2017 San Diego Comic-Con
Photos by Christian Navarrete, Dan Bringhurst, and Adam Mast

For movie fans, there’s no bigger place to be than San Diego Comic-Con’s massive Hall H every July. At least, that’s the way it used to be. The last few years have seen a seismic shift from film to television in Hall H (the San Diego Convention Center’s largest ballroom). And while the 2017 Comic-Con saw fewer studio presentations than ever before, there were still plenty of outstanding movie panels to behold. Some great television presentations and imaginative cosplay on display to speak of too. Here’s a look at a few highlights.

2017 San Diego Comic-Con highlights“Ready Player One”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Warner Brothers always brings the showmanship to Comic-Con! While all the hype and anticipation seemed squarely aimed at DC’s look at “Aquaman” and “Justice League,” the big draw for me was Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s holy grail of pop culture, “Ready Player One.”

Spielberg and Cline and stars Tye Sheriadan, T.J. Miller, and Ben Mendelsohn were on hand to talk about the making of this epic pop culture cinematic buffet, and while everything about this panel had me as giddy as a schoolboy, just having an opportunity to listen to the iconic Spielberg talk in person was the icing on the cake.

Of course, one of the biggest highlights of the panel came in the form of the premiere of the trailer. Holy cow! What a treat! The Iron Giant, Freddy Krueger, and the DeLorean from “Back to the Future” in the same damn movie?! And that only touches the tip of the pop culture iceberg. This trailer played like absolute gangbusters!

True, WB dropped the trailer online shortly after the presentation ended, but no matter. Seeing it in this kind of environment with 7,000 other passionate fans was a euphoric experience, to say the least. Of course, the fact that the makers of the film were in the house as we watched the footage probably had something to do with that.

The question remains: Will “Ready Player One” feel a bit dated by the time it opens in March 2018? After all, with a films like “The Lego Movie,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” and “The Lego Batman Movie” already having made the rounds, it’s clear that movie mash-up culture is already in full swing. Having said that, with The Beard at the helm, there’s plenty of reason to be excited for this movie. Spielberg is the primary reason for the existence of Cline’s book in the first place, and the fact that he directed the movie is all kinds of awesome!

2017 San Diego Comic-Con highlights“Blade Runner 2049”

Warner Brothers didn’t stop with “Ready Player One” and DC, oh no! They had another big title up their sleeve in the form of the highly anticipated “Blade Runner 2049.”

Interestingly enough, the very idea of a sequel to “Blade Runner” never set well with me. The original film was not particularly well received by the masses when it first opened. Granted, I loved it the first time I saw it, even though my young mind couldn’t really comprehend what the film was really all about. The reason I resisted the very idea of a sequel for all these years is because Ridley Scott’s original always felt like a one-and-done to me. I always felt like a sequel would taint the effectiveness of the first picture, and honestly, who really wants answers to many of the mysteries “Blade Runner” ponders? Not I. It’s the ambiguity that makes that visual marvel so damn appealing.

Of course, when I found out that Denis Villeneuve (“Incendies” and “Arrival”) would be directing the sequel with Roger Deakins shooting, Ryan Gosling starring, and the venerable Harrison Ford returning as an aging Deckard, I began to warm to the idea of a sequel. And after getting a look at footage by way of that fantastic teaser trailer from a few months ago, I have gone from being reluctant about the very idea of this film to eagerly anticipating it every second of every day.

Villeneuve, Gosling, and Ford were brought to the stage, and they brought the house down! Ford in particular appears to be far more cheerful in his golden years. Even when asked by a fan about his desire to bring back some of his most iconic characters (i.e. Indiana Jones, Han Solo, and Deckard), Ford was playfully cantankerous with his response.

In addition to a replay of the newest “Blade Runner 2049” trailer, we were treated to an exclusive scene from the film in which Gosling’s Blade Runner is desperately trying to locate a missing Deckard (Ford). Gosling’s search leads him to an attractive, somewhat flirtatious replicant who aids him with a piece of evidence in the form of a recording of a conversation between Deckard and Rachel (Sean Young) from nearly three decades earlier. It was short but gorgeous to look at and beautifully acted.

It’s refreshing that Villeneuve and crew opted to show a character-driven scene rather than an action sequence. And the fashion in which this sequel calls back to a scene from the original movie is incredibly creative and organic. My excitement for “Blade Runner 2049” was already at a fever pitch, and this presentation got me even more excited.

2017 San Diego Comic-Con highlights“Stranger Things” Season Two

Netflix was all over Comic-Con this year, and while the increasingly popular streaming service had plenty to share with eager attendees (“Bright,” “Death Note,” “The Defenders,” etc.), there’s very little doubt that the majority of the buzz was aimed squarely at “Stranger Things.” This nostalgia-laced, ’80s-set series feels like a combination of Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, and John Carpenter with a dash of “X-Files” thrown in for good measure. Season one exploded out of nowhere, and anticipation for season two couldn’t be any higher.

The “Stranger Things” presentation began with an affectionate look back at the first season by way of a stirring highlights reel. Then, moderator Patton Oswalt hit the stage and began to profess his love for all things “Stranger Things.” He then introduced show creators the Duffer Brothers, director Shawn Levy, and cast members David Harbour, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Noah Schnapp, Joe Keery, Matthew Modine, and Finn Wolfhard (Oswalt had a field day with this kid’s name) to the stage and proceeded to engage in a lively Q&A. Almost immediately, it was obvious that the chemistry these cast members share on the show they also share in real life. It was a joy listening to these likable performers share stories about shooting this extremely popular show. Following the Q&A, Oswalt would introduce a few cast members we’ll be seeing in season two, including Paul Reiser (Burke of “Aliens” fame). One can only assume that Reiser will be playing a villain of some kind.

One of the most entertaining moments of the panel came when Oswalt began to field questions from the audience. The first question came from none other than surprise guest, Shannon Purser, better known as Barb from season one! The character of Barb was met with much controversy among adoring fans, and not surprisingly, Purser’s big question for the panel was, “Will Barb be back?!”

The show-runners were quick to say that Barb won’t be back but that she will be acknowledged in a big way in season two. So, for those of you miffed at the way this innocent character was dealt with in season one, chin up.

As expected, the cast and crew brought along a new trailer for “Stranger Things” season two, and it was nothing short of fantastic! In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I say that this trailer gave me chills in a big way from the images to the adventurous spirit of youth, the creep-out factor, that brilliant synth score, and the use of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” I know it’s just a trailer, but honestly, there isn’t a false note in this clip. It was designed to get the fans pumped, and pumped we are.

Oct. 27 can’t come soon enough!

2017 San Diego Comic-Con highlightsMarvel Studios

If Warner Brothers served as the perfect Saturday Hall H opener, Marvel was the perfect closer! There was much talk about the studio’s big presentation at Disney’s D23 Expo a week earlier and whether or not there would be any exclusive content left to share with a very enthusiastic Comic-Con crowd. As it turned out, there would be!

The panel opened with a Marvel movie refresher sizzle reel featuring “Ant-Man” cast members Paul Rudd and Michael Pena. This dynamic duo certainly brought the funny as they highlighted each Marvel property dating back to 2008’s “Iron Man.”

Following the reel, moderator and fanboy extraordinaire Chris Hardwick hit the stage and brought Marvel CEO Kevin Feige out to rapturous applause. Feige would begin the presentation by making some big casting announcements. He revealed that veteran Michelle Pfeiffer will be playing Janet van Dyne in “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and that she’ll be joined by new cast members Walton Goggins, Laurence Fishburne, and Randall Park.

Feige would then go on to unveil some pretty big news regarding the Brie Larson-headlined “Captain Marvel.” It appears that not only will Samuel L. Jackson return as Nick Fury, he’ll also have both of his eyes intact. How can this be? Because “Captain Marvel” will take place in the ’90s, that’s how! Feige also went on to reveal that The Skrulls will serve as the film’s primary antagonists.

2017 San Diego Comic-Con highlightsOf course, Feige and crew were most interested in focusing on two of Marvel’s biggest upcoming cinematic adventures. First up was “Thor: Ragnarok.” On hand to talk about the film were hilarious New Zealand-born director Taika Waititi (“What We Do in the Shadows”) and cast members Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Karl Urban, Tessa Thompson, and the forever quirky Jeff Goldblum. Following a brief Q&A, Waititi unveiled a clip from the film (featuring the director himself as the voice of a lovable rock creature called Korg) along with a montage of scenes that sort of played like an extended version of the new trailer. All in all, this movie looks fantastic! Everyone already knows about the epic gladiator battle between Thor and Hulk, but beyond that, “Ragnarok” looks action packed and laced with a ton of colorful (and fittingly quirky) humor. Waititi’s spirit looks to be all over this thing, and I can’t wait to see it!

Up next was “Black Panther.” Feige brought along director Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale” and “Creed”) and a handful of cast members including Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Forest Whitaker, Winston Duke, Danai Gurira, and the great Andy Serkis.

2017 San Diego Comic-Con highlightsCoogler spoke of his love for the source material, suggesting that while he has a love for most superheros, Black Panther was particularly special to him because this was the first hero he ever saw who shared the same skin color, and that was important to him growing up.

Coogler and crew brought along a sizzle reel that has yet to drop online, and in short, it was supremely badass! The tone of this movie is decidedly different from other Marvel properties. There’s large-scale action sequences and tons of visual effects to be sure, but this flick is throwing a large dose of culture to the mix. Boseman looks incredibly fierce in the lead while Jordan looks equally effective as the film’s primary baddie. Additionally, Serkis looks exceptionally thuggish as a tough-as-nails secondary villain.

“Black Panther” looks to prove that Marvel is attempting to take chances with its upcoming superhero slate. Let’s hope that trend continues in Phase IV.

Marvel ended their presentation with a big surprise. Actually, it wasn’t that big of a surprise to those who were familiar with the Marvel panel that took place a week earlier at D23. The studio decided they’d close out the show with an early peek at next summer’s all-star superhero opus, “Avengers: Infinity War,” and boy did this sizzle reel work the packed Hall H crowd into an absolute frenzy! “Infinity War” finds the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Vision, Ant-Man, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Dr. Strange, and the Guardians of the Galaxy working together to take on the evil force that is Thanos (played by Josh Brolin) in the ultimate hero/villain showdown. This flick is the culmination of 10 years’ worth of epic shared universe superhero movies, and where Marvel might go with Phase VI is anybody’s guess. Until then, let’s enjoy the ride!

That’s it for highlights from Comic-Con 2017, but you can bet we’ll be back in San Diego to do all over again in 2018.

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