There was nothing overstated about the first Comic-Con. In fact, the founders themselves dubbed it a ‘mini-con’. San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Minicon, to apply its full tag, was held at the US Grant Hotel over one whole day on March 21, 1970, drawing in excess of 100 people. It paved the financial path to a larger 3-day event in August of the same year, the comic-book fan mecca blossoming into the San Diego Comic-Con by its fourth year and it’s current moniker, Comic-Con International: San Diego, in 1995…
Hollywood studios have debuted their latest genre epics to the receptive comic-book hordes for decades. The now famous ‘panel events’ in the legendary Hall H becoming one of the hottest ticket items on American film calendar. In 2016, Warner Bros took bragging rights; new trailers from their DC Comics properties sent the web into meltdown and appear to have arrested the image slide that came in the wake of the divisive Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. But they were not the only studio out to win over the opinionated, social media-savvy fan base in attendance…
KEY PLAYERS: Director Patty Jenkins, unfairly burdened with the 'Can a woman direct a comic blockbuster?' baggage; star Gal Gadot, a untested leading lady commodity; Warner Bros, gambling a $100million budget on a June 2/US summer opening.
BUZZ: Through the roof - cool retro style, ala Captain America: First Avenger (still the best Marvel movie); chemistry between Gadot and Chris Pine suggest a buddy-pic/romantic vibe; the punchy line, "What I do is not up to you," set to be every young woman's mantra.
KEY PLAYERS: Ben Affleck, charged with lightening up after his surly spin as Batman in Dawn of Justice; Zack Snyder, charged with lightening up after his surly spin as director of Dawn of Justice; DC Comics, who are counting on the film to kickstart Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg franchises.
BUZZ: Crowd reaction was promising; trailer, in which Affleck's Bruce Wayne pitches a heroes union to some new faces, has a) personality, and b) Aquaman, so things are looking good.
KEY PLAYERS: Will Smith, determined to establish a franchise ensemble ala The Avengers that has him out front of the action and potential billion-dollar box office; Margot Robbie, for whom superstardom beckons if she can just nail that one breakout role in a bonafide megahit; Warner Bros, who need to turn around a year peppered with costly underperformers (The Legend of Tarzan; Pan; In The Heart of The Sea).
BUZZ: With an August 5 release date, the Squad's panel performance was just stoking the fires of expectation. David Ayer's film is tracking through the roof, suggesting a blockbuster opening the likes of which the wan American summer box office desperately needs.
KEY PLAYERS: Chris McKay, editor on the megahit The Lego Movie and stepping into the big, plastic-boxy shoes left by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller; an all-star voice cast, including Zach Galifianakis as The Joker; the Lego merchandising gurus, who have everything to lose if box office gold doesn't translate to toy store riches.
BUZZ: Good will high already, so new scenes and Michael Cera's Robin greeted with appropriate glee.
KONG: SKULL ISLAND
KEY PLAYERS: High fan cred of red hot cast - Tom Hiddlestone (Avengers' nemesis, Loki), John Goodman (eyeing a 2017 Supporting Actor Oscar for 10 Cloverfield Lane) and Oscar winner Brie Larsen (this years' Comic-Con 'It Girl' with confirmation of her casting as Captain Marvel); the trailer itself, which hints at a truly epic scale.
BUZZ: Next-to-none before the trailer dropped; through the roof in the wake of its premiere.
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
KEY PLAYERS: The legion of 'Pot-heads', their hunger for mystery and magic at fever pitch since their boy wizard's final bigscreen chapter in 2011; director David Yates, a Potter alumni; Eddie Redmayne, rolling the dice on franchise dollars as hero Newt Scamander; J.K. Rowling, the biggest name in bigscreen literary adaptations since Ian Fleming.
BUZZ: No half-measures in the trailer; Warners are selling it as the grown-up Potter sequel the fans have been baying for.
KEY PLAYERS: Benedict Cumberbatch, who (like Eddie Redmayne) needs to expand critical community/fanboy adoration into fly-over state mainstream love (he's also in San Diego for TV's Sherlock Holmes); Marvel Studios, launching a deeper, darker heroic figure sans Avengers box office might; the effects crew, who are expanding upon (and, one assumes, enhancing further) visual cues introduced in Christopher Nolan's Inception.
BUZZ: High since the announcement of Cumberbatch's casting, but is he as hot in this post-Star Trek In Darkness period? Marvel are due for a stumble, but it's unlikely to be Doctor Strange...is it?
KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD
KEY PLAYERS: Leading men Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) and Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones) are on the cusp; director Guy Ritchie needs to bounce back from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. to maintain relevance.
BUZZ: Trailer looks to favour the same 'everything old is new again' approach of Ritchie's last big hit, Sherlock Holmes. He's working with the always reliable Jude Law, and sword and sorcery is hot again on the small screen, so...
KEY PLAYERS: Adam Wingard, one of horror's most refreshing new visionaries (You're Next; V/H/S 1 and 2; The Guest); Lionsgate, who mirrored the ground-breaking marketing of the 1999 hit, selling this found-footage effort as 'The Woods' before wowing Comic-Con crowds with the Blair Witch connection.
BUZZ: The Web went wild with news that the Blair Witch mythology would be revisited. Lionsgate are hoping box office lightning will strike twice.
KEY PLAYERS: Oliver Stone, whose agitprop credentials and decades of fearless politicizing seems tailor made for the material; Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, who needs to recapture the fan favour he enjoyed after Inception, The Dark Knight Rises and Looper, and bounce back from the Robert Zemeckis dud, The Walk; Shailene Woodley, whose Divergent series is DOA but seems destined for adult acting greatness.
BUZZ: Trailer poses more questions than it answers ("Spy. Soldier. Hero. Traitor"), but a good trailer should. Hacker tech looks old very quickly, so will need to impress as a human story to leave an impact.