Hollywood fails the diversity test again while Alfonso Cuaron and Sandra Bullock charm this year's geek fest
Comic-Con concluded on Sunday after four days of panels, men in tights, women in costumes and fans sleeping on the grass.
Hollywood film studios maintained the robust presence they have become known for, taking over Hall H for most of the week with the latest iterations of Spiderman, Captain America and Katniss Everdeen.
(For the uninitiated, Hall H is the convention's massive home to the event’s biggest panels, where reporters spend almost all their time).
See photos: The Scene at Comic-Con 2013
The surprise factor paled in comparison to last year, when Marvel announced several of its future movies and fans caught early teases of everything from "Pacific Rim" to "Godzilla."
Many of the showcase movies this year were either teased last year, like "Godzilla," sequels, like "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," or both – including "Amazing Spider-Man 2," "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and many more.
However, there was still plenty to like and learn from at the year’s preeminent showcase for all things geek.
Here are five things any film fan should know:
The British are coming! The British are coming!
Two centuries after the War of 1812, our former colonial patriarchs have returned to reign over not one but two industries of American cultural hegemony – film and comic books. British actors and directors were ubiquitous at the convention this year, and two of them – Andrew Garfield and Tom Hiddleston – drew the biggest applause of all.
Garfield (Spiderman) and Hiddleston (Loki, the Avengers' villain) both took the stage in character, offering a level of showmanship missing at most of the other panels.
Hiddleston was even brash enough to demand the fawning audience’s unbreakable allegiance: "Claim loyalty to me and I will give you what you need," he implored. (You can find footage of him below)
Before you brand us xenophobic, understand that this is not a rejection of the stellar crop of British actors. We understand the reason for it: great young American actors are scarce.
The United States is producing plenty of great actresses, many of whom, like Jennifer Lawrence and Shailene Woodley, were on stage this weekend. Yet the most popular male American movie star this weekend may have been Tom Cruise, still a superb showman and major action star despite being two or three times as old as most of the fans in attendance.
Here's hoping some unknown, brash American steps in to play Batman, a role recently vacated by Christian Bale.
Hollywood fails the diversity test. Again.
Comic book fandom is getting more diverse in terms of both gender and ethnicity. When TheWrap got breakfast with BOOM! Studios founder and CEO Ross Richie, whose graphic novel "2 Guns" Universal adapted into an upcoming film, he recalled a recent visit to a comic book store.
A young woman came in to buy a copy of a "Walking Dead" graphic novel – her first comic book. It was thanks to the TV show, one of many that has made women feel more comfortable embracing genre fare.
Anyone who was at Comic-Con five years ago can recall when "Twilight" took the event by storm.
"There's a whole generation of 10- and 12- and 14-year-old girls coming in with this," Richie told TheWrap. "They are going to make the next great franchise — the next Buffy, the next Dune."
Yet while women have made strides on TV, film studios continue to ignore the growing population of fangirls – and the stable of talented actresses, writers and directors eager to please those fans.
"The Heat" was the only major release this summer aimed at a female audience, and almost all of the movies on display this weekend perpetuated the same problem.
One reason? Men are making most of them. Nay, all of them.
TheWrap saw previews for more than 20 different upcoming releases this weekend. How many are directed by women? 0. How many of them star women? A baby's handful.
Don't get us started on the percentages made by or starring non-Caucasians. It was big news that Jamie Foxx, an attendee last year with "Django Unchained," is in "Spider-Man." Who's he playing? The villain. Naturally.
The Indies are coming! The indies are coming!
A new $200 million movie promising the end of the world opened almost every weekend this summer. Most of them, such as "Iron Man 3" and "Man of Steel," were successful reboots or sequels.
When the costly spectacles were based on original ideas, they often underperformed, as in the case of Will and Jaden Smith's "After Earth."
Yet actors and directors were united in one message at Comic-Con – the upcoming slate of blockbusters are character-based films with a decidedly indie feel.
Shailene Woodley ("Divergent"), Elizabeth Olsen ("Godzilla") and several other thespians with more experience at Sundance than Comic-Con remarked on how filming their latest movies felt no different than the $5 million productions that preceded them.
Directors Gareth Edwards ("Godzilla") and James Mangold ("Wolverine") stressed that their movies were more personal tales with strong scripts and a real message. In other words, legitimately good movies.
Whether these movies will reflect the filmmaker's ambitions remains to be seen, but give many of these studios credit – they are hiring unusual choices. Edwards, Mangold, the Russo Brothers ("Captain America") are three of many who took the stage this weekend with resumes filled with more modest, restrained fare.
The Star of the Show? "Gravity."
Perhaps TheWrap just has a big man crush on Alfonso Cuaron, but no movie looked as compelling as the Mexican filmmaker’s upcoming space suspense movie starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.
Cuaron appeared on two different panels, one alongside directors Marc Webb and Edgar Wright, and one with Bullock during Warner Bros.' marathon event. He twice discussed the arduous process of making the film, an odyssey spanning almost five years and numerous experiments with replicating zero gravity on earth.
While Cuaron described "Gravity" as an "amazing miscalculation," the footage he exhibited on Saturday was stunning and had even the most snarky journalists (this one included) in awe. (Watch a trailer for the movie below.)
Clooney and Bullock tried to avert death as their space vehicles combusted, which — Spoiler Alert — leaves them stranded in bottomless black for much of the movie.
Warner Bros. didn’t even show the clip in 3D, which would have enhanced that particular scene immensely – if done right.
The movie is a bit of an outlier at the convention as it’s more of a conventional drama, much like "Django Unchained" was last year. Yet we all know how that turned out: two Academy Awards and $424 million at the box office.
Remember when "Avatar" came out and everyone freaked out about the limitless possibilities of 3D? That seems like a lot longer than three and a half years ago.
While studios are releasing many of the films they previewed this weekend in 3D, only a select handful were shown as such at the event. When Entertainment Weekly's Geoff Boucher took the stage for Fox’s panel – the second-to-last studio panel of the Con — he asked the audience if it was the first time they’d seen footage in 3D at Comic-Con. It wasn't, but you get the idea.
Cuaron, Wright and Webb all ragged on the format at their panel on Thursday – even though two of them are in the process of making 3D movies.
"I hate 3D because the blacks and white suck," Cuaron said. "It takes away color and takes away resolution."
Hollywood will continue to pump out movies in 3D for three reasons — higher ticket prices, foreign theater owners crave them and audiences in some countries still have fits of joy when Spiderman pops out of the screen.
You happy world? America surrenders.