Thank the rational and non-supernatural forces which created the universe
that Comic Con 2008 is over. It’s been an exhausting, liver-assaulting
ordeal and it’s finally come to an end.

It was also a little
underwhelming: with Paramount not bringing anything to the show this year
(they did a small press event the day before Con, highlighting Eagle Eye
and Monsters vs Aliens), the Con felt sort of empty. Which is weird since
there was a ton of film related stuff happening every single day.

Of
the studios that attended, there were some very specific winners:

THE BIG
WINNER


Warner Bros take home the prize this year. The Watchmen footage
really wowed the crowd, and I can tell you from personal experience that
even the mainstream press corps are among the faithful. It’s going to take some disastrous trailers and clips to lose all of this stunning goodwill. Here’s a hint: if you’re looking to make a name for yourself 
in fandom, start hating on Watchmen. You’ll be in a very small
minority.

The other winning element for Warner Bros was Terminator
Salvation
. The panel had two powerful weapons: some very cool, very
practical footage and McG. Joseph McGinty Nichol is a born politician, and
he worked that crowd. Combine that with footage that surprised many with the scope of the story and the action and you end up with a panel that may have changed a lot of minds about the movie. There were a lot of 
converts walking out of Hall H.

One of the most important things that
McG revealed was something he told me on my (still-embargoed) visit to the
set: he’s not shooting for a rating. While the PG-13 was discussed (McG
points to The Dark Knight as an example of a compromise-free PG-13 movie),
McG claimed that the highest Warner Bros execs have told him they would be
happy to release the film with an R rating. Most of the footage that McG showed us on set was shown at Comic Con, but one bit didn’t make it to San Diego: a topless shot of Moon Bloodgood. I don’t even know what the
MPAA thinks of nudity anymore – what was the last PG-13 film with a frontal
boob shot?

Disney’s Tron 2 was the biggest buzz-generator of the whole
show. Sadly none of your CHUD reps saw the teaser trailer, but everyone who
did was blown away. Surely some of that was simply the shock of the surprise announcement of the long delayed sequel, but by all accounts everything shown was both rousing and beautiful.

As expected, the new Pixar film, Up, killed,
but perhaps most surprisingly the Bolt trailer generated great word of
mouth. Disney 
did make a big misstep by not playing the footage a second
time in the Pixar panel, which came a day after their main
panel.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Fox takes this one. While the Tron 2 trailer was a
well-kept secret, the whole press corps knew about the impending “surprise”
screening of footage from  Wolverine. The “Most Surprising” tag comes from
the fact that the footage was actually… good.

Bad buzz has been
haunting this film throughout production, and most movie sites have
received scurrilous “scoops” about behind the scenes turmoil and people
getting canned – scoops that some suspect originated close to the project.
From an outside point of view everything about the movie screamed disaster,
a hunch that seemed proven when Fox said they weren’t bringing the movie to
the show.

I don’t know why they were so secretive, but that plan didn’t
hurt, and neither did a surprise appearance by a bearded Hugh Jackman.
Also helpful: a trailer that was actually very cool and that showcased the seemingly bajillion new (but familiar) mutants in the movie. Fox needs to get this footage out on the web (officially) right away. Of course the studio is
notoriously bad at selling it’s own genre movies.

DEBUTANTE
PRIZE


Summit made its first Comic Con appearance with a bang: they
brought  the surprise grassroots phenomenon Twilight. The Twilight panel was filled with screaming superfans who drowned out the dumbstruck talent on the stage.

The problem for Summit is that they
didn’t win over new believers; I kept hearing huge nerds being
condescending about the Twilight fans. The Summit panel actually felt like
a Twilight convention had been teleported into the middle of Comic Con. I saw women at the Con
in t-shirts that read “I don’t read comics, I’m here for Twilight.” It
seems obvious that Twilight will open, but will it appeal beyond the Hot
Topic set? It doesn’t seem like it’ll get the geek boost (although how
surprising is it that this crowd can’t get behind a girl-oriented
property?).

By the way, Twilight fans are the new objects of ridicule for
people who are the rest of society’s objects of ridicule.

THE
LOSER


Lionsgate got killed at Comic Con. Brutally so. Like a baby
seal.

But like a baby seal that kind of had it coming. The footage from
The Spirit left people dumbfounded by how shockingly bad it looks.  The clips ranged from an outrageously fake looking underwater sequence to a
corny-ass battle between The Spirit and Samuel L Jackson’s The Octopus.
People on the panel kept insisting that the movie isn’t campy despite the
campy moving images playing on giant screens on either side of  them.

The
problem seems to be Frank Miller’s tonal issues. The guy has a serious tin
ear when it comes to comedy. This has been kind of  delightful in the nearly
secret satire of All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, but it shit the
bed in The Dark Knight Strikes Again and, if this panel was any indication,
The Spirit.

Meanwhile the biggest buzz about Punisher: War Zone this
weekend was that Lexi Alexander has been fired off the film. I don’t know
much more than that (Alexander was not on the panel, and the official explanation was that she was on her honeymoon – I’ll make more calls about this Monday), which is only me reporting hearsay that reached my ears, but the fact that this is even going around stinks when Lionsgate
would obviously rather have fans talking about how gory the Con footage
was. Of course the footage looks just as silly as the teaser trailer;
essentially this is all adding up to a big zero for Punisher: War
Zone
.

MOST SCREWED BY JJ ABRAMS

Paramount. Don’t let anyone tell
you otherwise: Paramount’s decision to sit this Con out was hugely
influenced by JJ Abrams keeping Star Trek out of the mix. The lack of that
property would be the elephant in Hall H during their
presentation.

Of course it’s possible that Abrams wants to follow the
Nolan Plan – The Dark Knight skipped Comic Con last year and instead
debuted at Wizard World in Chicago. The argument for that is that it’s
harder to stand out at a crowded Con, but the August show offers a much
quieter environment – The Dark Knight was the major news coming out of
Chicago last year, not having to compete with a dozen other films.

Paramount did bring Tropic Thunder, which screened with a special (and very funny) intro by Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr and featured the Gorn head from the original Star Trek. The company also had a presence thanks to Eagle Eye sponsoring free wifi in the convention center – a tactic I was unsure of, since if the wifi crashed under the demand it would be a black (eagle) eye. But the wifi was actually pretty great.

So who knows? Maybe Paramount just spent their Comic Con money wisely and selectively. Sometimes the real winners and losers of the convention can’t be called until the last dime is counted.