SDCC 2011: Sony: The Amazing Spider-Man, Total Recall, 30 Minutes or Less, and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Among the biggest things at San Diego Comic Con this year, people were heavily anticipating panels for Spielberg and The Adventures of Tintin, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and of course Twilight.  Another widely anticipated event would be the reveal of new footage from the upcoming Spider-Man film.  During the Sony Pictures panel on Friday in Hall H, fans were treated not only to the new adventures of everyone’s favorite web head, but an entire two and a half hour block worth of panels to promote not only Spider-Man, but also Total Recall, 30 Minutes or Less, and the surprisingly promising Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.  This really was a packed panel, which did its best to provide plenty of buzz worthy news about each upcoming film.

First up was Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.  Now before anyone starts to linger on the bad taste left in everyone’s mouth after the first Ghost Rider film, I have to say that the reaction I had to this panel may have been my biggest surprise of Comic Con.  Before I say more, this is how the Comic Con schedule describes the panel:

Ghost Rider-Spirit of Vengeance — After blazing a trail around the globe in the worldwide hit Ghost Rider, Nicolas Cage returns as Johnny Blaze in Columbia Pictures’ Ghost Rider-Spirit of Vengeance. Still struggling with his curse as the devil’s bounty hunter, Blaze is hiding out in a remote part of Eastern Europe when he is recruited by a secret sect to save a young boy (Fergus Riordan) from the devil (Ciaran Hinds). At first, Johnny is reluctant to embrace the power of the Ghost Rider again, but it is the only way to protect the boy — and possibly rid himself of his curse forever. Live on stage: directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank) and stars Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba, and Johnny Whitworth.

It seems to have been something close to fate to have had these directors become involved with this comic property.  As the directors (generally credited together as Nevaldine/Taylor) walked onto stage, a “director stunt reel” was shortly shown after, which exemplified why these guys were maybe the perfect fit to direct this film.  For those who are not aware, Nevaldine/Taylor are responsible for the Crank films and have a reputation for heavily involving themselves in the filming of extreme action sequences.  In the “director stunt reel”, the audience was shown clips of these guys doing crazy things on set, such as being on roller-skates and holding onto the back of motorcycles with one hand, while filming actors on motorcycles behind them with their camera in the other.  Watching them secured to bungee lines, as they closely followed stunt men going over brides was another nice touch.  This manic level of filmmaking insanity certainly promised something to behold.  I can definitely say that, regardless of the film, the making-of featurettes on the Blu-ray for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance will be worth the price of admission alone.

Moving on, the cast eventually came out, with the very cool Idris Elba providing enough enthusiasm to make up for the lack of the Wildman Nic Cage that was present at the panel.  To be fair, Cage does have enthusiasm for the Ghost Rider character (Cage is a huge comic book geek and had a Ghost Rider tattoo on his arm well before actually playing the character) and did a good job explaining the angle he was coming at for this sequel, which promises to be meaner, darker, badder, and, from the look of it, more bat-shit insane.  The end of one clip literally stated, “F***ing Your Sh** Up, in 3D, This February.”  Among the other noteworthy pieces of information given at this time, I was made very aware that this film would be rated R and feature a more intense version of Ghost Rider and the comic universe he exists in.  It was also pointed out that Cage actually got to play Ghost Rider this time around, instead of a stuntman (Note: in both films, Ghost Rider is played by someone in a motion capture outfit on set and digitally replaced later, instead of simply setting that person’s head on fire and letting the cameras role).  This aspect had Cage pretty excited, as did working with the crazy directors, which all of the other actors agreed on as well.

The footage is unfortunately not available online yet, but it should be stated that what was seen was really cool and winning me over on a Ghost Rider sequel should not have been such an easy task.  Besides the darker tone, I am more pleased with the craziness of it all, such as a bad guy emptying a machine gun into Ghost Rider’s mouth, only to have Ghost Rider spit it all back at him.  This is the Rock & Roll Ghost Rider that fans of the character should be looking forward to.  Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance opens February 17, 2012, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Next up was the hilarious panel for the new action comedy 30 Minutes or Less, which arrives this August.  This was a panel that was full of laughs and here is what Comic Con programming had to say about the film:

30 Minutes or Less — From Ruben Fleischer, the director of Zombieland, comes the action comedy 30 Minutes or Less. In the movie, Nick (Jesse Eisenberg of The Social Network and Zombieland) is a small town pizza delivery guy whose mundane life collides with the big plans of two wannabe criminal masterminds (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson). The duo kidnaps Nick and forces him to rob a bank. With only a few hours to pull off the impossible task, Nick enlists the help of his ex-best friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari). As the clock ticks, the two must deal with the police, hired assassins, flamethrowers, and their own tumultuous relationship. Talent in attendance includes director Ruben Fleischer and stars Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson, and Michael Peña.

Right off the bat, getting Swarsdon and Ansari on stage was something that easily proved to be hilarious.  Micheal Peña, better known for dramatic work, managed to hold his own as well amidst the comedians.  Director Ruben Fleischer got things underway by describing the film and how the actors were all involved, but not before long, a clip was shown featuring one of the film’s stars who was unable to be at the panel.  Kenny “F-ing” Powers himself, Danny McBride had a video played, where he first berated his co-stars and Fleischer with insults, only to then introduce what was an extended clip of the film, featuring a hilarious bank robbery sequence, leading into a montage of footage from the rest of the film.  All of it looked very promising.

Following the footage, the director and stars continued to talk about the film and segued into Q&A.  These guys had a blast on the panel, particularly Ansari, who hilariously teased the Hall H audience with lies about seeing Dark Knight Rises footage and Nolan’s announcement of Inception 2 at another panel.  There were some nuggets of information about the film provided as well.  Star Jesse Eisenberg, who could not attend the panel, was said to have done a lot of his own stunt driving in the film and actually followed around real pizza delivery guys in order to get into his role.  It was also made very clear that Nick Swarsdon was the worst at keeping a straight face on set.  30 Minutes or Less explodes into theaters on August 12 and looks to be a lot of fun.

Red Band Trailer for 30 Minutes or Less



Following this group was the panel for the remake of Total Recall.  This was another film that was not registering very high on my list of things to see, but following the presentation, similar to Ghost Rider, I now feel on board with the film.  Once again, here is the Comic Con description:

Total Recall — Welcome to Rekall, the company that with one little implant can turn your dreams into real memories. For a factory worker named Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell), the mind-trip sounds like the perfect vacation from his ordinary existence. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong, Quaid becomes a hunted man. With the line between fantasy and reality blurred and the fate of his world hanging in the balance, Quaid goes on the run to discover his true identity, his true love, and his true fate. Based on Philip K. Dick’s classic story “I Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” this new take on some of his most visionary ideas is directed by Len Wiseman and stars Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, and John Cho, all of whom will be appearing.

I was very happy to see such an enjoyable bunch of people be involved in this panel.  While other stars in other panels can tend to come off as bored or unfocused, everyone here seemed to be having a good time with one another.  It helped that they managed to turn an unnecessary film into one that actually looks to be quite exciting.  It was not long after the panel began that an entire scene from the film (which was not completely finished and had many CG animated storyboards present) was shown.

This footage is of course not yet available, but I can describe some of it.  From the production design, the setting of the film seems to be heavily influenced by Asian culture.  Based on the style of the filmmaking and tone of the action, the film appears to be going for a mix of Bourne Identity and Blade Runner.  I admired a long take sequence, which had Farrell’s character fighting off several guards, with a camera capturing it all and moving fluidly through the scene.  I was also a fan of the presence of future-tech in this film, as we saw some unique designs for the type of equipment being used.  There is certainly a lot of potential for a pretty cool sci-fi action film to come out of all of this next year.

Following the footage, the rest of the panel got underway, with a lot of talk about separating this film from the original, yet tackling similar issues, such as the divide between fantasy and reality.  It is easy to say all that and recognize why one film is an action classic and how to create a new identity, yadda yadda, but what was most enjoyable was how entertaining Farrell and especially Bryan Cranston were on the panel.  Cranston (much like his Walter White character on Breaking Bad) killed, as he humorously described the position he is in as an actor, who is now tackling both television roles and major film roles such as this one.  It was also nice to see the women on the panel having fun as well, as we learned about Beckinsale and Biel both having to fight politely with each other on set, while  both worried about hurting one another.  Director Len Wiseman did keep things on track by continuing to speak of his approach to the material, but it certainly would have helped if at some point someone suggested to the audience to, “get your ass to Mars.”  Still, I have more faith than I once did, so we’ll see, as Total Recall opens August 3, 2012.

Finally, the panel that the majority of the audience was waiting for, The Amazing Spider-Man was up next, inside the packed Hall H at around 6 pm at that point.  While there were a number of surprises in store, here is the Comic Con description for the proceedings:

The Amazing Spider-Man — The Amazing Spider-Man is back on the big screen, shot in 3D for the first time, and will be swinging into your neighborhood on July 3, 2012. Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, and Martin Sheen, as well as Sally Field, and directed by Marc Webb, The Amazing Spider-Man‘s new creative team will be taking a whole new direction in the unfolding saga of everyone’s favorite web-slinger. Appearing in person are producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach, director Marc Webb, and our own Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy — Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.

The first thing to occur was the showing of the teaser trailer to the audience, in 3D.  Whether or not the teaser trailer was all that impressive to many the first time they saw it, I can at least say that my first viewing of the trailer on a much bigger screen and in 3D did a little more to have me excited.  What got me really excited is what followed.  After the trailer ended, it would seem that a random man, dressed in a crappy Spider-Man costume hijacked the Q&A microphone and began to ask a question.  It was not long before this man revealed himself to be the Web Slinger himself, star Andrew Garfield, who took off his mask and began to read a passionate letter about what playing the role of Peter Parker meant to him (video posted below).  Following this moment, Garfield introduced the rest of the cast and crew present, before taking his seat alongside everyone on stage.

Some various pieces of information about this restart to the franchise were delved into, but not before long, the audience was in for a real treat, as four minutes of footage from the film was shown, which featured a number of different scenes from the film to better get across what the tone will be like in this newest Spidey feature.  While not completely finished, we got to see a number of scenes involving Peter Parker’s newfound abilities, his relationship with his Aunt and Uncle, the relationship with Gwen Stacey, his homemade web shooters, and the quipping attitude Parker has when dressed up and catching thieves, just like flies.  Director Marc Webb, known for directing a ton of music videos and finding breakout success with his first film, 500 Days of Summer, seems to be delivering on the difficult promise of suddenly being thrust into the role of a blockbuster filmmaker.  Anyone worried about this film based on the teaser that saw the footage was certainly feeling a bit more confident in what this new younger, “grittier”, and cheaper Spider-Man has to offer come next July.

A question that was still on the minds of many was who the villain of the film would be, despite obvious signs pointing towards the Lizard.  Well true believers, it is now confirmed for sure that the Lizard is the main villain of the film, with Dr. Connors (Rhys Ifans) serving as a main character and all.  To make things even more noteworthy, footage of the Lizard was actually shown.  Following a montage of Dr. Connors-related scenes, the audience got their first look at the Lizard on film.  It was still an early creation, but it will be entirely CG and appeared quite hulking in the vein of a character like Killer Croc from Batman as opposed to what the comic version has tended to look like in the past.  Regardless, it was cool to finally see the Lizard on screen, which was followed by actor Rhys Ifans entering onto the panel as well.

Everything from here that followed was standard Panel stuff, as Garfield, Stone, and Webb were the main contributors to the questions asked.  The enthusiasm stemming from both Stone and Garfield were the best parts of all of this, as they both had lots of charm in the way they approached talking about the characters and what it was like to be involved with one of the biggest superhero franchises of all time.  Really, everything at that point was still fun, but getting a first look at what The Amazing Spider-Man is truly going to look like was the best thing about all of this.  It seems like it is in the right hands, and even if the CG in the trailer was a bit off putting, the use of practical effects seemed to be a major part of everything as well, which bodes well for the film as a whole; not to mention the focus on developing Peter Parker as a strong character first, and an action hero of sorts second.  The Amazing Spider-Man opens July 3, 2011.

And that will do it for the Sony Pictures panel.  It was a strong showing for the studio, with a lot of promise being thrown out there.  Coming away with enjoying what a comedy, two remakes, and a sequel will have to offer is certainly a positive and I hope that everything goes well from there.

The Amazing Spider-Man Trailer


Andrew Garfield Surprises Hall H


More pictures of the panels below


1 Response to “SDCC 2011: Sony: The Amazing Spider-Man, Total Recall, 30 Minutes or Less, and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”

  1. Sean Ferguson

    Nice coverage Aaron. I hope Spiderman is good.