Ahoy, squirts! Quint here about to hit you guys with a full blast of the 2 hour 20th Century Fox panel!
I normally break these things apart via title, but it's getting late, I'm lazy and the panel was mostly a snoozefest (minus some good stuff from Kingsman and the Guillermo del Toro animated film The Book of Life), so I'm doing one complete report of the entire presentation. Good? Good.
THE MAZE RUNNER:
Maze Runner Panel featured Dylan O'Brien, Wes Ball, author James Dashner, Will Poulter and Kaya Scodelario. This YA adaptation is a little out of my wheelhouse, but I didn't hate the footage shown. It seems to be dark story that isn't afraid to terrify small children, which I'm always in support of.
The footage began with Dylan O'Brien on a scary and noisy elevator going up and up and up and up until it reaches some kind of grassy surface. Overlooking him are a group of young men, who help him out. He takes off running until he kind of notices the giant concrete walls that pen them in. They're Game of Thrones The Great Wall big.
There's one section that opens up periodically, making a long, dark corridor. Of course O'Brien wants to try to get out, but apparently everybody who has tried either comes back wounded or doesn't come back at all. The corridor leads to a constantly shifting maze and there are some scary things on steampunk style metal insect legs that stalk about in there.
These things are called Grievers and one of the bits of footage we saw had O'Brien facing down one of them. It was very Aliens-esque in build up finally revealing something that was part robotic and part crazy giant mutant spider. It looked like something out of the bug pit in Peter Jackson's King Kong.
I'd say the mystery element (where are they, why are they there, where does the maze lead to?) is enough to intrigue me, but the filmmaking looked pretty generic, at least in these small bits and pieces. But I do like that they weren't afraid to go creepy and dark and the acting looked pretty solid.
They ended the panel with some artwork for the sequel, but quickly put the caveat on there that they don't get to make it unless the first film is a success. It seems like it's ready to go if that is the case, because the director said if they get the greenlight they'd likely begin shooting this fall or winter. So, if you're a fan of the series, don't skip out on the first film if you want to see them all brought to the screen!
THE BOOK OF LIFE:
From producer Guillermo del Toro comes this animated film with a heavy Mexican culture influence (including some really impressing Day of the Dead inspired spirit world designs that made it kind of look like a Latino Nightmare Before Christmas).
Thank God Guillermo came out to lighten things up. I'm sure Ralph Garman's a very nice guy, but lord almighty does he suck at moderating panels. It felt like he was bored and so scatter brained that he'd mess up really simple stuff and spent half his moderating time apologizing for mistakes.
Guillermo lightened things up considerably, reading the back of the nameplate which advises the panelists to remember that many fans in the audience are under 18 years old (that didn't stop Kevin Smith from talking a 13 year old boy at his panel who was wearing a Clerks shirt and telling him that “When I made that movie you were just cum!”) and he promised not to curse, which got some boos. “Okay, I'll curse a little.”
The world of Book of Life is very stylized. When I first saw the main character (voiced by Diego Luna) I thought, “Weird, he looks so blocky...” and then quickly realized that's because he was made of wood. He's in love with Maria (voiced by Zoe Saldana) and seems to have to fight for her affection because of a vain, but handsome suitor (Channing Tatum).
The humor seemed to come in a large part from famous pop culture music that has been twisted on its head a bit. One of those songs was Biz Markie's Just A Friend. Cue Biz Markie himself coming out on stage to lead the panel (Guillermo, director Jorge Gutierrez, Christina Applegate, Ron Perlman and Channing Tatum) and the audience in a live rendition of Just a Friend.
It was a cool idea that went awkward real fast, but Channing Tatum started dancing and singing along with Biz Markie and suddenly it was awesome again. That dude has skills!
After everybody settled down, Guillermo described Jorge's pitch to him, said he brough over a trunk full of tequila and then went into the artwork and story. He said the man got so worked up and sweaty and red-faced that he said he'd join the movie just to save him from a heart attack!
Jorge seemed like a cool guy. Super enthusiastic and funny. He said the movie is busting apart with his passions. “This may be the only movie I'm going to make, so I wanted to throw everything in it.” This includes nods to opera, video games, modern music, etc.
The Day of the Dead imagery was very special to him. He said he moved his wedding to be on Day of the Dead because his best friend had died. He wanted him to be his best man and that was the only day he could show up. The kids on the internet would describe my reaction to that statement as something to do with me having all the feels.
One of my favorite moments of this particular panel was when a guy from the audience probably meant to ask Channing Tatum a question that went like this: “You're a big star with a lot of on-screen charisma. What was the appeal for you to build a character using just your voice?” But what he actually said was more like this: “You're known for your good looks and your physique. What made you think your voice would be enough?”
This was Tatum's reaction:
”Wow, thanks, man.” It was ridiculously funny, but made even better by Channing admitting he took the role because they promised his character would have a full, beautiful mustache.
Then Christina Applegate butted in saying she was offended that question wasn't asked of her.
Overall, the stuff looked interesting, especially the Day of the Dead/spectral world component. I don't know if I'm 100% sold yet, but I like what I've seen so far and there's way too many charming people attached to this one for me to ignore.
This was the messiest panel of the Con so far. The latest attempt to bring the “hugely successful” Hitman game to life (is it really that huge these days? Maybe I'm in the minority, but I don't know any of my gamer friends who still talk about, let alone play, this series) came with Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto and an armload of footage from the film.
The footage was largely slick, but soulless, a montage of action scenes and beats you've seen in a hundred movies. I'll give the movie this: it looks big. There are helicopters crashing into buildings, some large scale car stunts on the streets of Berlin and some sharp gunplay, but I didn't get the feeling of any kind of cohesive vision. Again, this is only from clips, so maybe that all clicks into place when everything is seen together, but this first impression footage wasn't very great.
I mean, it starts off with an interrogation scene where a handcuffed Rupert Friend (the titular Agent 47) does the whole “I'm not trapped in here with you, you're trapped in here with me” thing that was fucking awesome the first time you heard it. Not so much the the two dozen other movies that have lifted it.
I also didn't find Rupert Friend all that intimidating. I hear he's very good on Homeland, but he seemed pretty boring to me here, but that could be the nature of the Agent character in the first place. Timothy Olyphant is a very good actor and he was boring in Hitman as well.
Not a fan of this one and the actors on the panel seemed to be drugged as well. Perhaps that was Ralph Garman's fault...
LET'S BE COPS:
This movie comes out very soon, so I won't spend a lot of time on it, but I will say that Jake Johnson's video to the panelists and crowd from New Orleans (he's shooting Jurassic World at the moment) set the tone pretty well. He sat in his hotel room, bathrobe open revealing a chest of manly hair... as he apologized for not being here, a buff dude in a speedo exits the hotel bathroom behind him. Johnson pays him, checks out his ass when he walks away and then turned it back over to the panel.
The footage itself was raunchy and filled with F-bombs (a big no-no at the more family friendly SDCC, so I bet someone at Fox is in biiiiiiiig trouble). I laughed. I like really stupid shit, though, so take my enjoyment of the footage shown with a grain of salt.
KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE:
This was hands down my favorite part of the panel. For starters, Ralph Garman handed over MC duties to Mark Millar. That helped. Then they also had a good cast, some great footage and a lively talk.
Matthew Vaughn couldn't make it. Millar said he was in hospital, recovering from having a Rocket Raccoon toy shoved up his arse. Vaughn did send a video message (wearing a Kick-Ass mask because he promised the crowd last time that when he next appeared in Hall H he'd be wearing a costume) and he wasn't alone.
Mark Hamill (in a purple Hit Girl wig) was sitting beside him. They were about to introduce a clip that starts off the movie and features Hamill prominently. Hamill once again referred to his big beard, but this time said that he was growing it because he was a finalist for the lead role in The George Lucas Story.
Then began the footage. It was a helicopter shot over a snowy mountain that settled on a quaint, remote stone cabin. Inside Mark Hamill is tied to a chair and a bunch of well-dressed and strangely considerate thugs surround him. They're waiting for their boss, offer him up some whiskey, etc. A knock comes at the door and it's a prim and proper, well-spoken Englishman who proceeds to take out the armed thugs. Headshots, trigger finger amputations, UFC style takedowns and all sorts of badassery. He kills the guy bringing in the whiskey, and that's the last of them. He takes it with a Bondian quip of “It'd be a shame to spill any...”
He's here to rescue Hamill, but is interrupted by a knock at the door (yes, another one). He slowly walks toward it when a knife sound is heard and flash is seen at this Englishman's back. It takes him a second to realize it, but he has been neatly sliced in half by a beautiful lady that has no feet beneath her knees. Instead she has those artificial bouncy limbs that amputee runners have... except hers are razor sharp.
She bounces up stairs and comes back with an armload of blankets. She asks for help from Hamill. He raises his tied hands and she quickly kick-slices them so he can hold the blankets. She proceeds to cover up each and every body with a blanket before opening the door for a parka wearing Sam Jackson. He's the big bad guy, but he doesn't like blood very much. He's the boss the goons were waiting for before that Englishman made a mess of things. Jackson promises Hamill that they'll find out who sent him, apologizing for the carnage around him, but clearly letting him know he is not a free man.
Let's just take a second to appreciate that this scene had two Jedi Masters talking to each other. Soak it in... done? Good. Let's finish.
The next full sequence is a doozy. It's a pub fight between Colin Firth and a group of young thugs who interrupt his attempted recruitment of Taron Egerton. Vaughn shoots action so well. It's a chaotic fight, ala Edgar Wright's The World's End, but with a badass trained assassin in the mix and a sad lack of blue blood. He uses his umbrella to smash heads, swing bodies, etc. It ends with the shot that's in the trailer of one of the hooligans pulling a pistol and Firth ducking behind his open umbrella, which is bulletproof. From Firth's side it's like a digital screen, showing exactly what's on the other side. He selects a stun option, pulls a trigger on the umbrella handle and a projectile fires out, knocking out the gunman.
The bartender rises and goes for the phone. Firth sees him, holds up his wrist and looks like he's checking the time, but he's actually selecting “Amnesia Dart” which shoots out of the side and into the bartender's neck.
It was just really fun, the kind of good stuff you get when Jane Goldman, Mark Millar and Matthew Vaughn collaborate on a project.
We saw bits and pieces in a sizzle reel, including some choice Sam Jackson moments. His character speaks with a lisp, wears a fancier version of Google Glass and is kind of a nerd, but since it's Sam Jackson he's still threatening. There's a moment where he orders something and one of his henchmen says, “But many people will die.” Sam Jackson replies, “Do I look like someone who gives a fuck?” A cheesy line if spoken by anyone else, but damn does he sell it.
There was also a nice back and forth between Jackson and Firth where Jackson says he worshipped the charismatic spy type as a kid. He loved James Bond. Firth says he thought the Bond films were only as good his villain. Jackson says he wanted to grow up to be a spy. Firth says that he always wanted to grow up to be a colorful megalomaniac. It's a scene about them sizing each other up and weirdly having some mutual respect for each other.
That dynamic triggered memories of Unbreakable for me, which is always a good thing.
It was just good to see something that had high production value, but was also fun. Mark Millar said we're in a sad time for spy movies. “Every time Bond kills someone now he goes and cries in the shower for an hour.” He misses the fun, the gadgets, the gallows humor. That's why they made this movie.
Before they left the panel Millar said Matthew Vaughn was about to shoot an epilogue for the film and he said he was tasked to bring a big guy back from Comic-Con to play a featured role in the epilogue. Millar asked for any big guys with a valid US passport who wanted to be flown to London to stand up.
He ended up picking this guy, who I believe was the one who asked Channing Tatum that awkward question earlier.
And that was Fox. No Fantastic Four stuff at all. Lame. Lame. Lame.
Oh well. Tomorrow's a big, big day. Fury Road, The Hobbit, Jupiter Ascending, Legendary flicks (assume Warcraft and Crimson Peak will get a big showcase), Sin City 2, Boxtrolls and all capped off by Marvel's panel. Make sure to follow me on Twitter for my live tweeting of the panels and info!