Every year San Diego Comic-Con’s Hall H Saturday panels welcome the hugest names in the film industry to give 6,500 sleep-deprived fans first looks, glimpses and details of the biggest upcoming blockbusters. Comic Con 2016 was no exception and I am here to report the top ten things that blew the roof off Hall H’s Saturday presentation.
Below I will provide descriptions of the top-secret footage shown at the panels, information from some of the films’ cast, and my own general thoughts of what was shown to Hall H attendees.
Let’s get started!
10 Suicide Squad
Considering Suicide Squad is being released in a few weeks, DC made the film its centerpiece panel to give it one final promotional push. The crowd was positively receptive when the movie’s director, David Ayer, welcomed its entire cast on stage. Once the entire cast was settled Warner Bros. panel moderator, Conan O’Brien, asked the cast why people seemed to be so intrigued with the concept of Suicide Squad.
Will Smith took the question and said that Ayer’s approach to the material was to make a movie about “bad versus evil”. What is also interesting to note is that Will Smith essentially did all the talking for the duration of the panel and the rest of the cast was relatively quiet. Judging from Suicide Squad’s marketing campaign, it seems like Smith takes up majority of the film’s screen time and I think him being the dominating presence at the panel all but confirms this theory.
I must be honest; I do not like most of what the Suicide Squad trailers have shown. Everything from its aesthetic, pseudo-Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, to Jared Leto’s pimped out Joker. I love comic books and most of their screen adaptations, but what I have seen so far is just not for me.
Despite being full of visually over the top characters, I feel like Suicide Squad does not look like a comic book. When Conan O’Brien asked Ayer what his goal was making the movie he said, “I wanted it to look and feel like a comic book”. This just further feeds my belief that Suicide Squad’s tone is confused.
Yet, I loved Smith’s enthusiasm at the panel. Conan O’Brien even referred to him as the film’s “hype man”. This title is completely accurate and I hope that his energy is carried over into Suicide Squad’s final product. I really do want to like this movie. Hopefully Smith’s enthusiasm is an indication that DC is approaching their films a little differently.
Suicide Squad Official Trailer:
9 Kong: Skull Island Awaken The King
Anyone who is a giant monster/kaiju fan will tell you anytime a movie in this genre is made it feels like a miracle. The footage shown (see trailer above) was enticing and what its cast had to say makes me even more pumped.
Although the major plot details of Kong: Skull Island are vague, Brie Larson described her character as an anti-war journalist. Tom Hiddleston said that most of the characters in the film are led to Skull Island under false pretenses by John Goodman’s character. I like these details because it sounds like Kong: Skull Island contains what traditionally makes the human side of King Kong stories tick mixed with new character elements.
Speaking of Goodman, he worked the Hall H crowd when he started talking about King Kong as if the CGI ape is an actual actor. “When the chips are down he’s a hell of a performer. He’s got the goods. He’s earned the right to be a little cranky,” said Goodman. He continued, “He was always 20 minutes late for make-up, but he was never drunk on set.” Goodman always knows what to say.
The panel closed with the movie’s director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts (this is his first big budget movie), saying making this movie “is a dream come true” and that King Kong is the reason he makes movies.
I cannot wait to see if Roberts’ passion is evident in the final film.
Kong Skull Island Awaken The King Official Trailer:
8 Wonder Woman
Between Man of Steel and Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice, the connected DC film universe has a lot of work to do in terms of winning over audiences. Wonder Woman’s director, Patty Jenkins, mostly said all the right stuff during the panel.
She said that she remembers being a child and watching Richard Donner’s Superman with amazement. Jenkins went on to say that she hopes Wonder Woman captures the hope and compassion that makes superheroes so revered in the first place.
As someone who has been totally let down by DC’s latest live action films, these are the kind of words I want to hear. The lightness and sweetness of Superman 1978 stands in stark contrast to the grimness of something like Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice.
All of this sounds like Wonder Woman is on the right track. Although Gal Gadot spoke enthusiastically about her role during the panel, I hope her performance in the actual film will be better than what is being shown in trailers.
Wonder Woman Official Trailer:
7 Aliens 30th Anniversary
Everyone showed up. Director and writer James Cameron, producer Gale Anne Hurd, Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn, and even Carrie Henn who played Newt.
Some super interesting things came out of this panel. For one, I did not know Carrie Henn discontinued her acting career post-Aliens (I know a simple Google search would have worked wonders). She is now a fourth grade teacher!
Cameron also spoke at length about how fondly he remembers working with the late-great Stan Winston. Also, Gale Anne Hurd made a great point about how the science-fiction action genre as audiences know it today would not have existed without Aliens. Weaver even gave an update on Neil Blomkamp’s Alien movie and said that it is more-or-less still alive.
As someone who completely adores Alien as a franchise, this experience was incredible. From its creature designs, to its endlessly quotable dialogue and down to the fact that Sigourney Weaver was the first actress I had a crush on (call me!), this franchise means a lot.
And I know I am not alone. Hall H’s crowd was eating up this panel like a hugger on John Hurt’s face.
6 Justice League
There was audible booing from a good thirty percent of the Hall H crowd once director Zack Snyder took the stage.
This is not an exaggeration. I know Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice has left a bitter taste in fans’ mouths more than any other movie in recent memory, but I had no idea it was at this level.
So what did Snyder bring to try to win over the crowd? He brought the trailer posted above and the film’s entire cast. There were very few words said through the presentation. Snyder rolled the footage and the panel emptied afterwards.
I am assuming Snyder’s brevity was a move by DC to avoid audience scorn and hopefully have the trailer’s quality speak for itself.
Although I cannot make snap judgments from Justice League’s teaser, I can at least say that I think it looks better than Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice. Batman is the central character, the Flash is appropriately funny, and things do not seem so dire…
…Oh wait, did the trailer show Aquaman drinking a bottle of gin?
Justice League Official Trailer:
5 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
“I got a wand!”
If you were in Hall H, it is impossible that you were not saying this once you left. Actor Eddie Redmayne opened up the panel by fleeing into the crowd and handing out free wand replicas to every single person in the audience. He then took the stage and told the crowd to simultaneously point their wands in the air and yell “lumos maxima!”
I feared that I might have been in the company of Muggles, but the crowd’s spell worked and the room suddenly burst into bright light.
Now this was a great way to open a panel. In many ways, this is how previous Harry Potter Comic Con presentations should have been conducted.
Next, director David Yates and performers Colin Farrell, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, and Katherine Waterston took the stage. Plot details on the film were scarce and the cast mainly re-iterated how cool it is going to be to see the American side of J.K. Rowling’s rich Potter-verse.
One aspect of the film that was confirmed is that Dan Fogler is playing a non-magic character. Also, judging by Fogler’s performance in the newest trailer (see above), it looks like he may steal the movie.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Official Trailer:
4 Spider-Man: Homecoming
There’s no denying it, Marvel brought down the house with their presentation. From literal fog machines and laser rays, to a projection screen that wrapped around the entire room (the DC presentation used the giant screen as well, but a tad more subdued), this was a Hall H presentation unlike any other.
One of the many surprises in store was that the studio brought Spider-Man: Homecoming. Although the movie is only a few weeks into filming, director Jon Watts and actor Tom Holland took the stage to discuss the film. Watts described Homecoming essentially as a John Hughes movie that happens to feature Spider-man. Along with this bit of information, the audience was treated to exclusive footage.
Here is a description of the footage:
It opens up with Freaks and Geeks inspired credits (even Bad Reputation is blaring in the background) featuring high school yearbook photos of all The Avengers. Next, the footage goes through Peter Parker’s class schedule.
A text card appears that says “women’s studies”. This is followed by Parker and his buddy sitting in the cafeteria drooling over a group of girls walking by. Peter says to his friend, “Maybe we should stop staring before it gets creepy.”
Peter’s next class is “web design”. In the middle of class, Peter opens up his desk and is secretly mixing liquid-filled beakers. The liquid forms the consistency of Spider-Man’s web material.
Then the footage goes through a sort of sizzle reel with quick cutting. There was even a clear shot of Tony Revolori’s Flash Thompson.
The footage ends with a shot of the Vulture flying down what looks like a dark sewer.
For a movie that has only been shooting for a short amount of time, it was cool to see that its tone and direction were so clearly defined in the small amount of footage presented.
I really dug what was shown. The humor and all high-school approach is a great way to re-introduce Spidey’s solo cinematic adventures. Also, the footage proved the film feels like it is definitely apart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s too early to tell, but this may very well end up being the best Spider-Man movie since Spider-Man 2.
3 Thor: Ragnarok
Has anyone wondered what Thor was doing during Captain America: Civil War?
The panel opened with a short mockumentary clip of Thor sitting down in a small apartment. He then looks at the camera and says, “I just needed some me time”. The clip then introduces his roommate; an average dude named Darryl (who Thor found on Craigslist).
One of the best parts of the clip is when it showed Thor’s room. Inside, he has put Mjölnir in a baby crib and his walls are littered with connecting maps. Above the maps is written, “What are Infinity Stones?” He then lists some names of possible people who may have taken the Infinity Stones. Thor says he believes Thanos may have taken the stones and the only thing he knows about the titan is that he’s purple, he has a glove, and he likes sitting a lot.
The clip ends with Thor and Bruce Banner having lunch. Just as Thor gets through saying that he’s upset that Tony Stark never contacts him, Tony calls Banner’s phone. Thor keeps saying he wants to talk to Stark as Banner is on the phone. Banner hangs up and says Stark never contacts Thor because he doesn’t know how to get in touch. Thor reveals that he doesn’t own a phone.
I really wish there was a way the public could see this clip because it was really well done and funny. None of this will be in Thor: Ragnarok, but the film’s director Taika Waititi directed it and it shows the sensibility he is bringing to the material.
What was shown next at the panel excited me even more. If a person is a big Hulk fan or is into the aesthetics of comic books being accurately visualized, then this will make you freak out (I could not stop cheering). The panel presented a behind the scenes look of the movie.
Firstly, it shows an unfinished, but no less cool CGI representation of Hulk and Thor fighting in a gladiator pit. Hulk is wearing full on Planet Hulk armor. The clip then went through some concept art and even provided a first look a Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster. Loki was shown in the concept art as well, all but confirming his return.
Next, the footage provided the first shot of Cate Blanchett’s Hela. She looks positively scary and has a visual presence unlike any other Marvel movie villain. Lastly, the clip ended with something that got everybody jumping out of their seats.
A shot of Hulk hurtling through the air towards the giant demon named Surtur.
I mean, wow. This is fantastic stuff I have only dreamed about since I was kid. I never thought I would see the day where Hulk himself is properly visualized, let alone fight humongous cosmic creatures. I loved all of what was shown.
Although the cast did not show up and close to zero plot details were released, what Marvel did bring was enough to completely sell the crowd.
2 Doctor Strange
Fog started coming down from the ceiling, lasers in the shapes and colors of various mystic symbols floated across the audience and Benedict Cumberbatch seemingly appeared out of nowhere on stage.
I had to remind myself I was not trip's out at a Dark Side of the Moon laser show.
Director Scott Derrickson took the stage and introduced a clip.
The clip depicts Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strage meeting Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One for the first time. He explains to the Ancient One that he can no longer properly move his hands since a car accident. Strange tells her that he heard she healed a paraplegic man.
The Ancient One essentially tells him the man was healed through the mystic arts. Strange scoffs at the idea and says he does not believe in magic.
Now this is where things get nuts.
Strange is hit in the chest by the Ancient One and he is sent diving through different realities. This whole sequence is very trippy. He flies past different streams of bright colors, the world seems to bend, and his face stretches and multiplies until he finally lands back in the presence of the Ancient One.
Stephen looks up at her and says, “Teach me.”
I have been wondering since this film was announced how Doctor Strange’s story and powers were going to be visualized. Comic books have the ability to successfully visualize almost anything because different artists find unique ways of depicting specific moments in time. But, Strange deals so much with the bending of reality that I thought it would be impossible to make his powers look cinematically cool.
After this footage, I am mostly proven wrong. The stuff involving Strange hopping through different realities was a visual feast and my brain was working overtime to process what was happening. I say mostly proven wrong because I am still not completely on board with the scene’s depicting buildings and streets bending. Those scenes feel derivative of Inception (I know it has been said a million times, but it’s so glaring that it has to be said again), but the reality jumping scenes are completely original.
The entire presentation was pretty great. The entire cast and crew showed up and were working overtime to sell the film.
Doctor Strange Official Trailer:
1 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2
The best panel was saved for last slot of the day.
Director James Gunn took the stage and right when he was about to start speaking he was interrupted by a voice from the audience.
Actor Chris Sullivan was fully dressed as his Taserface character and was running from the back of the hall. Taserface and his posse of Ravagers stormed the stage. Looking at the Hall H crowd with disdain, Taserface told the crowd, “You’re all stupid for waiting in line for three days!”
Gunn quieted the Ravagers and rolled a clip.
The clip shows Rocket Raccoon and Michael Rooker’s Yondu locked up in a cell. Outside of the cell, one of the Ravagers is holding a fully clothed baby Groot in a cage. The Ravager asks Taserface if he can kill Groot.
“No. It’s too adorable to kill”, says Taserface.
Yondu calls over Groot and asks him to go find his fin (Yondu’s glowing mohawk). A montage ensues of little Groot bringing wrong items; Yondu’s underwear, a toe, a fake eye.
Groot finally brings over the right items. Rocket installs the fin and Yondu is able to control his floating arrow. The sequence that ensues is an action scene where Yondu’s arrow is gleefully killing dudes with toe tapping pop music playing in the background.
The crowd lost their crap. Gunn claimed the footage was unfinished, but it looked plenty awesome to me. Baby Groot of course stole every scene he was in and the crowed awed every time he so much as blinked.
Next, the entire cast took the stage. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Batista, the whole gang. Michael Rooker even showed up donning full Yondu attire. The last member to be introduced was Kurt Russell. When panel moderator, Chris Hardwick, asked what character Russell is playing, Russell played coy and did not respond.
But fear not. Gunn rolled more footage.
For the most part, the footage was full of miscellaneous action-y stuff. Cue Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain and the first clip shows the Guardians standing inside what looks like some sort of cosmic platform. Suddenly the stars above them burst open and a serpent like creature (looked a little bit like the Leviathans from The Avengers) starts swimming towards the gang.
“Showtime”, says Peter.
A montage of the Guardians kicking butt ensues. At one point Peter calls Rocket a “trash panda”.
The footage ends with Kurt Russell and Pom Klementieff’s Mantis emerging from a giant space pod. They walk towards the Guardians and Peter asks Russell, “Who the hell are you?”
Russell responds, “I figured my rugged good looks would make that obvious. My name’s Ego and I’m your dad, Peter.”
The crowd went absolutely ballistic. People were hollering, sweat was flying and I was even high fiving the guy next to me.
And if this was not bad enough, minutes later actress Brie Larson was introduced as Captain Marvel.
I still do not know how Hall H was not crumbling at this point.
This panel encapsulated what Comic-Con is all about. Cheering until you can’t cheer anymore alongside a bunch of people who share the same passion.