The Highs and Lows of Comic-Con 2014
San Diego Comic-Con may be done and dusted for another year, but the memories will last forever: not least because some truly great announcements were made regarding the geekery that will be stealing our hearts, minds and cash over the next year or so.
With each year seemingly bigger than the last, it can be a tough call to pick out highlights (and, indeed, the soul-crushingly disappointing lowlights) of the world's biggest fan convention, but we've given it our best shot. Check out our gallery for the best and worst that San Diego Comic-Con 2014 had to offer.
The Good -- Avengers: Age of Ultron
Where better to start this list than the blindingly exciting Avengers sequel Age of Ultron? With convention appearances from the cast (Robert Downey Jr. threw flowers to the crowd as he appeared) and a scintillating teaser that makes us desperate for May 2015 to hurry up and come already, Avengers: Age of Ultron was an undisputed hit of Comic-Con.
Seemingly based on a comics ark spanning Avengers #19-22 -- pitting Earth’s Mightiest Avengers against a self aware artificial intelligence set on destroying humanity -- the pre-release handling of this blockbuster sequel showed everyone at Comic-Con how this sort of thing should be done.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Unlike the majority of modern movie blockbusters, which seem to come together based on little more than a successful indie comics launch, or maybe a name someone remembers from a once-popular arcade game, Mad Max: Fury Road sounds like its title could describe the journey of bringing it to screen. The first Mad Max movie in 30 years, hearing director George Miller describe it was enough to bring tears to the eyes of long-time fans. Watching the trailer was even better.
This looks a worthy successor to a series every self-respecting sci-fi movie fan loves.
Arrow Season 3
It’s great when a movie you’re expecting to be good turns out to be great. In some ways it’s even better when a TV series you’re expecting to be mediocre turns out to be fantastic. The biggest Comic-Con announcement about Arrow? The fact that the show’s third season is set to feature no less a villain than Ra’s al Ghul. Revelations like this are the stuff geek dreams are made of.
As the excitement around Arrow shows, TV series commandeered our Comic-Con attention again this year: from Game of Thrones through the promising Batman spinoff Gotham. What was in somewhat short supply, however, were original TV series, rather than those adapted from bestselling novels or comic book properties. It’s into this niche that Ascension fits.
A six-hour mini-series about a top secret 100-year U.S. space mission launched back in the 1960s, it sounds like a truly compelling proposition. We’ll have to wait for more details to emerge, but this has the opportunity to become (at the very least) sci-fi’s next breakout cult hit.
Everyone knew Batman ‘66 was coming to DVD and Blu-Ray, but having it discussed at Comic-Con made the whole thing sink in.
But that’s not the real reason for this inclusion on the list -- which is reserved for the fact that Adam West took the stage not once, but multiple times during Comic-Con: perhaps most excitingly showing up to hype a special Batman '66 level in the upcoming Lego Batman game. This was a genuine feel-good moment at an event that seems to skew younger and younger with its target demographics each year.
The Bad -- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
I’ve always been a massive Turtles fan: from the original Eastman and Laird comics through the '80s cartoon, Jim Henson-puppeted movie series, toyline, and CGI TMNT reboot. This year’s Comic-Con represents 30 years since the launching of one of the least likely franchises of all-time: a one-note X-Men parody that somehow grew green legs and began a sensation.
So why exactly wasn’t the anniversary a bigger deal? Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t skipped over completely, but the 30th anniversary panel reportedly didn’t play as well as it could, the Hall H material was a damp squib, and co-creator Peter Laird (who sold his part in the Turtles franchise to Nickelodeon back in 2009) wasn’t there at all. It probably didn’t help that the Michael Bay-produced reboot is looking disappointingly subpar — not helped by a theme song that makes us long for the days of Vanilla Ice.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
I was among those left underwhelmed by 2013’s Man of Steel movie, but I’m perfectly willing to accept that, in something of an anomaly, the second movies in superhero franchises regularly blow away the first entries: with Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight, Captain America: Winter Soldier, and others serving as case in point. I’m therefore cautiously optimistic about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, despite the fact that its title alone makes it sound more like a preamble to Justice League than it does an epic movie in its own right.
With that being said, it’s difficult not to have the wind taken out of your sails by the movie’s presentation at Comic-Con. We got a brief 60 second clip, which was perfectly acceptable, only to have the film’s stars come out on stage to stare blankly at the audience. Ben Affleck, in particular, looked about as comfortable as Bruce Wayne enjoying a relaxing night in Crime Alley.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Remember how epic that third Hobbit book by J.R.R. Tolkien was? Wait, what’s that — there was no third book, you say? Stretching what is essentially a novella into three not particularly exciting movies has been a problem for The Hobbit ever since the first movie plodded onto screens in 2012. True to form, what should have been a poignant, compelling Comic-Con sendoff to Peter Jackson’s epic six-part Middle-Earth series turned out to be a slightly uninspired and dull panel that gave us few reasons to be excited about this December's The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
Hey, at least Tolkien enthusiast Stephen Colbert (who recited by heart a Tolkien poem onstage) did his best to inject a bit of life into proceedings.
Talking of Peter Jackson (sort of), it seems that we’re set to get a prequel to his 2005 giant monkey movie in the form of Skull Island, to be directed by Joe Cornish. While the movie could certainly turn out to be exciting, my initial reaction is far from positive: we’ve not yet seen a good remake of the 1933 original despite numerous tries; the moment prequels seems to have been missed; the Skull Island sequence was actually one of the least entertaining parts of Jackson’s King Kong; and we’re already overloaded with monster movies. But aside from that it could be good. Maybe.
Comics have played a smaller and smaller role in Comic-Con each year. This year, the announcements were few, far between, and generally drowned out by the noise of Hollywood movie deals and video game announcements. It’s tough to begrudge geek culture having reached its current zenith of popularity, but when comics represent an entirely throwaway part of something called Comic-Con, you know that can’t be good.
Picture: The Comic Book Shop