Comic-Con 2009: Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Brothers Pictures started the day on Friday at San Diego Comic Con 2009 with a star-studded 2.5 hour panel devoted to no less than five of their upcoming films.

Things kicked off with “Where the Wild Things Are”, Spike Jonze’s brilliant looking interpretation of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s novel. After a brief video of Sendak and Jonze in the former’s office basically praising each other’s skills, we were treated to a collection of around a half-dozen 3-5 minute scenes showing off various sequences with the creatures and the kid.

We see construction of a castle, a playful monster wrestle, a tour through the various lands, and lots of scenes with all the monsters interacting. The important thing is the look and tone truly nails the material. Jonze shot all the scenes on-location and handycam style in forests and barren rocky seaside landscapes. Combined with the monsters which seamlessly blend practical suits with CG animated facial expressions, it gives the whole fantastical element a much greater sense of reality. In fact its often surprising how emotionally affecting the fun and sadness of these various creatures is.

The young star of the film, Max Records, was on hand to introduce the footage and actually managed to make a very supportive crowd at the con chuckle several times.

Then came “A Nightmare on Elm Street” with the film’s producers, director and star Jackie Earle Haley showing up with an essentially extended trailer. Scenes shown include a very scared Krueger being torched (and stumbling out while burned alive). There’s various random shots that were tricky to recognise – a guy in a pool rising from the water, what looked like a glass house, random victims, etc.

Other shots however definitely evoked the original from creepy girls singing to Tina’s famous death, and the nightmare with the body-bagged corpse in the school hallway. A good scare has a girl in an attic with a torch, seeing Freddy’s fedora on top of some boxes. She swivels the light away and swivels back to see it and Freddy’s eyes looking at her from behind the boxes. The clip ended with a shadowed shot of Krueger – no clear shot of Freddy’s new look was revealed but the burns do look different from Englund’s more sinewy makeup.

During the Q&A, the producers said that while its a remake they weren’t slavish to Wes Craven’s original by any means so expect it to have a few changes from the original. They said Robert Englund is NOT going to make a cameo though went to great pains to say he’s a big supporter of it and Haley in the role. Andrew Clement’s make-up design is said to evoke a more realistic take on the burn victim look with Haley calling it more “disconcerting” than the previous film’s make-up jobs.

Next was “The Box”, a sci-fi feature based on an old “Twilight Zone” episode that has been helmed by rising filmmaker Richard Kelly (“Donnie Darko,” “Southland Tales”). A very buff Kelly was on hand with the sometimes ditzy but very good-humored Cameron Diaz and fellow prankster James Marsden to talk about the film and show off an extended trailer.

The early scene shown in the trailer which sets up the premise (push the button, receive $1 million) was played pretty much in full. Unlike the trailer however the dilemma of push/don’t push doesn’t look to be a focal point as Diaz’s character presses it in a scene that obviously takes place quite early in the film.

The rest of the footage shows the pair’s attempts to find out who Frank Langella’s character is and whom he works for. Scenes from the trailer are expanded on and quite trippy with what looks psychically controlled water cubes, group hypnosis, etc.

With a film like this, the more kept a mystery the better so answers were generally vague. Yet the 1976 Virginia setting is apparently very keen to the whole idea of the film as Kelly didn’t want to do a scene where the couple ‘Googled’ their mysterious visitor. Diaz made a remark about a larger theme of the film which may have given away some spoilers as to the end.

Fourth cab off the rank was “Jonah Hex”, the film adaptation of the comic book western with supernatural undertones. Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender and the film’s director turned out to premiere an extended trailer and answer questions. The footage was impressive, especially considering the film’s limited budget, with a real mix of stuff not really seen in the same film before.

The Q&A however turned out to be rather uncomfortable and uninformative as many who got up just made remarks about how hot Fox was – one guy made comments that were WAY out of order and was promptly cut off. Much of it however was saved by Brolin who was able to give sass back to the audience and make fun of himself. The filmmakers did confirm though that there’s no Voodoo King or Army of the Dead.

Finally came “Sherlock Holmes” with Robert Downey Jr. walking out unannounced with a hand up in a ‘praise me’ style salute that sent the crowd wild. Downey was easily the funniest talent on display all day, cracking jokes about his overconfidence and just having an obvious ball playing to a crowd of fans who adored him.

An extended trailer of about 6-7 minutes of scenes were shown. Unlike the teaser which reeked of bombast, the new footage was notably better paced and got more into the story. The ‘Pirates’ take on Doyle’s material is evident, and there’s still some questions that linger, but the flavour of Holmes both character and story wise were notably more obvious in this footage.

The fight scene has Holmes pre-visualising in a very cold and calculated manner how he’ll take down the rival boxer before he does it. There was also more of Rachel McAdams’ Irene Adler character outfoxing Holmes from his clothes, and some scenes set on Tower Bridge mid-way through construction.

The tone is humorous and dark, and as much as love Downey it’s his take on the character that remains the standout element from the footage that has yet to convince me. He and the other panelists however said very specifically that they kept going back to the books time and time again and are far more loyal to them than other adaptations have been in the past due to budget and filmmaking limitations.

Despite the Occult angle of bodies rising from the grave, the ‘supernatural’ element seems to be a cover for something more believable. Though it’s not based on a specific adventure, the story’s time frame is definitely set after Adler’s first and only appearance in the story “A Scandal in Bohemia” as several references are made to the end of that story. Asked if other characters in Holmes canon will make it into the film, one of the producers said they might and wouldn’t go into detail.