By Dr. Tom Snyder, Editor
San Diego, California – The annual Comic-Con convention at the San Diego Convention Center has become a cultural phenomenon of vast proportions.
This should come as no surprise these days, since every year, at least six or seven of the top ten movies at the box office are science fiction or fantasy movies, with many of them stories involving comic book superheroes.
About 100,000 people come here every year to celebrate comic books and all things related to the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres and to see the latest things Hollywood has to offer in the coming year, from the latest upcoming vampire movie or TV show to the latest superhero movies.
Because of the vast crowds of people attending, going to a Comic-Con convention is like going on a safari in the deepest jungle, or visiting the zoo.
Although the convention gets its full share of people from around the world (after all, it is called Comic-Con International), Americans of all shapes and sizes can be seen while shuffling through the crowds.
A STAR WARS storm trooper greets MOVIEGUIDE as we enter Comic-Con 2012.
Not everyone is dressed in costume, of course, but, before we even picked up our badge, we already had spotted two space soldiers dressed in colorful war armor, a storm trooper from the Galactic Empire of STAR WARS invented by George Lucas, a man riding a plastic dragon resembling Puff the Magic Dragon, two women dressed as the white-haired female mutant Storm from X-MEN, a little girl dressed as Supergirl, Abe Lincoln with a golden bionic arm, a zombie display from TV’s THE WALKING DEAD, and a Smurfette.
For the first day of the convention, MOVIEGUIDE® checked out the programming in Hall H, which holds 6500 people waiting to hear what Hollywood will bring them in the coming year.
After two hours standing in line to get a halfway decent seat, you’re ushered into the big hall while being handed a pair of 3D glasses for some of the trailers and clips you’ll get to see.
The first day of programming at Hall C included a short clip reel of trailers for some of the latest upcoming movies and panels featuring the cast of THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART ONE; Director Tim Burton with several funny clips from his new stop-motion animated creation, FRANKENWEENIE; Director Sam Raimi of the SPIDER-MAN movies talking about his next exciting project OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, due out March 2013, which tells the story of how the Wizard of Oz became the Wizard of Oz; Director Rich Moore with cast members John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman talking about the November release of their movie WRECK-IT RALPH, which looks like another funny animated movie with lots of heart from the folks at Disney; Jackie Chan talking about his latest, and probably last, “big action movie” starring just him, CHINESE TWELVE ZODIACS; and members of the cast of THE EXPENDABLES 2, including Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Swarzenegger.
The two panels with the biggest buzz in the room seemed to be the new TWILIGHT movie, the final in a series of movies about the star-crossed love affair between a vampire who’s decided to subsist on only animal blood and a human girl, and THE EXPENDABLES, Sly Stallone’s latest franchise centered on male testosterone and the heart of the brave.
As usual with the group of “Twilighters” attracted to the blockbuster novels by writer Stephenie Meyer, the biggest cheers at the TWILIGHT panel seemed to go to the young male stars of the movie, especially Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner. The phenomenon reminds one of the screaming girls that accompanied the beginning careers of men like Rudolph Valentino, Clark Gable, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and especially Leonardo DiCaprio in his TITANIC phase.
“I’ve been burned out by vampires,” said Meyer, who presented clips of the movie from her novel THE HOST.
TWILIGHT star Kristen Stewart said she was relieved to finally be able to play the part where her character, Bella, turns into a vampire, but added tat the end of the series is a “bittersweet” moment for her.
Director Bill Condon, in a video message recorded in England where he’s working now on the editing of the movie, introduced a clip showing the first seven minutes of the movie.
Besides Stallone and Swarzenegger, the cast members from EXPENDABLES included Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crewes, and Randy Couture, three-time UFC Heavyweight champion. The movie also stars several other action stars, including Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Liam Hemsworth (THOR), and Jean-Claude Van Damme, who plays the ruthless villain.
Stallone admitted that Couture could probably beat up all of the movie star bad guys. He compared getting all these action stars together in one movie is sort of like a rock music revival featuring a bunch of classic bands and performers.
Swarzenegger said it was good to be back in the movie business. He praised Stallone’s success at creating three blockbuster movie franchises, first the ROCKY movies, then the RAMBO movies, and, now, THE EXPENDABLES.
Stallone said his favorite Swarzenegger movie was TERMINATOR 2.
Sylvester Stallone poses with Arnold Swarzenegger at Comic-Con 2012 for the upcoming movie THE EXPENDABLES 2.
After the EXPENDABLES panel, Comic-Con gave Swarzenegger a special award for is contributions to pop culture and the convention.
Tim Burton said FRANKENWEENIE was a fulfilling trip back to the early days of his career at Disney because the animated movie is based on a live action short he did for them in 1984.
In doing that first movie, he said, “I had to learn to talk to people – and actors – for the first time.”
Several people in costumes inspired by Tim Burton and his movies asked him some questions, including a man dressed up as the Mad Hatter from ALICE IN WONDERLAND and a woman dressed up as Sally from THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CRISTMAS.
When asked about his unique brand of filmmaking, Burton said he likes mixing all kinds of elements in his movies – “the horror, the comedy, the heart.”
He enjoys working with the little sets and puppets from stop-motion movies like FRANKENWEENIE and NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, saying, “Puppets are so tactile.”
“This one is definitely special to me,” he said of FRANKENWEENIE.
One of the FRANKENWEENIE clips included a funny clip where a schoolteachers gets carried away talking about the power of lightning and how people who get hit by lightning are standing in the way of the lightning’s desire to hit the ground. Burton said he never really liked going to public school, adding that it was “like a nightmare” for him.
“What did they do to you there?” the moderator asked.
“There’s lawsuits still pending,” Burton joked.
Actress Mila Kunis said, “It was magical going to work” on Sam Raimi’s OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, because the fantastic sets were actually built in real life instead of being completely created by artists or on computers.
“The green in Emerald City was unlike anything I’d ever seen,” she added.
Raimi said they didn’t have the rights to some of the iconic images from the original 1939 movie THE WIZARD OF OZ, but that part of the story is based on the details about the Wizard of Oz’s life revealed by Frank L. Baum in his books.
The fantastic descriptions in Baum’s books were a great help, Raimi confided.
“We had to build a completely original world [from those descriptions], something the audience really hasn’t seen before.”
Actor John C. Reilly, who plays the title character in WRECK-IT RALPH, a story about a villain in a video game who’s tired of being bad but wants to be good, said he likes doing animation voiceovers.
“It’s actually a really enjoyable process,” he said. “And, it’s pretty cool.”
Finally, action star Jackie Chan described how he and his stunt team create all those great choreographed fight scenes. Basically, they spend an hour or more looking around each set and figuring out how each detail can be incorporated into the fight so that Jackie can bring his special brand of comedy into the action.
Like a great jazz artist, Jackie then launched into a series of machine-gun fire sounds to describe how everything comes together when you watch him do his thing on the Big Screen.
Then, just like a great jazz concert, the audience applauded enthusiastically.