Comic-Con 2013: Warner Bros., Legendary Shock and Awe with Movie Previews
A report from Hall H by Shaun Manning
Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures launched Saturday programming with a joint panel surveying their upcoming films, including Godzilla and Seventh Son from Legendary and 300: Rise of an Empire, Gravity and The LEGO Movie. The big news, though, is Warner's Superman/Batman, a live-action film directed by Zack Snyder and starring Henry Cavill and a Batman to be named later.
The walls around Hall H receded into more and bigger screens to begin the panel of video presentations. As the lights came back up on stage, host Chris Hardwick took to the podium. "I look forward to the Comic-Con babies that will be born in about nine months," he said of the potential effects of the Warner/Legendary panel.
The first guest to take the stage was Jeff Bridges, as a teaser for Seventh Son played above him. "It has to do with myth -- you guys into myth?" Bridges said, to cheers. "It's chock full 'o myth." After Hardwick joked that he hopes that phrase is on the movie poster, Bridges introduced a new trailer.
A voiceover announces, "The devil is upon us; now there will be slaughter." Flashes of dragons and monsters tear across the screen, before Bridges' character and his young protege, played by Ben Barns, begin to fight back. The true threat, though, is a certain witch -- which Bridges describes as his "most important test." The movie debuts January 14, 2014.
"It's pretty wild," Bridges said. "I haven't seen a movie like this since I was about ten, man." Director Sergei Bodrov, Antje Traue, Ben Barnes and Kit Harington then joined Bridges on stage.
Barnes said his character, Tom Ward, is sold to Bridges' Master Gregory "for a small bag of gold." "He thinks it's going to be kind of cool, until he realizes he's going to be treated like a servant."
Harington said his character, who is an apprentice to Master Gregory, "is very good at what he does -- but maybe not good enough."
Bridges responded to a question about the action-oriented nature of the film, considering his age. Bridges said a lot of his acting comes down to "advanced pretend," noting that with modern CGI, "we often spend a lot of our days in our pajamas," referring to the suits used to facilitate the effects.
Asked about directing actors while dealing with CGI, Bodrov said that "it's most important to get the emotions from the actors," and the effects can be the icing.
Traue, speaking on fighting while in her elaborate costume, described the choreography as, after a pause, "feathery." Barnes said that, while "I didn't have to fight in a feathery dress," there's an element of challenge in incorporating the alchemy and things like "Tom climbs a metal chain -- it sounds simple on paper, but you don't realize that you'll scrape the hell out of your hands."
"Basically, all of us up here are storytellers," Bridges said. "So the challenge for me was telling the story." He read a passage from Solzhenitsyn "that kept me going, man." The quote considers the inseparable nature of good from evil within a single person, "and who would destroy a piece of his heart?" Bridges said he enjoys stories that ponder "that story," which can be revisited in any number of ways.
A question came up about how faithful Seventh Son would be to the Gaelic legend. "I think it's pretty faithful, but we take some liberties," Bodrov said. "If you watch it, you will find out."
The Seventh Son crew exited as Godzilla footage played overhead: a nuclear detonation over water followed by the logo.
After the "mood" teaser from last year played, director Gareth Edwards joined Hardwick on stage, along with Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Bryan Cryanston.
"We literally finished our last day of shooting two days ago," Edwards said. "I've been in a bubble for a year, then I come here to Comic-Con and the first thing I see is graffiti of Kick Ass. And I think, that's Aaron. And there's a big poster for Breaking Bad, and that's Bryan."
Olsen doing the blockbuster felt "like an independent... It felt small, it felt creative," contrary to her expectations.
"That's because we were waiting two hours for you," Edwards joked. "The rest of us were on set."
Taylor-Johnson also described Godzilla as "a big-budget art film." "I loved it," he said.
Hardwick asked Cranston if he watched the original monster movies. "You ask me that because I'm the old guy," he joked. He said he enjoyed Godzilla as a child because he was "unapologetic," unlike the more simpering King Kong. "I'm a boy, goddammit, I want destruction!"
Cranston said he wasn't sure if Godzilla was the right movie for him, until he saw that it would be a strong character-driven piece. "And it's still got Godzilla."
The crew talked a bit about shooting in Canada, where they had to give the film's code name "Nautilus" going through customs. "I felt nervous lying to the government," Olsen said. But, Edwards said, when the customs agent Googled him, the agent asked, "Are you directing 'Godzilla?'" Edwards nodded. Then, from the agent, "Don't f*** it up." Two agents then "told me everything it had to include."
Edwards described the normal Hollywood process of "doing your passion project" as well as the moneymakers, but for Godzilla, "this has to feel like your passion project."
"Before we move on," Hardwick said, "we've brought something to show you." Cranston stood up and began unbuckling his pants, to loud laughter. "That's my pet name for it -- Godzilla," he joked.
Early in the clip, Cranston removes a breather mask (in a portrait that may be familiar to Breaking Bad fans), and various glimpses of fearful faces are seen until a monstrous claw rips through a subway car, followed by further scenes of destruction.
Legendary's Warcraft teaser hit next, with a lone warrior facing off against an orc -- not altogether successfully. Director Duncan Jones came to the stage.
"Can I just get this out of my system -- AAAAH!" Jones began, releasing an enthusiastic shout. "I know how lucky I am and am so excited to do it." He said shooting would begin in early 2014.
Next up, 300: Rise of an Empire, with a stylized and bloodsoaked animated teaser emblematic of Frank Miller and Zack Snyder's previous collaborations. This was immediately followed by a longer clip. A voiceover warns of a dire prophesy. After Leonidas' death, Artemisia tells Xerxes, "You will be a god-king," prompting him to dreams of glory over the Greeks. "Nothing will stop the march of my empire," he proclaims. Fiery naval battles and swordfights on land follow.
Rodrigo Santoro, director Noam Murro, Eva Green and Sullivan Stapleton came to the stage.
"If you took 300 and you zoomed out, that's this movie," Murro said. "It takes place about the same time, but gives a much bigger scope of what happened."
"It was great to return to the character I played," Santoro said of Xerxes. "He's an intense character; I like his character a lot."
Green said Artemisia is "the toughest character I've ever played. I call her a ruthless Joan of Arc. She's so cool," the actress said. "She's a Greek warrior woman who was raised by the king of the Persian empire. When he dies, he makes his son swear he'll end the war with the Greeks. But her whole family was killed by mutinous Greek soldiers, so she's got a thirst for vengeance."
Stapleton's Themistocles is "very strong, very driven," a "very determined man who wears a leather skirt."
Santoro said Xerxes "styled himself as a god-king, so he's got to have that look. But I'm more interested in what's going on with his personality." The actor said he did not believe Xerxes is evil, but he had a mission, and that mission involved conquering the world.
With so much of the movie shot on green screen, Green said, "Thank God I had real actors in front of me to work with." But that wasn't always the case. "For Rodrigo, I had to look at a big stick, and he had to look at a tennis ball for me."
Murro said that the sequel will "advance" the visual language of 300. "There is a DNA in the way it looks; you say, yes, this is 300." But having much of the action take place on water "gives it a whole new way it looks."
After 300: Rise of an Empire, Hardwick transitioned to Gravity, with a teaser which begins with an astronaut suffocating as she floats in space. Director Alfonso Cuarón came to the stage first. "The story is about two astronauts in space. All the way through the film, you only see those two faces -- Sandra Bullock and George Clooney," he said. "Pretty good, no?"
"We wanted people to feel that they are floating in space," he said. And while the film explores different themes, "it never stops the action."
Cuarón said that, contrary to the teaser, there will be no sound of an explosion in space, since "we all know there's no sound in space." He introduced a new clip, which begins with Clooney looking at Earth and saying, "You've got to admit, you can't beat the view." Clooney communicates with Houston, sharing an anecdote about Mardi Gras as Bullock concentrates on making minor repairs. Control interrupts him to abort the mission, alerting the astronauts to impending danger from a debris chain reaction quickly knocking out all satellite communication on Earth. There is, in fact, a silent explosion, and it's no less dramatic for the lack of sound -- point of view whirling through space.
After the clip, Sandra Bullock joined Cuarón on stage. Although this was Bullock's Comic-Con debut, her family has a special connection to the event. "This was my sister and her husband's first date, at Comic-Con, and now they are in the audience."
Bullock spoke of wanting to live up to the inventions devised to make the movie possible. The technology used for the film involved the actors being in cubes "filled with lights" and "held by robots" for much of the work day, Cuarón said. And because Bullock had to be insulated in the cube, "between each take she would just stay there, with her music or whatever."
Producer David Heyman explained that the robots would move the characters rather than risking any gravity distorting facial effects, and Bullock said that the robots would sometimes stop inches from her face. "If the robot did decide to keep moving through my face, there's nothing I could do to stop it."
Cuarón said that, despite the technical innovation of Gravity, in many ways it will all come down to the cast. "You can use a lot of brilliant camera moves, but it doesn't mean anything," he said. "Because when you do the stakes at the end, all the weight is on the actors."
The LEGO Movie followed, with directors Phil Lord, Chris Miller, and Chris McKay and producer Daniel Lin.
"We had like a four hour movie last year," Lord said, but this obviously wasn't doable. "There are so many universes; I just hope we get to do more."
In the clip, two characters introduced themselves before Batman arrived, silent. "Sorry, I wasn't paying attention," Batman says in place of the expected line. The clip focused on the directorial process, with none of the characters being especially helpful cast members.
After the clip, Lord spoke about working with Morgan Freeman, who voices Vitruvius. "You can't believe you're in there working with these guys," Lord said, "and neither can they. It's like we're 12."
Channing Tatum plays Superman, Jonah Hill plays Green Lantern, and Cobie Smulders "will be the first film incarnation of Wonder Woman," Lord said.
A life-sized LEGO version of Hardwick sat to the side of the stage, and the human MC was startled to see the figure occasionally move.
"This is probably the weirdest kids' film ever to be committed to celluloid," Lord said, with Miller adding that there would be a subversive, punk rock feel to the movie.
The panelists said that they got to choose their favorite LEGO characters and sets from childhood to use in the film. "Chris' mom sent his original LEGO space set to us, and it's in the movie," Lin said.
Lord said he wanted the movie "to feel like a guy with an infinite amount of time and money could build this in his basement."
After the LEGO Movie team moved offstage, Hardwick announced the last segment of the panel. A teaser for Edge of Tomorrow came up next, with a man donning mechanized armor. "I hope you have your crapping pants on, because you're going to need them."
Doug Liman, Chris McQuarrie, Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise took to the stage, with Cruise revealing he and Hardwick once played the same role on stage. They then went into a musical number of "I want to Know What Love Is."
A clip from the movie, which was previously known as All You Need is Kill, ran next. Cruise and his team of near-future military warriors fight across a hopeless battlefield -- though Cruise protests "I'm not a soldier." Blunt's character replies, "Of course you're not -- you're a weapon."
Liman explained that Cruise "gains the ability to replay the day, and it happens that it's a day on which a very important battle takes place," in which humanity fights against an invading alien force.
Blunt said she learned Krav Naga martial arts in preparation for the role. "Tom and I saw each other at our most unglamorous, 5 AM in the gym at the rower -- because the suits are really heavy, and if you don't stay fit you're going to have a problem."
Cruise said the film has a "tremendous amount of humor, a tremendous amount of action." He said characters call Blunt's Rita Vrataski "the full metal bitch -- affectionately." Cruise then invited costar Bill Paxton from the audience onto the stage.
"There's kind of a colonial marines vibe to the thing," Paxton said. Paxton and Cruise quipped with each other about keeping up in the suits, and throwing out lines from their earlier movies.
Liman said that Cruise's character Lt. Col. Bill Cage begins as "an absolute coward," adding that "Tom makes a great coward; it's some of the most fun I've had directing." Paxton said that his character has orders that Cage is a deserter, "and we're only too eager to shoot him -- and then he's in the battlesuit for the first time."
Blunt explained that "Tom's character remembers previous days, but my character is meeting him for the first time at the beginning of each day." Their relationship dynamic, though, Liman added, is such that "she actually has an advantage over him despite this huge advantage he seems to have."
With the panel already running over, Hardwick welcomed Zack Snyder and Henry Cavill to the stage.
"I know there's been a lot of speculation about what we're doing," Snyder said. "It is official that we're going to make another Superman movie." He teased that "there's one particular part of the film I might be able to help you out with."
Harry Lennox from Man of Steel joined the panel to read something. "We're not adapting this thing," Snyder said, "but it will help us tell you something."
"I want you to remember, Clark, in all the years to come, in all your most private moments, I want you to remember my hand at your throat," Lennox read. "I want you to remember the one man who beat you."
Then, on the screen, a Superman shield within a Bat symbol to wrap the panel.