By Peter Borovilos
Chief Brand innovation strategist
After four dizzying days of film and TV panels and activations, San Diego Comic-Con 2017 is officially in the books. As cosplayers put their Rey and Jon Snow costumes back into storage, fanboys everywhere begin to dissect the scores of new footage released over the four-day geekfest. THR‘s ace film and TV teams were on the ground in San Diego and covered all the biggest panels.
Who were the winners and losers? Who picked FX’s Legion panel to deliver some of the Con’s biggest film news? And who expected Game of Thrones to underwhelm? How did comic book powerhouses DC and Marvel fare? Below, THR makes sense of the overwhelming amount of news to digest from the confab.
Winner: Stranger Things | Making their Comic-Con debut, the cast and creators of the Netflix hit had one of the best TV trailers of the weekend, with a jam-packed first-look at season two of the 1980s sci-fi thriller. (And yes, that is a nod to the use of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which is prominently featured in the footage.) Producers also promised “justice” for fan-favorite Barb (Emmy nominee Shannon Purser). Outside of the convention center, the Netflix attraction had lines for an hour-plus all weekend long.
Winner: Westworld | Of all the activations in and around Comic-Con, there was no hotter ticket than HBO’s Westworld. Attendees lined up overnight — something typically reserved for Hall H presentations — in the lobby of the Hilton Bayfront to score a rare ticket to the immersive experience. On top of that, the creators and cast — who have been back in production for a week — came armed with an impressive (and violent) trailerthat won over the room after an oddly moderated panel from comedian Reggie Watts.
Winner: Jason Momoa | Has anyone ever had as much fun in Hall H as Momoa? The Aquaman star, having flown directly from the filming in Australia, opened his time at Comic-Con by running from the back of the Hall H to the front, barefoot with a triton in hand as Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” blared. Momoa was the only member of the Justice League cast to bring two movies to the presentation, and he kept his energy high from debuting new Aquaman footage through the end of the Justice League audience Q&A. Once the new Justice League trailer dropped and the lights came back on, Momoa was so excited that— after hugging co-star Ray Fisher— he threw his chair up in the air, breaking it. He tried to fix it, but to no avail. He happily sat on the stage for the rest of the presentation.
Loser: Game of Thrones | Currently enjoying its most-watched season yet, the HBO fantasy drama is always a must-see at Comic-Con. But for the second year in a row, the panel was ho-hum as the cast carefully avoided revealing pretty much anything of the handful of episodes that remain. It also didn’t help that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss as well as mega-stars Kit Harington, Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke and Maisie Williams again skipped the trip to San Diego. Even the trailer — which offered a closer look at what’s to come this season — debuted as an afterthought at the tail end of the panel when most attendees were already on their way out. (Memo to HBO: bring back the blooper reel!)
Winner: Marvel Studios | Marvel continues to be the studio that puts on the best Comic-Con performance and proves it knows its audience best. Its panel began with a witty, made-for-Hall H clip that looked like Ant-Man‘s Paul Rudd and Michael Pena were recapping all of the Marvel films — only to have it revealed they were talking to Michelle Pfeiffer, thus turning the whole endeavor into an announcement that she and Laurence Fishburne were joining Ant-Man and the Wasp as classic comic book heroes. Then came the bring ’em-to-their-feet presentations of Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther, with sizzle reels that truly sizzled and free posters giveaways, to boot. It ended with studio head Kevin Feige (faux)-reluctantly being forced by his actors to show footage from Marvel’s mega-movie Avengers: Infinity War. This again brought the Hall H crowd to hysterics. For all the thousands in the hall, Marvel movies can’t come fast enough.
Winner: The Walking Dead | Showrunner Scott M. Gimple set the tone for the panel when he opened with a heartfelt tribute to stuntman John Bernecker, who died July 12 while attempting a 22-foot fall. After the drama shut down production briefly, AMC canceled all Comic-Con appearances outside of the panel and autograph signing on the convention floor. “We didn’t know if we should do this panel today. But we wanted to be here for you and do something for John,” a somber Gimple told the 7,200-capacity Hall H crowd before introducing the season eight trailer with little fanfare. This typically high-energy panel went moderator-free for the first time in its eight appearances and opted for a more subdued fan-driven Q&A. Rather than celebrate its upcoming 100th episode, the cast and producers did the right thing: pay their respects and honor the fans. It also didn’t hurt that the very revealing season eight trailer was met with rave reviews.
Loser: 20th Century Fox | Next year is Fox’s biggest X-Men year yet. It has three films (New Mutants, Deadpool 2 and Dark Phoenix) slated to debut, yet the Marvel mutants were MIA in Hall H. The studio spent its presentation on an star-packed Kingsman: A Golden Circle panel, which featured some memorable moments (Halle Berry chugged a glass of what appeared to be whiskey), but fans had been hoping a glimpse of Deadpool 2 or the other X-Men movies. A Deadpool 2 source says the film, which has only been shooting for less than a month, is saving its big debut for New York Comic-Con in the fall. Still, trotting out star Ryan Reynolds or director David Leitch (who was in town for his Atomic Blonde) — or the cast of New Mutants or Dark Phoenix — would have gone a long way. Even some concept art or a pre-taped message from set would have been welcome.
Winner: Star Trek: Discovery | Of all the new shows that paneled at Comic-Con this year, the twice-delayed CBS All Access drama carried the most buzz. The energetic cast made their public debut and unspooled an action-packed new trailer that was met with an overwhelmingly positive response. Outside the convention center, the series offered a close-up look at costumes and key props from the upcoming drama.
Winner: Warner Bros. | The studio had two big wins outside of its DC movies, bringing back-to-back panels with blockbuster legends Steven Spielberg (Ready Player One) and Harrison Ford (Blade Runner 2049). It doesn’t get much better than those two for the geek brethren in Hall H, with Ford and co-star Ryan Gosling showing off their terrific chemistry. The big winner was the first trailer for Spielberg’s Ready Player One, which was full of ’80s Easter eggs, from DeLoreans to Freddy Krueger to the Iron Giant. The highly anticipated feature did not disappoint with its first look that had live-action and CG scenes, both spectacularly realized and featured on the three screens that ran the entirety of Hall H. Spielberg knows how to make a movie, and Warner Bros. knows how to put on a show.
Loser: American Horror Story | Last season, Ryan Murphy’s FX series didn’t so much as reveal its subtitle, theme or a single realistic trailer before it launched. That wasn’t the case this year as FX waited until dark to project a teaser onto the water that also revealed that season seven would called Cult. The only problem was the announcement — timed with a tweet from Murphy — was lost in the shuffle of Peak Comic-Con Marketing and would have greatly benefited from a panel. For a show that had no presence at Comic-Con other than part of a larger FX activation, that was a bigger reveal than some of the other TV panels. Too bad it was buried on a Friday night when few were paying attention.
Loser: Marvel TV | The comic book powerhouse was all over the place on the TV side of things, hosting back-to-back panels for FX’s X-Men drama Legion on Thursday paired with ABC and Imax’s The Inhumans and Netflix’s The Defenders leading into Fox’s upcoming X-Men drama The Gifted — in different ballrooms — on Friday. Legion,which had an odd mixed reality activation, was upstaged when showrunner Noah Hawley announced he was doing a Doctor Doom movie for Fox. The trailer for Marvel and big-swing Inhumans — whose first two episodes will screen in Imax theaters before debuting on ABC — solicited laughter from the fanboy crowd and had a dud of an activation outside the convention center. (Though we’ll give The Defenders points for being one of the rare shows to screen an entire episode, though The Punisher teaser still stole the show.) And don’t get us started about The Gifted‘s bizarre genetic testing banners. DC, meanwhile, had a smooth five-show block with breaking news in each and every one.
Winner and Loser: Ben Affleck | The star was forced to go on the defensive after THR reported that the actor’s future as Batman was in doubt and that Warner Bros. was weighing its options. “Let me be very clear,” Affleck said Saturday during Warner Bros.’ Comic-Con panel, “I am the luckiest guy in the world. Batman is the coolest part in the universe. I’m so thrilled to do it.” Then he added that he has talked to Warners’ heads Kevin Tsujihara, Sue Kroll and Toby Emmerich about the role. “‘We want you to be the Batman’ they told me, and I believe them,” he said. It’s never a good sign that you have to go on the defensive in front of Hall H crowd, but additionally, for some, Affleck’s refute felt akin to an athlete denying he wants to be traded, only to later be traded to another franchise in another city. Warners’ DC slate and its Batman movies are still in development so anything goes at this point. That said, the crowd did treat Affleck as a hero and reaffirmed their love for him as their Caped Crusader.
Winner: Supernatural | The CW’s longest-running show continues to reward longtime fans. This year, everyone who made it into the 7,200-capacity Hall H scored a concert t-shirt and was treated to an actual rock show as Kansas kicked off the panel with a live performance of “Carry on Wayward Son,” the sci-fi drama’s unofficial theme song. Producers Warner Bros. Television also supercharged the panel by springing for the pricey LED screens that line the sides of the ballroom. What’s more, the panel also featured casting news for its female-driven spinoff that was also met with an overwhelmingly positive reaction.
Winner: Psych | Reuniting the cast of the beloved USA Network dramedy was just the beginning. The former Comic-Con staple returned with a vengeance to San Diego to tease the upcoming Psych: The Movie with not one but two brand new videos. After opening with a hilarious montage that showed stars James Roday and Dule Hill getting back into “Psych shape” (i.e. re-learning all their signature bits from the original), the team one-upped themselves by showing those in attendance the first full eight minutes of the movie. Combined with a fan-favorite moderator — guest star Jimmi Simpson, who confirmed his own return in the movie — and several group sing-alongs, the series cast and creatives made sure that Psych-O’s went home happy (and ready for the reunion).
Comic Book Winner: DC Comics | In a year with very few announcements of new comic projects breaking at Comic-Con itself, DC made waves with some surprises, whether it’s Frank Miller’s Superman: Year One, Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum, or the tease of new Sandman. With co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee also talking about the importance of creating all-new characters and concepts, and CCO Geoff Johns announcing a crossover between the DC Universe and Watchmen, the company seemed to be looking at aggressively building on the success of last year’s Rebirth relaunch at a time when main competitors Marvel looks unsteady and uncertain about its future.