainy night (of course) and our first glimpse at Wonder Woman casually blocking bullets with her wrists.
Meanwhile, Suicide Squad takes things even darker by casting supervillains as its leads for a battle of “bad versus evil”, as described by its director David Ayer. Essentially, the premise is that the government forces a team of prisoners to become “Task Force X”: a squad which can do the dirty jobs America needs doing, and who can be safely written off if captured or killed (and blown up remotely if they disobey). Though the cast includes a roster as diverse as Killer Croc, the Enchantress and Captain Boomerang, focus seems to be on Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn (who looks promising) and Will Smith’s Deadshot. The ending shot was Jared Leto’s Joker torturing someone while delivering his best Heath Ledger impression into the camera. He is still, appropriately, a wild card – commentators have been split on his appearance and voice so far – but perhaps we shouldn’t count out the Oscar-winning actor just yet.
DC also gave us our first look at Legends of Tomorrow – an Avengers-style teamup series using heroes from their TV shows – and announced an animated movie based on the classic Batman story The Killing Joke.
Not to be outdone, Fox showed off the presumably-final trailer for its Fantastic Four reboot, featuring the team heading to another world, gaining superpowers and having to fight off the alien invader who follows them home. They seem to be playing up the science-fiction aspect of the franchise, as well as appealing to young adults by using a noticeably younger cast. Alongside this, Fox debuted the first trailer for X-Men Apocalypse, featuring Sophie Turner as a young Jean Grey, Biblical levels of carnage in a broken future and a good look at Apocalypse himself, the first mutant (who’s exactly as kind and gentle as his name implies). Hugh Jackman also hinted at the possibility of a movie based on graphic novel Old Man Logan, casually dropping the title and adding “make of that what you will”.
However, their biggest hit was the trailer for Deadpool; in fact, it was the only trailer where fans cheered for an encore immediately afterwards. Deadpool, too, is different to the vast majority of superhero movies: the titular hero (played here by Ryan Reynolds) is a borderline-villainous assassin who also happens to know he’s a fictional character, with a penchant for wacky hijinks and brutal murder. Thus far, the movie looks like an incredibly faithful adaptation of the source material, with an 18-rating to reflect that. If reactions to the trailer are any indication, the movie should be particularly successful when it’s released.
The only thing that might have topped it was the panel for that beloved blockbuster franchise of Disney’s I mentioned earlier. Star Wars. The Force Awakens arrives in just six months, so the House of Mouse tried to hype things up by showing off behind-the-scenes footage with a particular emphasis on practical effects – like those used in the original trilogy – over CGI. This culminated in a long-necked alien puppet called Baba Jo doing a lap of the Hall to much applause. A new villain called General Hux, played by Domhnall Gleeson, was revealed, before JJ Abrams gave everyone a free lightsaber and led them to a secret live orchestra playing music from the series as the actors came out. Hey, Disney has style.
As for the best of the rest – the first trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II showed an army of rebel soldiers led by Katniss, dressed in red armour, preparing to dole out some Capitol punishment. Since it was the series’ last panel, there were also emotional moments, with Jennifer Lawrence saying “I don’t think I’ll ever say goodbye. Katniss is a part of me.”
We also got a look at Legendary Pictures’ Warcraft, a war story between impressively-rendered orcs and humans based on the World of Warcraft games. Movies based on video-games haven’t had the best history, but the panel got a warm reception. Perhaps if it goes well, video-games could be adapted into comics at the same rate superhero comics are.
On the TV front, we got a trailer for The Walking Dead, hinting that Rick may have finally snapped and suggesting what might await the survivors in Alexandria, while its companion series Fear The Walking Dead showed off the end of the world that the series skipped over. Our very own BBC showed a trailer for the next series of Doctor Who, featuring Daleks, space Vikings, Missy and the Doctor rocking out on an electric guitar. We got a glimpse of Heroes: Reborn, the revival of NBC’s superhero series. There also was the panel for SuperMansion, where Bryan Cranston took the opportunity to insult someone’s mother.
And that was everything! Mostly. Probably. It seems to be a busy year for the geekier side of movies: now we just have to see if all these movies and shows are going to live up to the hype they’ve generated. Here’s hoping.