The San Diego Comic Con has long been a place where fans of the fantastical -- running the gamut from casual to obsessive - came together to celebrate their interests. A Mecca of Geekdom, Comic Con is the time when everyone embraces their inner nerd, and no one is "too cool" to be there. Filmmaker Michael Scott has some personal reflections on movie news from the conference.

Spoiler Alert -- Info Revealed Below

This year, the Con was the biggest its ever been. The San Diego Convention Center was filled to capacity all four days and, for the first time, no on-site registration was permitted. The entire Con was sold out weeks in advance, and the Convention Center was buzzing with excitement and unbridled joy at being able to let loose and indulge the hidden (or not so hidden) fanboy/girl within.

Interestingly, this year's Con did not have any particular announcement to draw the crowds. While previous years have tended to have one specific event that was the talk of the Con (such as the world premiere of the Spiderman 3 trailer a few years back), this year no major "exclusive" was present or implied, making the record attendance even more noteworthy. Nonetheless, there was some interesting movie news out of the Con...

Watchmen

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Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl II with Malin Akerman behind him as Silk Spectre II

The Watchmen panel would more than likely have been this year's Spiderman 3: the must-see event - if not for the fact that the trailer had already premiered earlier in the month, attached to the blockbuster The Dark Knight.

It was still a fascinating panel, with director Zack Snyder, Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons, and all of the lead actors in attendance. As someone who was not blown away by the graphic novel when I read it, I can say that I was blown away by the visual style of the film, and the passion that everyone on the panel clearly had for the project. During the Q&A session, when asked about their characters or the direction the film was taking, everyone answered with such a depth and understanding that every response was followed by a round of applause from the crowd of die-hard fans.


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Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian in the mystery adventure Watchmen

I haven't heard a film team speak of a piece of source material with such reverence and devotion since Lord of the Rings. Even as someone who is not a particularly massive fan of said source material, I am looking forward to this film, and I feel compelled to give the graphic novel a second, closer look.

As an aside, though early reports on this film indicated that Snyder was planning to take a 300-style approach and shoot almost exclusively on greenscreen, according to the panel this was not the case, and only one sequence was fully greenscreen, the rest utilizing actual sets and locations.

At the same time, there were some fleeting references to certain visual effects challenges (Billy Crudup spoke of how strange it was to have to perform with "dots on his face in a funny outfit" as Dr. Manhattan, and some additional footage was shown which featured Rorschach's ever-shifting mask) which I have a hunch will be the topic of some discussion here at fxguide as the movie's release approaches.


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Minutemen 1940 from the Watchmen

The film's story is a complex, multi-layered mystery adventure, Watchmen is set in an alternate 1985 America in which costumed superheroes are part of the fabric of everyday society, and the "Doomsday Clock" - which charts the USA's tension with the Soviet Union - is permanently set at five minutes to midnight.

When one of his former colleagues is murdered, the washed-up but no less determined masked vigilante Rorschach sets out to uncover a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes. As he reconnects with his former crime fighting legion, a ragtag group of retired superheroes, only one of whom has true powers —Rorschach glimpses a wide ranging and disturbing conspiracy with links to their shared past and catastrophic consequences for the future of humanity.


Dark castle

Genre fans may be familiar with Dark Castle as the company that brought you the modern versions of House on Haunted Hill, Thir13en Ghosts, and Ghost Ship, along with Gothika, House of Wax, and last year's The Reaping, all of which were produced by super-producer Joel Silver. This year, Silver was in attendance to discuss some of the new projects -- and new directions -- Dark Castle would be taking.

Direct-to-Video:

Dark Castle began in the horror genre, and they are returning to it with a vengeance with the homage to 80s slasher pics, The Hills Run Red. The filmmakers had a brief panel during which they mentioned that eschewing theatrical release meant circumventing the MPAA. Several of the cast and crew referred to how the film crossed "some serious lines," to the extent that on a few occasions some of the crew had to leave the room while shooting.

Silver stated that they plan to make nine more such "unusual" films under the DTV banner.

Ferryman

Comic book-to-film adaptations are nothing new to modern audiences. Dark Horse Comics has been in the movie business over a decade with Dark Horse Entertainment, and comic book powerhouse Marvel has already produced two highly-successful adaptations of their property via Marvel Studios.

Dark Castle is taking the opposite approach with their property Ferryman, marking the first time that a film production company has branded their own comic book label. Dark Castle's first offering, Ferryman, is a pastiche of various world mythologies, in particular the Judeo-Christian and Greek mythologies.

The notion of the ferryman originates in the Greek afterlife, and the crossing of the river Styx. A ferryman would be required to give the souls of the dead passage across the river. In the Dark Castle comic, a Ferryman is an otherworldly agent in the employ of the Devil, charged with collecting the souls of those who had sold their souls for worldly gain when the contract is up.

When asked if Ferryman would be adapted into a film, the creators of the comic stated that it was "up to you guys," and that the success or failure of the comic would determine its future.

The story or mythos is based on a character Gideon who was a decorated cop, until he took the law into his own hands to bring down the man who murdered his wife, getting himself killed in the process. Sent to Hell for his sins, Gideon became a Ferryman, a bounty hunter for Lucifer. When people make deals with the Devil—strength, beauty, wealth and power in exchange for their souls—the Ferryman is the one who comes to collect. The souls, imbued with incredible supernatural powers because of their arrangements with Satan, don’t go easily.

But Gideon is the best Ferryman in the Devil’s army, and he drags the souls back to Hell in one explosive showdown after another. After decades of retrieving lost souls, Gideon wants Lucifer to keep his end of the bargain: to release Gideon from his contract and allow him to go to Heaven, where he can finally be with his wife. However, the Prince of Lies has one last job for Gideon. He wants him to find the Outcast, a soul that has destroyed countless Ferrymen and eluded Satan for thousands of years. It is the most dangerous mission of Gideon’s life, one that will take him across the globe and into his own dark past, ultimately revealing an ancient mystery that threatens the very foundations of Heaven and Hell !

Rocknrolla

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Gerard Butler as One Two in RocknRolla

Fans of Guy Ritchie will be glad to know he has returned to the world of dark, violent gangster comedies with his newest project, Rocknrolla. Though details about the film itself were not very forthcoming in the panel, the cast present at the panel, including actors Jeremy Piven and Gerard Butler, expressed tremendous enthusiasm for the project, and for writer/director Ritchie.

Butler in particular, best known for his kick-ass-and-don't-bother-with-names turn as Spartan King Leonidas, showed a side of himself heretofore unseen on the silver screen: his sense of humor. He had the audience in stitches through most of the panel with his sharp wit, which bodes well in combination with the distinct, very British sense of humor present in Ritchie's work.

In the film plot reads: when a Russian mobster orchestrates a crooked land deal, millions of dollars are up for grabs, and all of London’s criminal underworld wants in on the action. Everyone from a dangerous crime lord to a sexy accountant, a corrupt politician and down-on-their-luck petty thieves conspire, collude and collide with one another in an effort to get rich quick.


Ninja Assassin

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Rain as Raizo in Warner in Bros. Pictures upcoming action film Ninja Assassin

The new project by director James McTeigue, starring Korean pop sensation -- and Stephen Colbert's number one human nemesis -- Rain. Both McTeigue and Rain were in attendance at the panel to take questions after showing some footage from the film.

According to producer Silver's introduction, they had for some time been interested in a classic ninja revenge film, with a contemporary twist. The footage shown certainly bore that out, being violent and stylized as one would expect from the director of V for Vendetta (the same slow-motion bursts of blood were present, but in much higher quantities). The footage was met with cheers from the assembled crowd, most of whom were teenage girls enamored with the film's star.

Though not a martial artist, Rain has a strong dance background, which makes him a prime candidate for being a martial arts movie star (other famous martial arts stars with a dance background, and no prior martial arts training, include Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang), and according to the panel -- and the footage shown -- he rose to the occasion. The film is slated for release in January 2009.

In the film Raizo (Rain) is one of the deadliest assassins in the world. Taken from the streets as a child, he was transformed into a trained killer by the Ozunu Clan, a secret society whose very existence is considered a myth. But haunted by the merciless execution of his friend by the Clan, Raizo breaks free from them…and vanishes. Now he waits, preparing to exact his revenge. In Berlin, Europol agent Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris) has stumbled upon a money trail linking several political murders to an underground network of untraceable assassins from the Far East.

Defying the orders of her superior, Ryan Maslow (Ben Miles), Mika digs into top secret agency files to learn the truth behind the murders. Her investigation makes her a target, and the Ozunu Clan sends a team of killers, led by the lethal Takeshi (Rick Yune), to silence her forever. Raizo saves Mika from her attackers, but he knows that the Clan will not rest until they are both eliminated. Now, entangled in a deadly game of cat and mouse through the streets of Europe, Raizo and Mika must trust one another if they hope to survive…and finally bring down the elusive Ozunu Clan.

Terminator Salvation

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Terminator Salvation is scheduled for a May 22, 2009 release

It is being directed by Director: McG (Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle) and written by Michael Ferris, John Brancato. It stars Sam Worthington and Christian Bale.

In the new installment of The Terminator film franchise, set in post- apocalyptic 2018, Christian Bale stars as John Connor, the man fated to lead the human resistance against Skynet and its army of Terminators. But the future Connor was raised to believe in is altered in part by the appearance of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a stranger whose last memory is of being on death row.

Connor must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, Connor and Marcus both embark on an odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynet’s operations, where they uncover the terrible secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind.


Unfortunately, with the sheer volume of attendees this year, one is never able to to get into all the panels. Highlights for at least - the Terminator: Salvation panel - have arrived on YouTube and are sure to be followed by more.

An exciting year at Comic Con, and if the buzz is any indication, an exciting year of movies ahead.


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