WonderCon 2013: Saturday, by David Bax
This being my first WonderCon, I was eager to find out which of my presumptions would be proved true and which wouldn’t. My prediction record started out on a bum note when my assumption that – what with Anaheim being so close – traffic would be easy came to a dull thud on Harbor Drive this morning. I sat for an hour in my car, crawling toward the convention center. I was lucky to secure one of the last spots in the parking structure and dashed to press registration.
Fortunately, my other major presumption – that, being smaller in attendance than Comic-Con, panels would be easier to get into – proved correct. Despite queuing up only about fifteen minutes early, I made it into the Warner Bros./Legendary panel with no problems.
And now the last question. Are the panels themselves as fun as those at the San Diego convention I’ve come to shamelessly adore every year? Well, they can be.
First up was director James Wan, presenting his upcoming horror flick The Conjuring. Despite the presence of Lili Taylor, the two clips shown were lackluster retreads of protracted, eerie silence followed by sudden loud noise or violent motion; we’ve seen this before too many times to count. After the footage, Wan brought out three women, the two family members and the ghost hunter who were the “real life” inspiration for the film. To be honest, I tuned out after this. At the risk of tempting fate at the hands of ironic ghosts, I don’t put much stock in the supernatural and wondering whether these people were cheap frauds or sadly disturbed did not seem like a pleasant way to spend my time.
Next was the reason most people were in the arena. Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim. If you’ve been giving passing attention to the geek hype machine for the last couple years, it may amaze you to find out that, no, this movie has not come out yet. It is slated for July but it’s hard to imagine what surprises it could possibly have left by then. That quibble aside, the semi-exclusive trailer assembled for the convention did include a giant robot using a (hopefully abandoned) freighter ship as an improvised bludgeoning device against a giant monster. If the final product contains more of than inventiveness, the movie could be a good time.
After a lunch break, the only other big movie panel of the day began. Sony was presenting the first installment of a novel-based series called The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. After the success of Twilight, these sorts of franchises are heavy on the ground. My impression was that this one, with its petite young woman discovering inherent badassness of which she was previously unaware, has the potential to be Buffy-smart. But the footage shown provided little to bolster that hope, with it mid-budget studio sheen and CW-ready cast.
Immediately after Mortal Instruments, which the Q&A proved has a youngish fan base, the WonderCon powers that be began insistent and straightforward warnings that the footage in the coming panels was not intended for the squeamish. This could only mean that it was time for Evil Dead. The scenes shown did not fail to live up to the warning, with multiple instances of facial self-mutilation and a sequence wherein a broken piece of toilet porcelain is wielded in the way a giant robot might wield a freighter ship. But the real highlight of the panel was co-producer – not to mention star of the original Evil Dead franchise – Bruce Campbell. Sharply funny – not to mention sharply dressed – it’s easy to see why he’s become the cult star he is. With an honestly respectful joshing of the audience questioneers, it’s clear he appreciates his fan base in a non-condescending way. Plus he called Freddy and Jason “losers,” which is enough to endear anyone to me.
Finally, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson presented a trailer and two scenes from their upcoming apocalyptic comedy, This Is the End. The attention-grabbing premise is that a whole bunch of famous people, playing themselves, are attending a party at James Franco’s house when Armageddon breaks out. While the footage shown didn’t entirely snuff out the potentially rich premise that our idolization of celebrities has led them to be a bunch of grown babies who are unable to fend for themselves at all, there was a disheartening lack of jokes. Or, it seems possible, there were a whole bunch of jokes that were only funny to the people making the movie. We appear to have nurtured a generation of comedic actors who are most at home in stories that require them to endlessly replay douche-bro, extended adolescence scenarios. That there are no women in the main cast of survivors did not escape my notice or my disdain.
Tomorrow, the only movie panel is for Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. I’ll write up a little bit about that, I hope. Plus check out me and Tyler discussing the convention in mini-episodes in the podcast feed.