So that was Comic-Con 2011

Every year, the San Diego Comic-Con – to embrace geek speak – shoots by faster than a speeding bullet. And the 2011 Con was no different, with four whirlwind days of nerdtastic programming screeching by at a breathless pace. Most of my time this year – as with in 2010 – was spent in the dark and hallowed Hall H, where all number of fantastic panels rolled out stars and exclusive footage. Even films that I had no interest in (uh, Underworld 4…) had their plus points (in that case, an on-form Kate Beckinsale).

Highlights? Clear frontrunner The Amazing Spider-Man took the biscuit with its exclusive clips and exhaustively entertaining panel (Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, director Marc Webb). Snippets showing off Garfield both as Peter Parker and Spidey himself had a more-packed-than-ever Hall H heaving with whoops and cheers, as the webhead reboot proved that Webb had a perfect hold on the dark drama as well as the more comic-book-y humour.

Not only that, but we got our first glimpse at Ifans as the villainous Lizard – replete with the CGI antagonist’s stunning reveal. Sam Raimi’s trilogy clearly has its fans, but after seeing this footage, I’m more than confident that Webb can blow Raimi’s increasingly-dated movies out of the water.

The other main standout of Comic-Con 2011 was the eagerly-anticipated panel for Prometheus. Though director Ridley Scott and star Noomi Rapace couldn’t make it, they still showed fans some loving by speaking live via video link from Iceland, where they were completing the final week of shooting on the sort-of Alien prequel.

In Hall H, writer Damon Lindelof and other star Charlize Theron traded banter, before presenting the first ever footage from the flick. And even though the film’s not based on a comic book, the images chucked our way were a marvel. Scott’s crafted a film that – while not a direct prequel to Alien – is visually and stylistically linked to it. From the sliding Alien-like title card to the set design and music, all Scott’s talk of Alien DNA suddenly made sense.

Charlize Theron was also part of another stand-out panel, this one for Snow White And The Huntsman. Joining her castmates Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Sam Claflin on-stage, the quartet had apparently only met on the plane to the Con, but were already trading barbed banter like pros.

The film hasn’t started filming yet (it starts shooting this week here in the UK), but director Rupert Sanders still managed to wow the crowds by debuting images of the cast in their Snow White costumes…

Not bad, nuh? Equally impressive was the mood piece that Sanders had crafted for Universal to show them his vision for Huntsman. Though it was only shot in three days, the short film contained some stunning images, and hints that Sanders’ version of the fairytale will be both visually rich and forboding in tone.

Elsewhere at the Con, Nic Cage showed off some surprisingly gritty and exciting footage from Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance, the cast of Knights Of Badassdom chucked us the film’s first trailer (which hinted it’s on a path to definite cultdom), Steven Spielberg revealed we’re getting a Jurassic Park 4 in the next few years, the Twilight stars unveiled some decent footage from Breaking Dawn, and Kevin Smith hosted his annual ‘An Early Evening With…’ one-man show, soaking up the love from thousands of adoring fans.

So that was Comic-Con 2011. Mad. Restless. Crowded. But just as exciting as ever. Bring on Comic-Con 2012…

For more on Comic-Con 2011, read The 12 Best Things About Comic-Con 2011 over at Total Film, which I wrote with Richard Jordan.

Amazing artwork?

Just in case the Bane Dark Knight Rises image released on Friday eclipsed buzz for the myriad other comic book movies making their way to the big screen, Marvel have hit back by releasing the first poster for next year’s The Amazing Spider-Man.

Coming over a year before the flick’s actual unveiling, this is definitely one to file under ‘massive tease’. That said, the poster at least gives us the film’s official logo, whick copes well with the elongated title but isn’t massively eye-catching.

As for the mysterious (bloodied?) fabric in the background, is that Peter Parker’s Spidey suit post-battle damage? It certainly looks that way. But what’s most enticing about this new image is the possibility that this poster could actually be the first piece in a jigsaw that will eventually be the film’s official one sheet. Stranger things have happened in the cutthroat world of viral marketing…

Geek me up!

There’s a future blog post about geek chic in here somewhere, and one day I’ll get the time to sit down and thrash out an exploration of cinematic nerds throughout the history of the world. For now, here’s a brand new one to lavish attention over.

Yes, it’s Andrew Garfield in full-on geek mode as Peter Parker aka Spider-Man. So far we’ve only had a few specs-less shots of Garfield on the set of The Amazing Spider-Man, as well as some rather gorgeous looks at him in the texture-y new Spidey suit. But finally here he is rocking some seriously cool frames. Being a geek never looked so good.

Pic via Just Jared

The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus (2009)

There are two moments in Terry Gilliam’s latest flight of fancy that strike a savagely nostalgic chord, and they are both (unsurprising, this) to do with Heath Ledger. The first occurs inside the eponymous Parnassus’ looking glass, which transports individuals to a realm where their imagination is brought fantastically to life. Perched by an oil-black river, a woman gasps, “Oh no, oh look,” as miniature funeral boats drift downstream, adorned with the visages of lost martyrs – James Dean, Princess Di. The woman’s companion tries to calm her: “They will be young forever, now.”

The second arresting moment comes as we’re introduced to Tony (Ledger). In one of Parnassus’ best-crafted scenes, a flash of lightning reveals a shadow on the river Thames, alerting the doc’s rag-tag crew to a man hanging by a noose beneath London Bridge. Mounting a rescue mission, the crew pull the young man to safety, administer CPR, and Tony gasps back to life.

A year after his tragic and untimely death, Heath Ledger returns for his final bow; riding a crest of hushed anticipation that has now reached fever pitch. But can anything live up to such heightened expectations? Well, frustratingly, no.

Frustrating, because Parnassus has all the markings of a classic fairytale. Infused with stunning vistas and soaring cinescapes, not to mention a plot that dabbles in some interesting philosophical ideas, Parnassus presents a world you can taste – and one that you desperately want to believe in.

Director Terry Gilliam has long cornered the market in kook, and here he’s pulled out all the stops to indulge in full-hearted whimsy. Dr Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) is past his sell-by-date. And he has every right to be – hundreds of years ago he made a deal with the devil, Mr Nick (Tom Waits), and earned himself immortality. Now, he travels through London with his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole), friend Percy (Verne Troyer) and young entertainer Anton (Andrew Garfield), offering his unique ability to bring peoples’ imaginations to life in return for cash. But just as the mysterious Tony enters the crew’s lives, so does Mr Nick – and he wants Valentina for himself.

Sadly, along with Gilliam’s obsession with the anomalous and the unusual comes his usual hindrance: namely, an erratic tone that sacrifices substance for style. But the main problem also lies with Ledger himself. Setting aside the tragedy, it’s clear that the Brokeback actor was cast to bring a certain rough edge to a character always half in shadow. But Ledger just doesn’t fit Gilliam’s larger-than-life world. In contrast, Johnny Depp plays the same role when Tony steps through Parnassus’ mirror, and adds a twinkly-eyed charm that more elegantly marries the film’s tones.

Ah yes, Ledger’s stand-ins. Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell were all drafted in to play Tony when he steps through the magical looking glass (Ledger had finished shooting all of his real world scenes). But does the gimmick work? Only just. Playing aspects of Tony’s personality frees the trio from attempting arrow-straight impersonation, but the splitting of the role gives Parnassus an off-balance feel that trips it up even as it’s getting going.

So, positives? Lily Cole is fantastic, an elfin beauty who more than holds her own against Christopher Plummer in some powerfully emotional scenes. And you can’t fault the film’s ambition, with some truly memorable cinematography lingering long after the credits (London never looked cooler, or dirtier). Sadly, Parnassus’ stop-start narrative frustrates, while much of its melancholy relies on Ledger’s involvement. Still, there are those moments.

Anticipation: Gilliam’s latest is Ledger’s last. Breath. Bated. 4

Enjoyment: At times thrilling, then inexplicably middling. Still, it’s great to look at. 3

In Retrospect:
A surprisingly good Lily Cole dazzles, but Parnassus is all over the place. 2

Via Little White Lies