San Diego Comic-Con 2011: Thursday
San Diego Comic-Con has officially begun. While Wednesday’s preview night allowed a relatively small group of attendees (at least, by Comic-Con standards) to roam the exhibit hall floor to snap up exclusive items or view pilot episodes of new shows on the fall TV schedule, Thursday is when the madness actually begins.
I elected to forgo the line for Hall H, the convention's biggest room, reserved primarily for presentations from major film studios. The first scheduled presentation of the day was for the next film installment of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1. Dedicated fans began lining up outside the convention center as early as Monday in hopes of getting close to the film’s stars, with the line already extending three rows deep yesterday evening. I elected, instead, to attend a smaller, more niche panel discussing the upcoming Web series Dragon Age: Redemption. Based on the popular Dragon Age video games from BioWare, the upcoming Web show stars nerd queen Felicia Day as a flirty, Elven assassin. Of course, never one to wear only a single hat (or, in this case, elf ears), Day also wrote the script. Attendees got to see an exclusive trailer that featured impressive production values given the project’s small budget, including some spectacular makeup, nice fight choreography and a rollicking original score. Day dons the voice of a sultry badass to begin and end the trailer, which includes several shots of her slashing through blood-spurting foes. The panel members discussed the poor track record video games have had in transitioning to film and insisted Dragon Age benefits from a production team committed to honoring the mythology and world of the game, not making sacrifices to appeal to a broader audience. These efforts included crafting weapons and choreographing fights to match its source material. Dragon Age: Redemption has yet to announce a firm release date, currently promised to premiere later this year. When it finally goes public, it will be interesting to see if the small production will succeed where so many multimillion-dollar studio efforts have failed and if it will have any appeal beyond the hardcore Dragon Age fans.
Fox presented three new films at Comic-Con, Ridley Scott’s Alien-related film Prometheus, Andrew Niccol’s sci-fi thriller In Time and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Writer Damon Lindelof and star Charlize Theron were fairly tight-lipped about Prometheus. The project was conceived as an Alien prequel but evolved into something more independent of the franchise. Lindelof said a lot of the experience of the film will be discovering how it relates to the Alien films. Theron described her character as “a suit,” a woman who runs the company funding the mission depicted in the film.
Andrew Niccol, Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried were present to promote In Time. His first film since 2005’s Lord of War, In Time is reminiscent of Niccol’s first film, Gattaca, with a bit of Logan’s Run sprinkled in. The film imagines a world where the aging gene has been turned off, but in order to keep living, you have to purchase more time. So, the poor are constantly living at death’s door, while the rich are granted immortality. Timberlake’s character falls into previous category and Seyfried’s the latter. While the concept alone is rife with some weighty social commentary, Niccol described it as an action thriller.
Director Rupert Wyatt and the go-to man for all your motion-capture performance needs, Andy Serkis, were on hand to promote Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Both emphasized the technological achievements made with the various ape characters in the film. Having now appeared in several films that have used the technology, Serkis tracked the progression of the cinematic tool since his time on The Lord of the Rings, noting that Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the first time motion-capture performances have been recorded on a live set without the use of a volume (a bare set). This innovation was important to the film because, in addition to Serkis’s lead Caesar, several other ape characters are important to the story and serve as more than just background.
In an added bit of fun, comic creators Stan Lee and Todd MacFarlane stopped by with Japanese rock star Yoshiki, lead singer of X Japan. The trio promoted what they referred to as the first musical comic book, Blood Red Dragon. Lee and Yoshiki met when the comic-book legend made a cameo appearance in a music video for the band. The two wanted to collaborate together again and eventually decided to make a comic book starring Yoshiki. Lee brought MacFarlane on to produce the book, and Yoshiki composed the music that accompanies it. Operating much like those musical greeting cards your aunt buys for your birthday, a short and haunting orchestral piece emanates from a device built into the cover of the comic book when you open it. Yoshiki said he was inspired by the theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind and wanted to produce something simple and spooky. He succeeded but, while the music is nice, the sound quality leaves something to be desired and could benefit from a volume button. Still, the idea is intriguing and, when asked, MacFarlane said he and Yoshiki had already discussed how this form could translate into the world of comics on devices like the iPad, where a particular music cue would play when the reader navigated to the correct panel. The technology of the physical version of the musical comic leaving something to be desired, digital may be the best place for this ambitious endeavor.
From the Web to movies to comics, it’s been a full day here at San Diego Comic-Con, and it only promises to get more hectic as the convention continues.