“This year’s WonderCon sucks monkey nuts.”
I attended WonderCon this past weekend here in San Francisco, and I’m obligated to write up some kind of recap. This normally isn’t a problem… I’ve attended conventions before, including last year’s WonderCon and Comic-Con, and I was happy to post reports for FSR on them both. But this year’s convention has left me underwhelmed, uninspired, and angry. So angry in fact that I was tempted to crib from Robert Fure’s “Boiling Point” column, but the bastard claims it’s copyrighted. The same goes for his “Ten Things I Liked, Five I Didn’t”… but that wouldn’t work anyway because there aren’t ten things I liked. Hell, I don’t even have five. It’s not like it’s that difficult to excite me or pique my interest either… picture me somewhere between a wide-eyed and easily excitable fawn happy to suckle at any studio teat and a bitter, vitriolic, psuedo rage-filled curmudgeon who wishes Bambi would die from AIDS (so about midway on the Billington/Faraci scale). I sent FSR Editor Neil the above text (re: monkey nuts) as a summation of my WonderCon ’09 experience, and he’s asked me to expand on that with a bit more detail (a decision he’ll probably regret). I’ll start on a positive note by acknowledging the few surprises regarding preview panels.
Alex Proyas’ Knowing has an uphill battle to fight thanks to the presence of Nicolas Cage, but I was actually impressed with two full scenes they showed. Both the airplane crash across the highway and the subway train collision into (and through) an underground terminal were spectacularly devastating. The plane crash scene follows Cage in one long take as he rushes into the carnage, bodies strewn like crimson trash, survivors wandering blindly, a man screaming in anguish as he burns… it’s more powerful and immediate than any of his films have been in years. And while the subway scene shows a slight ignorance of physics, it makes up for it with pure bloody mayhem as the train cars hit (and splatter) scores of panicked pedestrians. Both scenes were awash with solid and pleasantly gruesome CGI, and it’s almost enough to get my ass in the theater on March 20th.
Shane Acker’s apocalyptic animated tale 9 first appeared on my radar with the incredibly dark yet vibrant trailer back in December. I’ve watched it several times since then, but seeing the trailer on the big screen during the panel filled me with awe all over again. An extended battle scene was also shown featuring a handful of the ragdolls under attack by a flying mechanized creature, and it was equally stunning. Pixar and Dreamworks would never take on such a dark fable, but even if they did I can’t imagine they could do any better than Acker and company.
From dark and ominous animation to bright and cheerful… Pixar’s latest film, Up, looks to be another winner. No real surprise, I know, but what I didn’t expect were the multiple bouts of laughter emanating from my gullet. I’m no Pixar junkie who believes each of their films are masterpieces (Cars, for example, sucked), but based on the five clips that were shown here I’ll go on record right now and say this is the funniest Pixar film yet. The story and characters look to be just as strong and heartfelt as some of their best, with more than a little absurdity thrown in for good measure.
Lastly, the Terminator Salvation panel managed to (once again) raise my expectations sky high for the film’s May 21st release. McG still has a lot to prove (and atone for) but after seeing the new trailer and two full scenes, I’m thinking this is the blockbuster to beat in 2009. They showed the scene where the giant harvester robot attacks the gas station, and even missing several key effects, it shook the hall with it’s explosive action, stunts, and scale. The second scene is hinted at in the trailer and features John Connor (Bale) facing off against Aquabots after his helicopter crashes into a river at night. Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) arrives to help and drops Kyle Reese’s name in an effort to earn Connor’s trust. The mechanical, tendril-like robots are fast and menacing, and the confrontation between the two men is incredibly tense and dramatic. Fuck Star Trek, fuck Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen… Terminator Salvation is going to be the biggest, grittiest, most kick-ass movie of the summer. And if we’re lucky, WB will keep the topless Moon Bloodgood scene.
And that’s it for good things found at this year’s WonderCon. (No, Star Trek was not a good thing. JJ Abrams was more entertaining than the new trailer, which continues to look pretty average.) Four cool to awesome previews featuring new footage, only two of which had fun or interesting panels and guests. You know what sucked? Everything else. And this is where I lose my press “credentials” for next year’s con…
Bloggers, Bloggers, Everywhere
Speaking of which, what the hell is up with the obscene number of press badges handed out this year? I know that online journalists and bloggers (yes, they can be distinct) are fighting to be taken as seriously as their brothers and sisters in print, while simultaneously driving those same paper and ink types out of business, but this shit is getting out of hand. What proof of entitlement does WonderCon insist upon before they grant a press badge? What requirements must you meet before they let you in for free to cover the events within? A business card. Period. A card you can print at Kinkos for under two bucks. I don’t pretend to know where the line should be drawn, but there has to be some limit of respectability or accountability here. They should require websites provide proof of page views via Google analytics or maybe even pay stubs, and yes, stronger conditions may end up actually preventing me from acquiring a press badge but at least the term “member of the press” would mean something again. And on a related note, how about limiting the number of badges given to the same outlet? I’m looking at you 1UP.com and your seemingly endless parade of extraneous writers… I counted at least ten of those fuckers!
Good ‘Ole Eddie Ibrahim
Eddie Ibrahim, Director of Programming, studio apologist, and all around schmooze gets on stage before every big panel to tell the audience the rules of the show. No taping, be respectful, etc. Makes sense and I couldn’t agree more (although he’s curiously absent from panels for smaller films), but Ibrahim feels obligated to explain how this is the “weekend” for celebrities too and how they’re taking their personal time to come to SF and share their films. Surely they’re not paid by the studios for their time. Surely they’re not earning a paycheck by doing their goddamn job and pushing their movies. Bullshit. It’s show business Eddie. They’re walking advertisements here to shill their product, now get off the stage already.
The Sideshow of McG
Dear McG, Terminator will probably redeem your professional career, but your onstage behavior shows you to be an annoying prick. Yes, yes, you know how to rile up the crowd, but it’s because most of them don’t know you’re using the same goddamn shtick you pulled at Comic-Con last year. Calling Bale’s voicemail and having the entire hall scream into the phone? Check. Having different parts of the room compete via applause and cheers? Check. Being a foul-mouthed motherfucker? Check. Bringing the same Asian kid onstage to do his garbled and saliva-filled impressions of Schwarzenegger? Check. Okay, so you made me laugh when you said Anton Yelchin was gay, but aside from that you come across as a real ass. And speaking of Yelchin, could that kid be any more of a poser twat? His response to seeing the trailer was an overblown and insincere-sounding “I think it’s fucking awesome. Shit, it blew my mind.” How you make that sound fake when the trailer was in fact fucking awesome I don’t know… but I guess that’s why he’s the actor and I’m just the guy bitching about him.
Where The Ladies At?
Where in the hell were all the sexy fangirls? Sure there was the ubiquitous and hot Slave Leia, but there was also the fifty year-old that looked like the alternate universe Leia who was never rescued and lived the rest of her life servicing Jabba and friends on a daily basis. There were a few other moderately attractive gals wandering around, but for the most part the costumes on display barely held back flaps and folds of flesh that probably hadn’t seen daylight in years. I’m happy that you all feel comfortable enough to share your enthusiasm with the world, but some things are best explored in private.
Similarly, to the fanboys, just because the geek stereotype says you have to be unattractive and unappealing doesn’t mean you have to also be unwashed. Take a fucking shower. With soap. I had to get up and move three times during panels due to various odors emanating from superheroes and robots sitting beside me. You have to commit to the costume guys… machines don’t sweat. (It should go without saying that the fanboys failed just as hard as the fangirls when it came to bringing the sexy.)
Start the Presses
Where’s the news? Seriously, nothing newsworthy came out of this entire three day affair. Sure Yelchin shot down the Green Lantern rumor and McG says he’s considering Robert Patrick in Terminator 5 as a human scientist working on the T-1000, but neither of those are really count as news. So the real question becomes, why was there no news? I’d suggest that the answer is a combination of too many conventions and too few movies. The same films have shown up at the last three cons with the same people pushing them to varying degrees of success. Scheduling isn’t helping things either with WonderCon hitting mere weeks after the New York Comic-Con.
And Then Some…
Watchmen opens this week, just days after its convention appearance… it had no business being at WonderCon, taking up prime space and time that could have gone to another film. It was a selfish move on the part of organizers and a desperate move on the part of WB.
Who’s screening the people in the Q&A lines? To the advocate for the hearing impaired who felt compelled to hog valuable time during both the Star Trek and Up! panels, your whiny and annoying attempts at guilting Pixar into giving a public tour of their studio (something they never do) or at putting J.J. Abrams on the spot for the lack of deaf characters on the Enterprise, were more than a bit sleazy. Not to mention all of the little children with ears that work who’ve lost their opportunity to ask questions about where “ideas” come from or what it’s like playing an alien.
Finally, where were Monster v Aliens? X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Where the Wild Things Are? Sherlock Holmes? Ninja Assassin? Avatar? Year One? Funny People? GI Joe? Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen? The Wolfman? Franklyn? Land of the Lost? 2012? Game? Surrogates? Kick-Ass?
Goodbye WonderCon 2009! Suck it.
Were you at WonderCon this year? What were you wearing?