Thursday, July 28, 2016

My First Thought on the San Diego Comic-Con First Looks

It seemed like this year the buzz running up to 2016’s San Diego Comic-Con was a little more muted than in previous years. Around two weeks out from the big show I was even seeing some people talking about how this year might even be a little less buzz-worthy- citing anything from Disney and Marvel holding back for their own events to the powers that be at the various companies and studios deciding that SDCC wasn’t as worth the full effort as it once was. Well, if you were even barely paying attention to social media last weekend you got dissuaded from that notion rather quickly.

We’ll start small here, and by small I mean LEGO.

Outside of some really nice looking exclusives like a minifigure of the TV version of The Atom, LEGO seemed to be focused largely on showing SDCC support for the Mighty Micros line it launched earlier this year. The sets are based on either Marvel or DC heroes and contain two minifigures with two small vehicles. The minifigures are not the standard “adult” minifigure but rather have the half-sized legs like their “child” minifigures. They also have a seriously goofy, cartoony face. In my experience with LEGO fans and diehard collectors, you either love these or you hate them. My children- being on the “love” side of that equation –are really going to love the figures in these sets. Some of them, like what appears to be Doomsday, aren’t even included in other officially announced sets at this time.

They also unveiled the LEGO Brickheadz. As you can see from the picture, these look like the LEGO attempt at doing something along the lines of the Funko Pop figures. It will be interesting to see what kind of fan support these get. The sets are meant to be essentially just models once built. They have little play value and I’m not sure they have the charm to really catch on.

The slightly more serious sets included The Batmobile and The Joker Notorious Lowrider sets on the DC side and the Avengers Classic Hulk VS Red Hulk set on the Marvel side. The Batmobile and The Joker Notorious Lowrider sets fit in perfectly with the superhero sets already on the market while the Hulk set seems designed a little more for goofy play. When it comes to passing on them or buying them, it may be the figures in the Marvel set that could be the big deciding factor for many. This is the first official Red Hulk from LEGO after years of the various knockoff brands being the only source for the character, and the same can be said of the She-Hulk. However, this is the only Red She-Hulk I’ve seen on the market, whether from knock-offs or official sets, so that may be a big selling point for Marvel LEGO fans and collectors alike.

Other companies like Mattel, Hasbro, and McFarlane Toys to name but a few were there in force as well to show off toys for The Walking Dead, Assassin’s Creed, Visionaries, Marvel and DC figures of the non-LEGO variety, Five Nights of Freddy, The Power Rangers Movie line, WWE Superstars, Masters of the Universe, and many more. I’m not going to touch on these because I am sure The Boss and company will be getting deep into the geek on the toys of the SDCC on the Needless Things podcast this week. But there is at least one announced toyline that I have to comment on. More specifically, it’s a returning toyline if only for now returning as a SDCC exclusive.  

There were only four toylines that really struck a chord with me as a child and still strike a deep spot in my inner child now. These were LEGO bricks, G.I. Joe in all three sizes that were on the market in the 1970s and 1980s, the Shogun Warriors, and the incredibly huge universe of a toyline that was The Micronauts.

This year’s San Diego Comic-Con has as one of its exclusives not one but three Micronauts that- unlike some other modern takes on classic lines –look like almost picture perfect replicas of the toys I had and played with for years. The three figures are Galactic Warrior, Pharoid, and Orbital Defender (called Galactic Defender in the original series of toys). Galactic Warrior is the only one with a noticeable change in the design. The original fired a small rocket with a rubber ball on the end of it from its backpack. This one appears to have a stylized plastic piece where the rubber bit should be, and there’s no word yet if it’s launched via spring loaded release or not. Sadly, given the nature of today’s world, I’m thinking not. The figures will have more modern packaging than the Micronauts of old featuring artwork by renowned artist Ken Kelly. Word is that for a little while at least they will be available online from Hasbro as well as at con. I’m hoping they strike it big with popularity and buzz and bring more classic Micronauts like these beyond just the convention setting. I could really dig buying the right ones for my shelves if they all look as good as these do.

Moving right along moves us right into the movies; specifically, it moves us into movie trailers.

What’s a SDCC for those of us not able to attend without some buzz worthy movie trailers and footage coming out during the weekend and in the week that follows? Fortunately for movie fans, this one fired on all cylinders with only a few duds. I’m getting a dud out of the way now.

The trailer for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword dropped over the weekend and… well… Cocaine is a helluva drug…

For those of you out there who are big fans of Charlie Hunnam and/or of Guy Ritchie, I hope there’s something in this trailer that gets you hyped for this movie. I will always love Guy Ritchie for Snatch and Revolver, but this trailer just turned me off. It doesn’t feel at all like a King Arthur story to me from what’s been shown here, and what was teased of the story itself didn’t hook me either. Hopefully it finds its audience and makes them happy, but, right now, thanks in large part to this trailer, I don’t think I’m a part of that audience.

After the (frankly) overly goofy and at times somewhat boring film that was 2005’s King Kong, I really had no desire to see another modern take on Kong. Between that version, 1986’s King Kong Lives, and a host of low budget Kong knockoffs over the last few decades, I basically gave up hope of anyone treating the subject matter completely seriously and making it look like it could be a blast to watch. Whether or not this movie lives up to the promise of the trailer, this trailer certainly did its job by changing my mind. For the first time since the film was announced, I actually want to see this thing in the theaters.

Kong: Skull Island looks solid. It definitely has a good cast, the action shown in the trailer looks well shot, and the idea of a lost land or lost island filled with ancient monsters has always been an appealing fictional concept for me. In a year where we’ve seen a lot of poorly done and sometimes confusingly edited trailers, whoever put this one together deserves a pat on the back. It switched me from having minimal interest to being reeled in on the hype-train for the film for it hook, line, and sinker.

I’m not gonna lie- This was another one that I was on the fence about. As I’ve said here before, Man of Steel was not the Superman film for me, and the murky, unrelentingly bleak tone and (for the most part) characters of Batman v Superman was a turnoff for me. As such, I had strong reservations about a Justice League film handled by the general powers that be behind those two films.

While visually still on the dark side- every scene looks like it’s been drained of anything bright and run through a blue jell filter –the powers that be at Warner Brothers apparently listened to the criticism from fans that not every character in Batman’s universe needs to be as brooding, dark, and humorless as he is. They may even have listened a little too much as some scenes in the trailer get very close to being too jokey for the characters involved. However, in context of fuller scenes and without the music chosen for the trailer, some of the scenes here might not feel quite as jokey in the actual film.

Still, I like what I see here so far. Despite the earlier comments from some in the studio about Flash causing many to worry about his portrayal on film, this Flash seems to have his humor and personality intact. Aquaman comes off a little too barbarian brawler and not enough undersea nobility here, but that could change based on what we see in future trailers. We don’t see enough of Cyborg to really make any informed judgements on the character, but Batman and Wonder Woman seem to be doing much better than when we last saw them in Batman v Superman.

If the subsequent trailers continue to showcase the film as well as this teaser did, I may be quite happy to shell out some cash to see this one on the big screen.

Wow. It’s actually been over a year since I wrote about my thoughts on the trailers that came out of SDCC 2015, and this film’s early trailer was included in THAT batch. Man does it seems like it’s been a really long road to get here and we’ve seen a lot of different opinions on this thing since then. But we’re finally in the home stretch for The Suicide Squad.

When the first trailers rolled out, there was a lot of (what I felt was unwarranted) negative fan reaction to Harley Quinn and especially to the Joker. The criticism of Harley quickly went away, but the Joker started to further divide fandom with the way the character was portrayed in the subsequent trailers.

Well, and I can only speak for myself here, I have no reservations at all on this one anymore. Every trailer that’s been released so far has only made the film look better, and this one is no exception. The film has a perfect super-powered Dirty Dozen vibe to it. These are the guys and gals who know they’ve got nothing to lose, maybe little to win in the long run, and have been put in a do and die situation. The humor is occasionally dark and bleak, the characters come across as being fun to watch, and, yeah, this version of the Joker seems to nail a lot of what’s needed for the character from what’s been shown so far.

Suicide Squad looks like it’s going to be a blast.

This next trailer was the one that caught a lot of people off guard. Horror fans had been hearing some quiet but nice buzz about an upcoming horror project being called “The Woods” for some time now. In a nice bit of pulling a fast one on the fandom ala 10 Cloverfield Lane hitting fans out of nowhere, the film wasn’t what people thought it was and a new title has been slapped over the old one.

I’ve never been on the hate bandwagon for the original Blair Witch Project that seemed to grow so trendy, but its’s a name that’s taken a beating over the years in fandom. Found footage has likewise been taking a beating- occasionally deservedly so -in the eyes of fans. This still looks like it could be a fun little horror night experience in the theater if fans give it the chance.

There were a number of other films that got new looks and first looks this year. Wonder Woman looks solid and enjoyable while Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them continues to look like a worthy successor to the Potter franchise. However, this is the trailer that had me getting my geek worked up hot and heavy over.

Last year the TV trailer that had me hooked from the word go was Ash Vs Evil Dead. This year it’s something a whole lot different in tone and style, but finding its home on Starz as well- American Gods.

This was one that I was really nervous about. The novel by Neil Gaiman is an amazing piece of work, and, even with the series coming, you really owe it to yourself to read the book if you never have. The trailer tells you almost nothing of the story’s overall plot, but it shows us the visual style for the series. I echo a lot of people when I say that there are scenes in that trailer that feel like they were lifted directly from the pages of the novel. Plus, damn, if Ian McShane isn’t way better in the snippets we saw for Mr. Wednesday than even I had hoped.

And lastly, one for the kids of both the actual variety and the overgrown ones like me- Lego Batman.

I barely covered the tip of the iceberg here, and I left out a lot of quality toy talk. Check out Friday’s Needless Things podcast with Phantom Troublemaker, Ryan, Belligerent Monkey Jay, and Beau Brown for a lot more and likely more detailed talk about what SDCC 2016 teased to fandom over the weekend.

Jerry Chandler is in full-on Dragon Con panic mode. He’s got way too much to do, and a short time until he gets there. East bound and down and all that. Well, more south bound from where I’m at, but what kind of suck lyrics would that have been?

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