San Diego Comic-Con, aka mecca for nerds, has wrapped up another year of huge media announcements, celebrity appearances, movie &TV trailer releases, Q&A panels, creative cosplayers, and insane Hall H lines. Whether comic book purists like it or not, SDCC is the preeminent showcase for superhero, sci-fi, and fantasy entertainment from the major Hollywood studios, and it isn’t likely to change anytime soon (even though the convention center seems to be becoming more and more inadequate for the throngs of humanity every year).
Unfortunately, I have yet to set foot into this virtual cornucopia of geek pleasures (and horrors) myself, but I had a network of spies and friends walking the floor, and of course I kept abreast of everything developing across social media and the usual geek culture websites. This week on the LeagueCast podcast, we’ll share our thoughts on the major events that took place at SDCC this year, as well as hopefully talk to some people who were actually there to experience it, but in the meantime, I thought it would be fun and interesting to compile a list of “winners” and “losers” of SDCC 2015. (As per usual, we’re only dealing with the very biggest properties and announcements.)
Winner: Star Wars
If Lucasfilm had brought a new trailer to show off in Hall H, they would have easily “won” SDCC 2015. As it stands, they finished a close second behind DC’s massive presence at the con, which I’ll get to later. Again, the drum beaten by Kathleen Kennedy, JJ Abrams, and the Disney marketing machine pounded out its relentless, pleading message – forget George Lucas, forget the Prequels, forget CGI backgrounds and creatures; real sets are back, real creature effects are back, real film cameras are back…real Star Wars is back. This was reinforced via a truly magical behind-the-scenes video piece, which showed off quite a bit of new footage, locations, action sequences, and creature designs. Accompanied by John Williams’ immortal score, it went a long way towards erasing doubt from fence-sitters, Expanded Universe truthers, and older fans burned by the putrid sulfur of Episodes I-III.
The panel was also bolstered by an appearance from the entire cast, including an ultra-rare in-the-flesh visit by Harrison Ford himself! JJ then enlisted some First Order stormtroopers to escort everyone in Hall to the rear of the convention center for an impromptu orchestral concert of classic Star Wars music. Here’s a video of the entire epic panel:
Loser: Fantastic Four
Poor 20th Century Fox. The studio hit SDCC amidst a swirl of rumors that they were desperate to go the Sony route and strike a deal with Kevin Feige and the Marvel Studios’ brain trust to make their X-Men characters a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and they also had to deal with the revelation that embattled director Josh Trank cancelled the Fantastic Four’s 3D conversion, further damaging the film’s already dismal box-office outlook. The FF’s brief, 11-minute portion of the Fox presentation featuring Trank and the film’s cast seemed to be an uncomfortable, awkward affair with little crowd reaction. The new trailer shown didn’t seem to light a fire under anyone, either. All signs continue to point towards a disaster of Galactus proportions for this one.
Winner: Ash Vs. Evil Dead
HAIL TO THE KING, BABY! Before this SDCC panel, there were endless questions and doubts regarding this Starz network resuscitation of the Evil Dead franchise. Was Bruce too old to play Ash? Would the gore be toned down? Would the tone itself be wildly off? Would it still feel like Evil Dead? Well, it only took around 20 seconds into this trailer for the series October 31 premiere for all of those fears to be chainsawed into bloody oblivion. Bruce, though a bit long in the tooth now, has still got the Ash swagger, and it looks like there’s enough trademark Raimi camerawork, geysers of red carnage, hilarious banter, and rotting Deadites to satisfy any fan of the insane horror-comedy saga. My only complaint? What happened to S-Mart, and what the hell is “Value Stop?”
Winner: The Walking Dead/Fear The Walking Dead
Not much to say here, other than AMC’s zombie gravy train continues to roll along. Both panels and the trailers for season 6 of The Walking Dead and the new spin-off series Fear The Walking Dead, were pretty well-received.
Loser: Marvel Studios Movie Division
Kevin Feige and crew sat this one out this year, so that meant no footage of Captain America: Civil War, no worldwide debut of Tom Holland as Spider-Man, no endless ribbing among the Avengers cast on stage, no pre-release hype for Ant-Man, and no updates on Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Infinity War, or Captain Marvel. It was a hugely disappointing no-show, but with the pace Marvel is setting right now and the tremendous workload on their plate, you can hardly blame them. After years of stunning Hall H extravaganzas, it was probably time to give the cast and crews of this perpetually running engine a break. Plus, Disney’s biannual megacon D23 is just around the corner, so they’ll be plenty of opportunities there to show off material from the aforementioned projects.
Winner: Marvel Studios TV Division
On the other hand, Marvel’s small-screen stars absolutely crushed it during their panel. Fueled by a highly amusing dubsmash war between Hayley Atwell and the Agent Carter/Civil War crew and Clark Gregg’s Agents Of Shield posse, We learned our favorite British bombshell would be moving out to Hollywood—along with Jarvis, his wife, Howard Stark, and other returning SSR agents—to battle obscure Marvel superhero villain group The Secret Empire (an offshoot of HYDRA who became their own thing) as well as the Darkforce (a mysterious energy used by Marvel hero Cloak and villain Blackout). Hayley Atwell and the gang lit up the panel with wit and humor, hitting a home run with the fans and offering up hope that this strong female hero can continue her adventures.
Meanwhile, Clark Gregg and the rest of the Agents Of Shield could barely answer questions from Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb without cracking up or heckling each other. These folks have become a tight-knit group, and you can really see their camaraderie shining through. Despite the low ratings and the dissociation Kevin Feige has demonstrated, they’ve managed to soldier on and win a lot of naysayers over. An outstanding blooper reel was shown during the presentation, and we learned a little bit about how the show will implement the Secret Warriors concept in season three. It was also revealed that the Inhuman known as Lash from the Marvel Comics will appear on the show. Here’s the Shield portion of the panel:
Loser: X-Men: Apocalypse
I was going to put this one in the winner column, because by all accounts, the trailer Bryan Singer and crew screened was super-dramatic and went over with the fans quite well. (Also, Hugh Jackman showed up!) However, reaction to Oscar Isaac’s appearance as the titular villain has been overwhelmingly negative, drawing comparisons to Ivan Ooze from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie.You be the judge:
It wasn’t all sad faces for Fox, as their Deadpool presentation apparently rocked the house. Deadpool fans are notoriously diehard and finicky, but they were on their feet, hootin’ and hollerin’ after the first footage of their beloved “merc with a mouth” was shown. The sizzle reel—featuring a fully realized version of the highway sequence from the infamous leaked test footage, as well as familiar mutants like Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Colossus—was loaded with f-bombs and Ryan Reynold nailing Deadpool’s trademark wiseassery.
Winner: DC Entertainment/Warner Bros.
With Marvel Studios out of the picture and Fox’s superhero presentations landing somewhere in the mediocre range, DC took home a fairly convincing victory at SDCC by unveiling the epic, full-length first trailer for Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, as well as screening a first look at director David Ayers’ Suicide Squad. Both films had all or most of their casts and crews in attendance for the panels, and both trailers received thunderous standing ovations from the DC faithful in attendance. Grim, gritty, dark, and firmly entrenched in “reality” are the appropriate descriptors for these clips, which is exactly what these “disciples of the darkness” eat up like Halloween candy. Ben Affleck had some of the best anecdotes during the Q&A, including his run-in with Christian Bale at a L.A. costume shop.
Over in the TV division, it was a hugely eventful con for producer Greg Berlanti’s small-screen superhero empire, as Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends Of Tomorrow all had a big presence, as did Fox’ Gotham series. Stephen Amell greeted fans in a brand new Arrow costume, while we also found out Diggle would finally be getting some superhero duds of his own to aid in the battle against Neal McDonough’s Damien Dahrk in season four. The Flash runners (no pun intended) let fans know both Zoom and Wally West would factor heavily into season two, and old-school Flash Jay Garrick (whose helmet was glimpsed briefly in the season one finale) will be played by Teddy Sears.
Loser: DC Entertainment (Batman V Superman, Specifically)
Okay, hear me out on this one. While the Batman V Superman trailer displayed some vastly improved cinematography, a great look at Wonder Woman in action, and some stellar Batman action and emotional range from Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne (anyone who doubted Affleck as Batman has got to be feeling pretty dumb after watching this, because he’s going to absolutely kill this.) once again, everything regarding Superman himself was bleak, nihilistic, and completely misguided.
Credit should be doled out to Chris Terrio and Zack Snyder for drafting a narrative in this film that addresses the wanton destruction inflicted upon Metropolis by a Superman who seemingly had no regard for the lives he was supposed to protect at all costs – but it’s still difficult to watch a last son of Krypton who is clad in drab colors, is morally ambiguous, doubtful of his purpose, and seems so far away from the paragon of virtue mankind should aspire to be. The worst part of the trailer occurs when Diane Lane’s Martha Kent seems to channel the horrendous parenting advice of her late husband buy offering up these words of wisdom to a conflicted and embattled Supes: “Be what they want you to be, or be none of it. You don’t owe this world a thing. You never did.” Are you kidding me? In no context is this an okay thing for Ma Kent to say to Kal-El. It’s utterly appalling.
No, Kal-El doesn’t owe this world anything, but he cares for it deeply and he knows that without it, he would not have his powers, he would not have the love of two wonderful parents, and he would not know the potential of its people to be compassionate, remarkable beings. Already the Man of Steel truthers are tripping all over themselves with the mental gymnastics they’re using to justify this garbage Martha Kent spews, but there’s no denying it’s wildly out of character and just flat-out wrong. If this is part of the nightmare sequence where Superman appears to be a tyrant with an army dominating mankind, I’ll eat my words, but it doesn’t seem that’s the case, and I find that terribly sad.
Winner: All Of Us
This is the golden age, everyone. The future is bright. Let’s enjoy it…