News and Notes from Comic-Con: ‘Tron,’ Del Toro, Futurama

Scenes and conversations from around San Diego Comic-Con


It was all smiles and laughter between the film's stars Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner — both actors are reprising their roles from the original "TRON"– Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen, Garret Hedlund and directors Joe Kosinski and Steve Linsberger.

The group seemed quite satisfied with the vision and direction provided by Hollywood newcomer Kosinski, an architect-turned-director in his first major film. However, at ComiTron the protagonists were careful not to reveal too much of the plot except to reiterate that this is a sequel made to stand alone, and that a major part of the plot involves a father-son relationship.

The original "TRON" motion picture was considered technologically forward when released back in 1982; the lighted suits, ring games, light cycles and grid were conjured up in the imagination. All of these iconic props are back in the sequel and have been updated to match, or perhaps surpass, our imagery of the future.

Olivia Wilde mentioned that the body-hugging space outfits they wear in "TRON Legacy" have integrated fiber optical lighting that, when turned on, made a sound which drove the sound crew crazy, and caused the director to have to first instruct the actors to light up, and then call "action!"

Besides getting a feel for the cast's camaraderie, we got a glimpse of both directors, past and present, sitting side by side with only a generation gap between them — a gap filled by the technology one was dreaming about three decades ago, while the other has practically lived with it his entire life.

At the press conference I asked Lisberger, director of the original "TRON",  what the legacy of the movie "TRON Legacy" would be for the new generation of fans. Will it be the innovative technology used to make this movie, or is it the movie's message?

Steve Lisberger said, "The difference was that when we made the original movie, all we had to do was dream about what technology might do, but we really didn't get involved with what the technology would do. As time went by, we've know reached the point where John and Joe (Kosinski) and their generations have had to make this real.

Technology is all about bringing people together. Supposedly. Now, there's a sense that technology has a dark side that keeps us from connecting with each other. And I think this film examines that problem."

Essentially, it sounds like the anticipated mega blockbuster "TRON Legacy" will not only be heavy on the technology front, but might also carry a weighty message alerting this generation to the possibilities and perils of the technology-dependent culture we have become since the first film — a very current theme given our love-affair with machines.

From Guillermo Del Toro’s press conference:

I had the chance to sit in a press room at Comic-Con with other members of the media while Guillermo Del Toro and Troy Nixey leisurely talked to us about how their collaboration for the upcoming horror film “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” came to be.

Basically, Troy Nixey is a very lucky guy. One day he’s drawing comic books, the next he’s been catapulted to director of his own movie using on his own work — Del Toro wrote the script and is producing the film.

Guillermo Del Toro told us straight out, “If you’ve got a short movie or a portfolio of drawings send them to me.”

That’s exactly what Nixey did. Of course, he never expected a reply, but his work on a short at the Toronto Film Festival caught Del Toro’s attention and the rest is now Comic-Con history.

First, let me tell you I am not a horror movie-junkie despite the fact that Halloween is my favorite holiday. So I am not well versed at all about what constitutes a good horror film. One thing I can tell you is that Guillermo Del Toro is a funny, funny man with a morbid side regarding scary movies.

He likes to scare the crap out of everyone because that’s what a horror film should do. He told us this with a serious smile on his face; as serious as the R rating the movie was “honored” with, according to Del Toro.

“We got this R rating, and our movie doesn’t have any language or nudity. We got this because it is f*@!~? scary!”

During the press conference Del Toro tried quoting something from Frankenstein to explain his obsession with horror films, and warned us he was going to butcher it (and he did), but he got his message across: “I have such love in me more than you can imagine, but if I cannot provoke it then I will provoke fear.”

He went on to tell us why fear is the measure of control he latched on to get ahead in this world, and he went beyond a simple explanation, as he did with every question, about why fear as an emotion is actually a beautiful thing.

“As a child I was disenfranchised from everything in the world; a world that was the wrong size; wronged by the wrong people, and the wrong morale, and the wrong rules. I felt completely outside of that, and I wanted some measure of control. And that measure of control I found through fear.

But the reality that I feel is that fear is a very spiritual emotion. In a world that is so pragmatic and so materialistic, fear is the only emotion that allows even a sophisticated person with an iPhone, and an iPad, and a car, and cable to believe in something beyond.

We are such skeptics that we find it corny to believe in God and angels and this and that, or spiritual afterlife, but when the moment of fear makes our spirit so vulnerable that fear allows us to believe in something beyond that. And that’s very beautiful.”

Guillermo Del Toro had been lying low since it was announced he was stepping away from “The Hobbit,” but made an explosive return at Comic-Con International with “Don’t Be Afraid” and another bomb he dropped at the Con: he’s developing the movie “The Haunted Mansion” based on the Disney amusement park attraction.

“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is set for a Jan. 21, 2010 release and is based on a 1973 TV movie of the same name. The film is about a little girl (played by Bailee Madison) who visits her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend (Katie Holmes) in an old mansion, and she triggers evil forces within.

A word of warning from Del Toro about this movie: “You will crap your pants… figuratively, of course!”

From Thursday: “Futurama” at the Bongo Comics Sneak Peek panel in Room 3:

“Futurama” has been re-animated for 26 more episodes on Comedy Central (airing since June 24, 2010), and what better place than Comic-Con to celebrate the re-birth of one of geekdom’s beloved TV shows? The series started airing in 1999, and after fits and starts over the last 11 years, found a new home at Comedy Central where it will stay until the season finale next summer.

The show’s creators Matt Groening (The Simpsons) and David X. Cohen, along with voice actors Billy West, John Di Maggio, Maurice LeMarche and Lauren Tom (Katy Segal was not present, but came later to sign autographs at the FOX booth) felt right at home among the scores of fans who have followed the characters’ incompatible personalities in the futuristic city of New New York.

Groening told us he is grateful to the fans, and that the show’s return is a “tribute to the devotion of fans and their constant chronic support. Without their dedication we would have given up. The show’s been on the precipice of being cancelled, and then actually being cancelled, a number of times. So it’s really nice to be back.”

The cast had no trouble getting back into character after the show’s hiatus.

“It’s like riding a bike and you broke your leg and you have to lay off it for a while,” Billy West, who performs the voice of Fry, told us. “You get on the bike 6 months later and it’s just the same.”

Futurama airs Thursday at 10pm / 9c on Comedy Central.

From the “Stargate Universe” panel on Friday in Ballroom 20

“Let your geek flag fly!” declared a confident David Bleu (“Ugly Betty”) cast member of the SyFy channel’s “Stargate Universe” when he sat down to talk to us during his second visit to Comic-Con. The popularity of the TV series was evidenced by the thousands of geeks who packed the panel in Ballroom 20 at the pop-culture gathering.

Robert Carlyle (Dr. Nicholas Rush), Ming-Na (Camile Wray), and David Blue (Eli Wallace) attended a post-panel roundtable press conference to chat with us about their experiences in the first season of the sci-fi show, and about what we can expect this fall.

The premise of “Stargate Universe” revolves around the crew aboard the Destiny, which mistakenly crossed into another galaxy through a Stargate and is unable to make it back to Earth. Living in the dark, close quarters of the ship gives way to some outer space drama between the unconventional characters which include a lesbian IOA representative, and an ultra-nerd, untraditional hero.

Ming-Na exuded joy when she join our press group and told us she will return as the level-headed lesbian (though she is not one in reality) who, according to Na, is the one who deals with some of the moral issues on the show. She told us Camile Wray will be back with the same strong personality, “though I know you may not agree with some of her decisions.”

Robert Carlyle spoke to us about the upcoming season in his heavy Scottish accent, and although he was guarded with information about future episodes, he let on that a relationship might develop for Eli Wallace.  (His character in Startgate is stern, but sitting next to the soft-spoken Scot intently trying to listen beyond the Sean Connery-like accent endeared me to him.)

David Blue was very generous with his time during the interview session. His personality is a lively one both on and off camera. As for the nerd of the show, he told us Eli will grow a lot in the second season, “He shrinks physically, but grows a lot more emotionally and grows into his responsibilities.”

Eli Wallace’s character carries a lot of weight as a sort of surrogate for the audience’s emotions, which, Blue remarked, is a lot of pressure for one of the younger actors of the ensemble cast. In the show, Eli is not the stereotypical geek. Instead, he takes on a hero-like quality when solving the crew’s mathematical puzzles or carrying the damsel in distress to save her.

 “I don’t look like a traditional hero on the show; I’m not the good-looking or muscular type you would associate with one, and I think this is what many of the fans can relate to in this character.”

“Stargate Universe” premiers in October on the SyFy channel.