San Diego Comic-Con 2011: Thursday

The first day of Comic-Con was a day of surprises. And not the kind those who have been going to the con are normally used to.

The big news leading into the con was that Twilight was going to open the Hall H schedule. A couple of years back, Twi-hards filled the convention hall and caused some ill will with regular attendees because it attracted a crowd that differed from the conventional convention folks. So when Twilight was put on the schedule for Thursday morning, many breathed a sigh of relief. The panel which would clash most with the big-budget Hollywood fare would be over and done with before most people even stepped foot on the convention crowd.

And indeed, the Twi-hards descended upon San Diego with a lot of attention. Word was they were camping out for days to get a front row seat of Edward and Bella; some reports had them camping out over a week in advance of the panel. What came after was the first surprise of the con.

Twilight started, the Twi-hards who camped out got in first. And no one else followed them in.

“No one” is a stretch of the term, but that’s nearly what happened. Attendees stayed away from Hall H during the Twilight panel, and reports were that the hall was about half full for its duration. This was surprising given that most thought the Hall H schedule was front-loaded with many must-see panels on Thursday.

Also surprisingly, the lines of Hall H never reached the fever pitch that they did in prior years. The Pirates! Band of Misfits footage shown during the Animation Showcase panel looked entertaining enough, but although it’s Aardman-produced, it’s still kids’ fare and not the kind of movie that fills the seats at Comic-Con. And the footage show for Film District’s Drive with Ryan Gosling, who wasn’t in attendance, looked amazing – a combination of art house cinema and brutal, gory violence.

But nothing really brought fans to the big hall until the 20th Century Fox panel in the afternoon, where we finally got information on Prometheus, the anticipated Alien-prequel from Ridley Scott. Damon Lindelof of Lost, as well as screenwriter for Promethus, moderated the panel, with Charlize Theron in attendance and a live Ridley Scott remote from the set of the movie in Iceland. Ridley said it wasn’t an Alien prequel, but it had DNA from that classic movie and dealt with themes that have gone unanswered since that first movie was released nearly 25 years ago. He also confirmed the existence of a robot/android character by saying there “might be two” in the story. Fans in attendance were also given an exclusive trailer with footage that showed H.R. Giger’s art design. Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried came out in support of their fall 2011 movie In Time, from the creator of Gattica and writer of The Truman Show, Andrew Niccol. This was met with tepid interest from the fans, seeing a sci-fi twist on a standard thriller that reminded most of The Island rather than something new and fresh. And the panel came to a close with Andy Serkis stopping by to show off the motion-capture process used in bringing his portrayal of Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a prequel to the original movies that showed how the apes came to power. This one comes out in about a month and won some fans over by creating apes the audience sympathized with in a brutal human world, along with the great mo-cap used to bring the apes to life.

The rest of Hall H was a subdued affair. Robert Rodriquez had an entire panel of pre-development announcements for Machete sequels – including a part three in space, Spy Kids 4 with Smell-O-Vision (no joke) and deals to create movies based on the Heavy Metal and Frank Frazetta’s Fire and Ice franchises. And in the most surprising sight of the day, Entertainment Weekly’s annual Visionaries panel, this year with Jon Favreau and Guillermo del Toro played to a Hall H that was about half full. During the panel the two showed off a few scenes of the upcoming Cowboys and Aliens, a few words about pre-production on Favreau’s Magic Kingdom and del Toro’s Haunted Mansion movies for Disney – “few” meaning not anything revealing and surprising from what we already knew from previous reports,

Flip to Ballroom 20,which also had its fair share of big shows booked to appear on Thursday. Unlike Hall H, it didn’t disappoint. As a matter of fact, it surprised everyone by just how crowded the Ballroom was throughout the day. And it was because of one panel in particular – Game of Thrones. Fans flocked to Twitter and posted wait times for the lines, letting everyone know just how long they were in line and the likelihood of getting into the Ballroom. The wait was nearly three and a half hours to get in, with nearly two thousand stuck outside, never getting a seat.

With the pre-registration madness and the Ballroom 20 lines, one could call this year’s con the Game of Lines.

Was Friday any different? Check back later for our take on day two of the con.

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