People have said that there has been a tidal shift in thought regarding at San Diego Comic Con in the film studios minds. Once, it was thought that a panel at SDCC promoting your genre flick would be worth millions in advertising dollars, that word of mouth from the panel would spread throughout the geek community and ticket sales would flourish. But after a few high profile films were rolled out at SDCC (namely, Cowboys & Aliens and Sucker Punch) to less than stellar box office, wags started saying Hollywood was scaling back its SDCC presence.
But even still, one would expect that the studios with comic book films would still deliver what they always had: big news, exclusive scoops and surprise guests. And this year, I found the comic book news was sort of lacking.
Let me explain what I mean.
DC won the comic book movie scoop war in the early rounds before their panel even started with the rumor that they were about to announce Batman/Superman for 2015, The Flash for 2016, and Justice League in 2017. This was diminished slightly when Warners only confirmed Batman/Superman. But even if those other films were announced, I’d still be a bit disappointed for a number of reasons.
First of all, as Rich mentioned, a Batman/Superman film was in the works in 2002 before Warners decided to reboot the franchises separately. A Flash film has been in the works for just as long if not longer. And a Justice League film got to the casting and set building stage before being scrapped. This isn’t Warners using Man of Steel‘s success to blaze new paths and break boundaries. This is Warners using that film’s success to clear out its superhero film backlog.
On a somewhat related note, this bears comparison to how DC Entertainment handles its comic book operations. DC Entertainment business plan appears to be more about the now and less about the future. It seems like they plan one shocking event, including killing off popular characters, at the rate of one a fiscal quarter to bump up sales. They change writers on their books like most people change their underwear, not allowing anyone to build traction on a title or work free from corporate interference. As long as the books are selling well right now, why worry about not finding writers or alienating fans in the future!
This seems like more and the same, only slightly less egregious. Superman is very hot at the box office right now. Batman is coming out of a franchise that made Warners billions. Putting them in the same movie together should be like printing money. But if you are building a shared universe, leading to a Justice League team-up, wouldn’t this spot be better used bringing another hero to the screen? If not that, having more films along the line that just the Flash’s? Like making a Wonder Woman film?
Speaking of that, I believe that now is the time for a Wonder Woman film. Twilight and The Hunger Games have proven that female-focused genre films can find an audience. And Wonder Woman has themes that mirror the ones in those films.
I know this might just seem like I am mad at Warners for not taking my advice, and don’t get me wrong, I am excited to see how Nolan and Goyer will be reinventing Batman again, I just think there is a lot of potential lost in the path Warners is taking.
In June of this year, we found out Disney has reserved May 2016 and May 2017 for Marvel films, with July 2016 being added later that month. At this year’s SDCC, we found out nothing about any of those dates.
Granted, there was a shorter turnaround time (one month compared to one year between announcement and the con) and a longer one between the con and the films release date (three years instead of two), but with some websites saying that Doctor Strange is all but cast, and Black Panther not far behind, you’d expect at least one of the films for those dates would be announced.
What we got was a subtitle for Avengers 2 (Now known as Avengers: Age of Ultron), a brief clip from Thor: The Dark World (with Thor supposedly losing an hand), a panel with the cast of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and a panel with the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy (with the scoop that Djimon Hounsou has joined the cast and that Thanos would make an appearance).
Certainly a fair amount of scoops there, but it seems like bigger scoops happened outside the panel. Joss Whedon spoke with Marvel.com’s blog, where he eased fans minds by saying Avengers: Age of Ultron would not be adapting the recently completed, somewhat poorly received comic book series of the same name. He then disappointed the same fans by revealing that Hank Pym, who created Ultron in the comics, would not be creating him in the film. Boo. This is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, shifts from Marvel continuity that the films have taken, and not one I think is for the better. Creating Ultron is a big touchstone in Hank Pym’s background. He doesn’t really have many other character defining touchstones than that. Taking that away from him weakens the character if he ever appears on film.
Then, in an interview with Huffington Post, Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘s co-director Joe Russo revealed that the film would play directly into Avengers: Age of Ultron. My guess would be that either the cybernetics team that make the Winter Solder ‘s implants creates Ultron to replace the Winter Soldier, or Cap breaks with S.H.I.E.L.D and/or the government and they create Ultron to replace him.
Sony/Amazing Spider-Man 2:
I have to say that Andrew Garfield seems to be the actor who has the most fun playing a superhero in comic film history. At the very least, he is the one who has the most fun at SDCC. For the first film, he appeared from the crowd at SDCC ’11 in a store bought Spidey costume and read a statement on how much playing Spider-man meant to him. This year, he spent a good part of the Spider-Man panel in a better Spider-Man suit, answering questions in character. His enthusiasm for the role goes a long way for me.
The panel had a bit of fun introducing Jamie Foxx to the dias (he interrupted a taped statement from Emma Stone) but other than that, it was simply a “promote the film” panel. You can call the fact that Paul Giamatti’s Rhino would have a small part in the film a scoop, but that was common sense. There was talk of the Sinister Six making an appearance down the line, but nothing concrete.
Fox/The Wolverine/X-Men: Days of Future Past:
If you are looking for surprises, look no further than here. The Wolverine panel ended with a surprise X-Men: Days of Future Past panel.
The Wolverine panel was essentially just a promotion for the film, which opens this week. But Hugh Jackman shows once again that he is one of the classiest actors in showbiz. He was effusive in his praise to the fans for accepting him and called up Len Wein to shake his hand and thank him for creating the character. Like Garfield, Jackman seems to sincerely enjoy playing the character and it shows.
X-Men: Days of Future Past had a presence at SDCC already, with Sentinel designs being on full display. The surprise panel, complete with a clip, offered little scoops, only rumor confirmation. It will be Wolverine going back in time, not Kitty Pryde. Quicksilver will appear in the 1970s part of the film. And whatever happens in the past will bring Xavier and Magneto back together in the future.