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Matt Patches

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Patches is a pop culture writer and reporter regularly waxing poetic on the web, TV, and radio. He's lost much of his life to the "best" vs. "favorite" argument.

The Winners and Losers of Comic-Con 2013

With the conclusion of Saturday night’s festivities, the film side of Comic-Con 2013 has come to a close. As comic book movie geeks pack up their schwag bags, deconstruct their cosplay outfits, and finally gorge on something other than GORP, we take a look back at the highlights of the show. Which moments actually had our nerd hearts racing?

THE WINNERS:

5. The Army of “X-Men: Days of Future Past” Arrives

Half the fun of Comic-Con is seeing who will walk out from behind the curtain and bestow the thousands of screaming fans with their presence. For Bryan Singer’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” it was everyone to ever call themselves an X-Man. Singer showed off a sizzle reel of footage form the film, which revealed a futuristic setting for the modern heroes and a swinging ’60s backdrop for the returning cast of “X-Men: First Class.” But the footage really didn’t matter. Fans got a sense of the film’s scope by seeing the cast line up for a group shot at the front of the stage.

4. “World of Warcraft”

Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 5.40.49 PM

Proof-of-concept videos were once the major foundation of a filmmaker’s pitch. Isolated footage from pre-existing movies could create the tone and concept of a movie without a single frame of new footage being shot. Now proof-of-concept” trailers are becoming an integral part of selling movies to the fans. Duncan Jones (“Source Code,” “Moon”) won’t begin shooting his proposed “Warcraft” movie, based on the popular RPG “World of Warcraft,” until early in 2014. Still, he arrived to Hall H with a clip to show and something to prove. Mission accomplished: a 95% animated teaser showed off Jones’ action style, nodded to the video game, and calmed anyone fearing that Jones would compromise himself when moving to the big leagues.

3. “Gravity” Delivers Legitimate Scares

Gravity

We could listen to Alfonso Cuarón talk movies for hours. In fact, we did just that (albeit for only a few minutes versus hours) at this year’s Comic-Con. But seeing is believing when it comes to a visionary’s sci-fi spectacle. If Hall H reactions are to be trusted, the movie may be worthy of our nail-biting anticipation. Cuarón screened a few minutes of his disaster movie, a space mission-gone-wrong drama that puts Sandra Bullock in the middle of long, claustrophobic takes. Even through tweeted reactions, the atmosphere of Cuarón’s film gave us chills.

2. Batman of Steel

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In under 24 hours, everything that could be said about Warner Bros. plans to merge the Superman and Batman franchises has been said. That doesn’t make it less surprising or gargantuan. A scream of desperation or a well-conceived, multi-year storytelling plan in the making, the “Man of Steel” sequel that turned into “World’s Finest” is pure geek heaven in the spotlight of SDCC. People will be bitching for the next two years as Zack Snyder’s next undertaking climbs towards completion — so let’s soak in the “whoa” factor while it’s still fresh and sublime.

1. “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Even when Marvel doesn’t have anything to show or announce — footage of “Thor” and “Captain America” sequels only go so far before the “been there, done that” feeling sets in — they find ways to make their panel become the talk of the town. Joss Whedon was on hand to reveal the title of “Avengers 2,” “Age of Ultron,” though that amounted to non-news in comparison to footage from the upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The sci-fi adventure shook up the zombie patrons of Hall H, dulled down by superhero after superhero after superhero. “Guardians,” with only 12 days of shooting under its belt, premiered a montage of bits that showed off the radical designs of the intergalactic setting while allowing director James Gunn and star Chris Pratt to sell the movie’s comedic edge. Crime fighting space cops with actual personality? That’s when half the crowd realized we don’t really need another “Star Wars.”

THE LOSERS:

5“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”

Making its first appearance in Hall H, the “Hunger Games” franchise did little to drown out the comic book movie anticipation. “Catching Fire” director Francis Lawrence decided to hold his cards close to his chest — not unlike the first movie’s tactical secrecy. New footage ditched battle arena action for brewing political strife. Which would be cool, if that half of the trailer wasn’t a hold over from the first spot. When the pressure was on to wow fans with a new vision, Lawrence’s sneak peek felt merely passable.

4. “Divergent”

Speaking of Young Adult Fiction adaptations that aren’t trying hard enough… “Divergent.” Actress Shailene Woodley’s required dystopian action adventure with hints of romance picture underwhelmed in Hall H early in the convention. While striving to be “the next ‘Hunger Games’” (as outlets like EW have suggested since the film started production) isn’t a bad thing on the business side, one would hope the movie may have an identity of its own that would emerge in Hall H. No dice. As charming as Woodley is, as much gravitas as costar Kate Winslet packs into even her most middling projects, “Divergent” really does amount to a “Hunger Games” redux. The finished product will be the real personality test. Until then, early Comic-Con reactions aren’t doing “Divergent” any favors.

3. “Seventh Son”

Arriving on the same day as “R.I.P.D.,” the Jeff Bridges/Julianne Moore/Ben Barnes fantasy film “Seventh Son” was fighting an uphill battle. As the panel unfolded, it became clear to the Hall H audience that Bridges was still in his Renaissance of mush mouthed clowning. “True Grit” was the style in a reasonable dose, “”R.I.P.D.” cranked it up to 11, and “Seventh Son” would be repeat business plus dragons and magic and broad sword fighting. Maybe those were the elements keeping “R.I.P.D.” from being a classic.

2. The Secret “Escape Plan” Screening

The setup was tailor-made for Comic-Con audiences. Stallone. Schwarzenegger. Team-up. Midnight. Summit’s jail break action flick “Escape Plan” made its debut in San Diego with a “secret screening” introduced by the two legendary stars. The big questions lingering in the air were over whether Stallone and Schwarzenegger still had the physicality and charisma to pull off the movie. This wasn’t “The Expendables,” a serving of nostalgia slathered with gratuitous violence. This was too characters butting heads and working together to stay alive. Reactions out of the screening were… barely existent. According to several attendees, critics of the public screening were asked to hold reactions to the movie, dated for an October 18, 2013 release. Still, the hope would be that jazzed fans would take to Twitter to sound off on Stallone/Schwarzenegger’s latest. This is the only genuine reaction we could find.

1. “I, Frankenstein”

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The ebb and flow of Hall H goes something like this: Fans wait in line for 6 – 24 hours in hopes of grabbing a seat at the biggest pop culture celebration of the year. Upon being admitted, they plant their butts in plastic folding chairs and prepare for the chafing. The sweat-induced pain is an afterthought as geekery of all types are paraded across stage, announcements are made, and the lunacy of the event turns the day into an 8-hour Super Bow Half Time Show. If you have a seat in Hall H, you never get up. Ever. Someone could take your seat, someone could steal your stuff, or worst of all, you could miss the moment that would go on to define that year’s con. So you sit, dying slowly, in your plastic folding chair until the day is over. By the end you’re a mess, but you got to see Ian McKellan hit on Michael Fassbender and it was hilarious.

There is one reprieve from the Hollywood circus/grueling torture of Hall H. Every year, the Con organizers schedule a panel that is guaranteed to be a bore. This is on purpose, so that you can feel safe that the hall’s doors are locked to outsiders and that, if you get up to use the bathroom, you won’t miss anything. Of course, this means everyone with a brain is using the bathroom at once, but convention masterminds make sure the lame duck panel has footage, an energetic cast, and a healthy amount of time to field questions about their movie so that you can unload with ease. Which movie fit the bill this year?


Categories: News

Tags: Comic-con, Divergent, Frankenstein, Gravity, Guardians of the Galaxy, I, Man of Steel, SDCC 2013, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, World of Warcraft

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