A curious thing has happened to Comic-Con over the last few years. Despite being a huge engine that drives pop culture, it has become crystal clear that there is no value in Comic-Con. It’s one of the weirdest things I have ever seen happen in the film industry—no one denies how big Comic-Con is, but its actual value is nil. Comic-Con, from a studio standpoint, is pure overhead. Putting on a panel in Hall H can run a company hundreds of thousands of dollars, and if you’re participating in sponsored branding like hotel key cards, you’re looking at a seven-figure investment for something that will, inevitably, end up with Cheeto jizz on it by the end of the weekend and has no correlation to actual box office success. “Winning” Comic-Con doesn’t guarantee you anything except a f*cking huge hotel bill.
Which is why studios are starting to back out. This year Sony, Paramount, and Marvel are all skipping Hall H. Sony and Paramount don’t have much to promote anyway, but Marvel’s absence will be felt. Undoubtedly they’ll bring Captain America: Civil War to Disney’s biennial in-house fan convention, D23, next month, so it’s not like fan conventions are no longer part of the strategy at all. They very much are. It’s just that Hall H has gotten so out of control that it’s not necessarily advantageous for every movie. Civil War, for instance, doesn’t need the boost, so Marvel’s decision to take a powder makes sense. Comic-Con just doesn’t help you if your movie is already well known. In most cases, all Comic-Con does is risk generating bad word of mouth if the nerds don’t accept your offering, and none of this has anything to do with box office, so it’s not even an “investment”. It’s just a circle jerk.
The big showcase in Hall H is Lionsgate’s panel from 12-1:15 PM, which features The Hunger Games Part IV: Mockingjay Part II. They haven’t confirmed who’s attending beyond “cast and filmmakers”, but Natalie Dormer is on hand anyway for other panel commitments, and since it’s the last one until this thing gets rebooted in five years, expect to see Jennifer Lawrence (probably coming with Fox and X-Men anyway), Josh Hutcherson, and the Lesser Hemsworth, Liam, plus whoever doesn’t mind paying for their own travel. Last year several studios asked below the line talent to cover their own hotel bills, which did not go over well. We’ll be able to tell whether or not Lionsgate is footing the bill for the weekend by how many people are on the panel.
With a sizeable hole in their usual programming left by the absence of three studios, Friday in Hall H is TV heavy to start. AMC has back-to-back panels from 12-2 PM for The Walking Dead and its new spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead. I will literally pay someone real cash money to ask anyone on either panel, don’t care which, if The Walking Dead will ever achieve any kind of forward momentum and become about something other than walking in circles in the goddamn woods. Nothing happens on this show! Complain about Game of Thrones all you want, but at least the plot advances toward a definitive conclusion. If you can get yourself on tape/video asking this question in this panel, I will send you $10USD.
Speaking of Game of Thrones, they also have a panel on Friday, from 2:30-3:30 PM. Jon Snow is not scheduled to attend—any takers on Kit Harington making a surprise appearance?—which may or may not mean something. Straws! Let us clutch at them!
Friday is capped off by the Disney/LucasFilm panel for Star Wars from 5:30-6:30 PM. So far, JJ Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and LucasFilm honcho (honcha?) Kathleen Kennedy are the only ones announced to attend, but “surprise cast appearances” are a given. Also they’ve just gone on the record saying they won’t be screening new footage. This is exactly the kind of thing that seems like a waste of money—ten to one a new trailer debuts next month at D23 instead—but I think Star Wars is the one untouchable thing in the Dork Forest. I was surprised when nerds turned on Marvel last year, but they’d been horribly spoiled by years of Hall H excess. We’re so desperate to like New New Star Wars, I think they’ll get a pass.
This is the big movie day at Comic-Con, with Warner Brothers kicking things off with what’s expected to be a massive showing. Thanks to Marvel’s absence they’ve got a little extra time with a ninety minute panel beginning at 10:30 AM. They’re bringing Hugh Jackman, who is always popular, and Garrett Hedlund for Pan and Armie Hammer, Henry Cavill, Alicia Vikander, and Elizabeth Debicki will introduce The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but the only thing anyone actually cares about is Superhero Face Punch.
Warners is expected to debut footage and/or a trailer, and the “Holy Trinity” of Batfleck, Superman (Cavill), and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) will be on hand, along with Zack Snyder, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Holly Hunter, and Jeremy Irons. This is Ben Affleck’s first public appearance since announcing his divorce, and there are all kinds of gossip angles surrounding him. This panel is going to be a huge deal, and with Marvel out of the way, Comic-Con is Warners’ to “lose”. Superhero Face Punch has not been a slam dunk to date, so they really need to win people over here. Henry Cavill has no charisma, so they’ll be leaning hard on Affleck to lead the way. Now is not the time to fall apart, Batfleck.
After the inevitable nerdgasm of Superhero Face Punch everyone in Hall H will be post-coital and tuned out, which is a great time to sneak in some movies no one cares about. Screen Gems has the unenviable task of following Warners’ panel at 12:15 with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies—which looks cheap as sh*t, holy hell—and Patient Zero. But then everyone will buck up because Quentin Tarantino is taking the stage at 1:30 for a panel about The Hateful Eight, and he’s bringing “surprise cast” with him. Probably Samuel L. Jackson because he loves this sh*t, and hopefully Walton Goggins, Channing Tatum, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, too, because that would be super fun.
Then, at 2:30 PM Legendary is having their panel which may include first footage from Duncan Jones’s long-awaited World of Warcraft movie, but really everyone’s in line for Tom Hiddleston, scheduled to appear on the Crimson Peak panel alongside Guillermo Del Toro, Jessica Chastain, and Mia Wasikowska. We haven’t seen Saint Tom the Huge Dork in a while, so let’s pray to the ravedance gods and hope he gives us something to work with.
There are a couple non-movie panels beginning at 3:45 with the annual “Women Who Kick Ass” session, this year featuring Gal Gadot, Hayley Atwell, Gwendoline Christie, and Kathy Bates. Then at 4:45 Joss Whedon will ascend to his throne and accept accolades and adoration for forty-five minutes before returning to Valhalla to slumber. The final panel of the day is an extra-long Fox blow-out (thanks Marvel!), from 4:45-7:30. They’ve not announced anything officially, but it’s the worst kept secret that they’re bringing the X-Men: Apocalypse cast, and probably Fantastic Four as well.
The big TV panels are all on Friday and Saturday, so Sunday is a wind-down day in Hall H, with panels for The Vampire Diaries at 10 AM and Supernatural at 11:15. Matt Bomer will be on the American Horror Story panel at 12:30. This is just fair warning to San Diego—if you look directly at Matt Bomer, you may go blind. He is an angel, and human eyes are not meant to look upon his magnificence. Perhaps we could use this opportunity to imagine a world in which he was playing Superman and Superhero Face Punch was Bomer vs. Batfleck. Can you imagine that? Radiant, lovely Matt Bomer who is so charming and haggard Batfleck halfway through his downward spiral—what could have been! Instead it’s Bad Pants Cavill and Ben Affleck holding it together as hard as he can. Still, though. Good for gossip.