SDCC 2010: Comic-Con Thursday HALL H Report

SDCC 2010: Thursday HALL H Rep

SAN DIEGO – On a day when Angelina Jolie showed up to promote a movie less than 12 hours before it opened in theaters ("Salt" debuted at midnight last night) and her partner in superstardom, Brad Pitt, did not (he was rumored to be appearing on the "Megamind" panel, since he's one of the voices in that animated film), it was a trio of 80s relics who stole the show on Comic-Con's first day.

No one squeezed more out of their time in Hall H than Team Tron. The sequel no one ever thought would get made picked up a powerful head of steam as the light bike rides toward a December release date.

The line to get into Disney's "Tron: Legacy" presentation went on forever. We're talking "Twilight" long. Considering this is the third consecutive year the "Tron" sequel has had a presence at Comic-Con, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by how smooth everything went for them. But presenting here in San Diego isn't as easy as just showing up with a clip reel; you have to take the pulse of your fans, and be ready to give them not just what they expect, but also knock them for a loop. We geeks are a particular bunch, after all.

Funny stuff

The first right move they made was getting comedian and Tron aficionado Patton Oswalt to handle the moderator duties. Oswalt got a lot of mileage at the expense of the fan base that's been holding out hope for a sequel for 28 years. At one point, he joked that he was going to run an In Memoriam segment on all the Tron fans that had died waiting for the sequel.

They had all the principals of the cast there, including Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Sheen, Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde came on stage, along with director Joe Kosinski, and producers Steven Lisberger and Sean Bailey, and writers Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis.  I'm not going to rehash exact quotes and moments from the panel, since I live-blogged the event, but I will say that they revealed just enough without seeming needy.

Kosinski revealed a few key plot points - the father-son aspect of the story, with Hedlund being Bridges' character's son, we knew. But we also learned that Bridges will be reprising the Kevin Flynn role from the original and playing a second character. That second character may be Flynn's evil doppelganger, but it's too early to tell from the clips we saw. During the panel, Bridges discussed how he doesn't like to reveal too much about movies beforehand, because...why bother going to the theater if you know what's going to happen? The Dude has a point.

The highlight was the footage. Eight minutes of "Tron: Legacy" was screened, including the new trailer, which seemed about a minute long. Complete with CGI effects and a soundtrack from Daft Punk that sounds like a descendant from the "Blade Runner" score, the footage provided a revealing look at the universe in which this new Tron film exists. It's dark, dangerous and jam-packed with some incredible technological goodies. Oh, and one other thing.

Light. Jets.

By the time they wrapped things up, you could feel the electricity spilling out from Hall H and through the rest of the convention center. "Tron: Legacy" had become the talk of Comic-Con. A sequel to a 28-year-old picture. A movie that two years ago, used patchwork test footage here to gauge interest in the project. Will it cash in on its Con buzz like "Iron Man" two years ago, or will it watch the excitement fizzle out like "Kick-Ass" endured earlier this year? Who knows? But right now, people are pumped for it.

But that's not all those cagey Disney folks had up their sleeves.

The Mouse House also showed a brief clip of Johnny Depp in full Capt. Jack Sparrow gear, riffing about what the fourth Pirates movie isn't going to be about. It isn't going to be about the Fountain of Youth, it isn't going to have Penelope Cruz...well, of course it is. Whatever you may think of the last two "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, it was impossible not to laugh hearing Depp's off-the-cuff remarks.

Big shocker

The biggest shocker of the day came when Guillermo Del Toro walked onstage ad announced he would be writing and producing an updated version of "The Haunted Mansion" was also well received, to put it mildly. There wasn't a definitive answer regarding if he will direct or not. But in this day and age of constant information and news leaks, keeping that type of news a secret takes some doing.

Del Toro is a fanboy so he knows the drill at Comic-Con. But he's also apparently a nut for the Haunted Mansion. He said everything the fans wanted to hear. He declared it will be live-action and shot in 3D, and "we will be making it scary and fun. But the scary will be very scary."

"This is really for the hardcore fans. [And] it's a dream come true for me, and I hope to steal as many props as possible," said Del Toro, before confirming that Eddie Murphy won' be in his movie.

Sony followed Disney in Hall H with "Battle: Los Angeles" and "Salt." I wasn't there for that panel, but I heard from several people there that the footage from "Battle" was impressive.

As for "Salt," there's not much they can show you about that film that you can't find easily on the Internet. The Angelina appearance was really more about getting some last-minute mainstream promotion for the movie. Sony had to know all the mainstream news outlets in San Diego for the start of the Con would go nuts over having the biggest female star on the planet walk onstage in Hall H. But her presence there didn't command anywhere near the talk on the floor and on Twitter that the panel for "The Expendables" did.

Sylvester Stallone charismatic

The raves were pouring in about Sylvester Stallone's charismatic performance onstage. At one point, Jordan Hoffman of www.ugo.com compared the panel to a WWE show at the Meadowlands.

Even fellow 80s action icon Bruce Willis, who has a cameo in "The Expendables" and had just done a panel for his own film "Red," dropped by for some fun with the boys. The panel was so lively, it ran past its allotted time and pushed the "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" panel back a few minutes.

No film has a bigger presence here this year than "Scott Pilgrim." Aside from nonstop posters and flyers, there is also a massive banner hanging from the side of the Hilton Bayfront next door to the convention center. Yet, after the panel for the movie, I didn't exactly get the feeling that it scored as high on the buzz-o-meter as Universal would have hoped. The first troubling sign I noticed was that while it was packed, there was no overflowing crowd to get into see the Pilgrim presentation.

Granted, it was the last panel of the day, maybe some people just were too exhausted to sit through another one. But still, every other panel had to turn people away. I walked in as part of the last group.

If the panel didn't "pop" as loudly as it maybe should have, it's not Edgar Wright's fault. The writer-director performed a great standup show as the moderator of his own panel. He engaged each of the 13 cast members on stage, he somehow convinced Michael Cera to walk onstage in a Captain America costume (an obvious dig at absentee co-star Chris Evans's new role), and even managed to make the normally painful audience Q & A portion of the panel enjoyable.

The highlight was when he introduced "two other people in the movie," and Simon Pegg and Nick Frost walked out to thunderous applause. With perfect timing, Wright interrupted the love-fest with the fans and corrected himself.

"I'm sorry, that was a mistake. I meant to say, two other people not in the movie. So you guys have to leave." So Pegg and Frost walked offstage, heads hung low. It was a priceless moment.

Wright then announced that a few hundred lucky people who had the 1-up giveaway buttons would be going to see a special screening Thursday night of "Scott Pilgrim." He even jumped off the stage to walk the fans over to the Balboa Theater.

A great move, a savvy move, but despite all that, and the fact that he has added another talent - panel moderator - to his multi-hyphenated career, Wright couldn't generate the level of excitement a sequel to a 1982 movie and a 64-year-old action hero did.

Never underestimate the power of 80s nostalgia.

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