Photo by Jeff Bayer
This article is not about the hate, but instead, trying to find the love.
I’ve been a film critic since 2005. I’ve attended SXSW, Sundance, Cannes, and Fantastic Fest (my favorite). In those years I didn’t consider Comic-Con. I don’t watch previews. I don’t collect toys. I tried reading The Watchmen and Sandman a few years ago, and it just wasn’t my thing. Cosplay does nothing for me. So, why Comic-Con 2015?
Because it is here, and I am here. I’m living in San Diego for about a year, before my family heads back to Portland (hopefully forever). My assumption going into it was that this would be my one and only time roaming around with supposedly the geekiest geeks in all the land.
December 14, 2014
My Movie B.S. podcast co-host Eric D. Snider and I applied for press credentials. His plan was to join and we would both wonder why we went to Comic-Con together.
June 10, 2015
People told us not to worry. Eventually our credentials would come through. Finally, I decided to look into it. I emailed a few people and only received automated emails back basically saying, “It’s after June 5, and since you haven’t heard from us, you’re not going to Comic-Con.”
Snider and I receive emails containing our press credentials, with no references to the emails I sent. He decides that’s not enough notice to join. I scramble to figure out when I will attend, what I will do, and if I can find a babysitter for my 2.67-year-old son, whom I raise while doing the whole freelance writer/film critic thing.
Preview night. You get to look around the Exhibit Hall. Hasbro, Lucasfilm, Warner Bros., Mattel, and approximately 1.6 million other booths are set up showing/selling comics, toys, collectibles, and … crap (like The Monuments Men poster). I was alone, slowly trying to absorb it all, realizing I only recognized 3 percent of the stuff. Not only that, when I did end up at Lucasfilm I was staring at a new take on a full size landspeeder. It was my first time seeing this, since I’ve managed to only see four Star Wars images at this point; Old Han and Chewie, the new lightsaber, John Boyega in a stormtrooper uniform, and some x-wings flying over some water.
Thankfully, the floor didn’t have a lot of other future images. The hall seems to mainly be about the past. I saw a ton of gorgeous art, and also realized I have no idea how copyright infringement laws work, because it seems to be happening everywhere.
There were many, many people in many, many lines. All of which seems to be for purchasing special toys. I was done with the floor in a little more than an hour, and headed to the HitFix party.
The second best part of film festivals are your film friends. The HitFix party was great. I met some new people, hung out with good friends, ate some pretty decent food (the shrimp spring rolls were the best), and had some drinks from the open bar. I’m using the word “some” because I lost count. Beer became whiskey, singles became doubles, and I became loud. For those who know me, I became louder than usual. Yes, that loud. I remember having Sam Zimmerman and Russ Fischer exchange jackets (jean and leather). Apparently I introduced some strangers who may live happily ever after.
That’s all charming and harmless enough. Thankfully. Vomiting in an Uber on the way home … not so much. This sort of behavior might have been a badge of honor or just part of the territory in college, but that was a while ago. I am publicly shaming myself right now because I’m 39 today and I happily don’t remember the last time alcohol crept up on me like that and smacked me around. It’s embarrassing, and gross.
But again, great party.
Being hungover and covering Comic-Con probably isn’t very fun. I don’t know, because I was hungover taking care of my son all day. That is officially not fun. Thankfully my friend Drew McWeeny came over for dinner, then we watched the season premiere of Key & Peele. It would end up being the third best thing I saw during Comic-Con.
The babysitter arrived, and my plan was to do the small panels. First up, “Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge.” Well, that was the hope, but a huge line meant barely anyone got in. That’s when Twitter paid off. I follow the writer Gary Whitta (Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One). He wrote that he’d be outside 29AB giving away free autographed-copies of his new novel “Abomination.” So, we chatted, he gave me a signed copy, and then I stuck around for his panel, “You Left Out the Best Part! Turning Bestselling Novels into Comics and Films.” He was joined by Hugh Howey, Jimmy Palmiotti and Nicole Perlman. Perlman is the screenwriter for Guardians of the Galaxy. I was amazed the seats didn’t fill up, and I’m amazed Perlman has less than 5,000 followers on Twitter. I had no clue what WOOL was beforehand, and now I can’t wait.
My second panel was MTV’s Scream. I haven’t watched the show yet, but my friend’s brother is one of the executive producers and writers (Jaime Paglia). I don’t think we’ve seen each other in 16 years, which is insane I can even say that. Can you tell I’m thinking about my birthday? There was great energy about the show, and it’s always fun to hear a cast talk about not knowing how long they’ll last, and not knowing if they are the killer.
The third and final panel for me was “Kung Fury: The Best Movie of All Time.” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch it. It’s very much like Danger 5. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch it on Netflix.
McWeeny moderating a very lively panel, including Jorma Taccone as Hitler. They broke news that David Sandberg will get to take his 30-minute short and make it a feature film. I can’t wait. It’s true, insane worship of the ’80s. The rest of the night was spent making McWeeny tell me stories. We’ve already shook hands that I’ll be editing a book of his one day. Do you hear that, Drew! We shook hands!
Photo by Jeff Bayer
Have you noticed I haven’t mentioned Hall H yet? That’s the place where people sleep overnight in the hopes of watching early previews or footage of the major upcoming blockbusters (mainly superhero films). I showed up at 9:45 a.m. hoping a loose connection would payoff. It didn’t. I’m small-time press, and that (rightly) doesn’t pull much weight. So, I got in this giant line, and then 45 minutes later I was seated in Hall H with a pretty good view. No sleeping bags, and no late-night pizza delivery from a kind celebrity. I don’t know if this is rare or lucky. Capacity is more than 6,500 for this place.
First up, Warner Bros. The curtains opened. Then they kept opening. The room is a giant triangle and suddenly there were screens covering two-thirds of the place. It was amazing, and immediately took me back to being a kid at Disney World, overwhelmed with visual entertainment. They showed a bunch of stuff, gave a little bit of news like Green Lantern Corps being a thing, and then they finally showed the trailer for Batman v. Superman. The crowd went insane and moderator Aisha Tyler shed a few tears of joy, with Ben Affleck and others up on stage.
Then, they assumed we wanted to watch it again, and the crowd didn’t seem to mind. I can’t tell you anything about it, because I had my eyes closed and had some Bob Dylan cranked as loud as I could. I told you, I don’t watch previews. I started with The Phantom Menace and I became pretty hard core about a decade ago. I also don’t read 15 random pages in a book before starting a novel. With my job, I’m already seeing the movie, so I always try to go in as fresh as possible.
After Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Agent Zero it was time for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. He’s my favorite. Period. I get more excited before a Tarantino film than anyone else. Tarantino explained that he cut a special seven-minute presentation just for us. Did you hear me? Just for us. I broke down. I watched. Well, I eventually closed my eyes after about 80 percent. It was glorious. Plus his news of probably doing another Western, probably doing more than 10 films total, and still probably considering a Kill Bill Vol. 3 was nice. The detail about Tarantino finally having an original musical score, and Ennio Morricone being in charge was insane. You could easily tell who the film nerds were, versus the superhero crowd.
I felt dirty. I shouldn’t have watched that trailer. I hope my terrible memory is worse than usual, because watching The Hateful Eight in glorious 70mm in December is going to be good, but I can’t help feel like it would have been a little better if I haven’t seen that footage … which was really, really good.
Legendary Pictures brought Victor Frankenstein. It was a great panel with James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe offering an infinite amount of homoerotic jokes about Victor and Igor, and McAvoy referring to himself as a “walking penis joke.” Warcraft was also there, which I don’t know a thing about, but seems like it could feature some great motion capture.
Joss Whedon stopped by to chat for an hour. This is when the fans really showed their obsession with questions (in costume). Many people teared up, including Whedon. It seemed nice, but honestly it struck me that he’s a workaholic who is a little burnt out.
Finally, it was 20th Century Fox’s turn. Fantastic Four was well received but the director and cast really pounded home the point of this film being a drama based in science, and we’ll be hanging out with the characters a long time before they get their powers. I’m nervous. Fans were jazzed for X-Men Apocalypse and its huge cast. Bryan Singer said they had only been working for five weeks, but he cut some stuff together. So, I figured I was safe to watch, but it was a trap. It looked polished, and revealed what Oscar Isaac looks like as Apocalypse.
The film that won at 20th Century Fox, and won the entire day without a doubt, was Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds owned the crowd. T.J. Miller mainly talked about horse sex (you had to be there). It’s the only trailer that was shown twice because fans chanted, “We want more!” It’s the only time the crowd was close to hysteria.
After all of that a bunch of actors who play superheroes successfully took a selfie, but it wasn’t on the monitors, so the crowd got a little annoyed they didn’t get a better view.
Photo by Jeff Bayer
If you have a pass, you can get your kid a free pass. Dylan and I went to Comic-Con. We took the trolley, which I assumed would be his highlight. While he knows the symbols of Superman and Batman, his only other pop culture knowledge is Daniel Tiger and a hint of Thomas the Train. I can’t wait to show him movies, I’m just waiting as long as I can (technically proving I can wait).
I ran into Jenna Busch (who has promised to be a future guest on Remedial Film School to finally make me watch Metropolis). She looked a little tired, rightly so. I forget with my part-time work, how exhausting a festival can be when you are dealing with writing, doing panels, and over-seeing a staff of writers.
Dylan and I hit the exhibit floor, and lasted a good hour. He got really excited about the giant TV showing Star Wars trailers. That’s his first taste, and one of my biggest tests as a parent will be to see if I can keep that Darth Vader twist fresh for him when I’m finally ready for him to see the films (when he’s probably 4.5 years old). He seemed genuinely happy to see Batman and Superman, but he’s also really good at over-smiling when I ask him to say, “Cheese.” As we passed The Walking Dead and Ash vs The Evil Dead, Dylan said, “Too loud.” I agreed, while covering his eyes, and we headed home.
I didn’t fall in love with anything new. I wasn’t tempted to buy a toy or two. I have no need for autographs. If it’s easy enough to do, every movie nerd fan should be in Hall H at some point in their life. The screens are huge. The energy is impressive.
I don’t think I’ll be back. I love my family. I love my friends. I really like things that are good and of quality (whether they be films, TV, books, sports, food, beer, wine, whiskey, traveling). Now that I’m 39.01, I can’t imagine becoming obsessed with anything. Comic-Con won’t be in my backyard again, so that’s it. This is my one and only time at Comic-Con. Not bad at all.