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Twixt, Knights of Badassdom, and Snow White and the Huntsman

Comic-Con Day #3: Saturday Panels sees Francis Ford Coppola, Kevin Smith

  • Twilight fans camping out
  • Kevin Smith
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Like a long weekend spent in Las Vegas, San Diego Comic-Con can be an exciting, overwhelming, and ultimately draining experience. The confluence of emotions makes the event both fascinating and frustrating on so many levels. While I noticed a sense of exhaustion on some faces walking the friendly confines of the Convention Center on Saturday, there was still plenty of buzz about the program’s to come, including an appearance by Kevin Smith, who garnered hoots and hollers from fans waiting in line for Hall H.

As a film lover, the first large panel on Saturday peaked my interest more than any other. Iconic director Francis Ford Coppola not only brought brand new 3-D footage of his new horror film Twixt; he delivered some breaking news on the film’s innovative release schedule. One month before Twixt premieres in theaters Coppola and composer Dan Deacon plan to take the film on the road, “performing” it in unique ways for different audiences each night.

“There is a yearning for life to be put back into cinema,” Coppola said, as he fiddled with an IPad holding the entire film on its hard drive. Accompanied by Deacon and actor Val Kilmer on stage, Coppola attempted a test run of his shuffle presentation method, mixing footage from the same featurette in multiple different ways to manipulate tone and intent. “I could push a button and show you 20 different versions,” Coppola continued, obviously excited about the prospects of his strategy. While clumsy at times (technical difficulties were prominent), the presentation foreshadowed what could be an invigorating shift in the paradigm of filmmaking and exhibition.

Coppola also talked heavily about the virtues of 3-D, citing such classics as House of Wax as prime examples of a positive evolutionary shift in the medium.But the imposing director also warned against believing the new 3-D technology was the ultimate and final way to view films. “Movies are so young, how dare anyone think that the only thing film has up its sleeves is 3-D.” Toward the end of the presentation, Coppola and Kilmer started to chant “Nosferatu” over the menacing sequences being projected, providing the audience with one last memorable moment before the lights came up. Twixt should be released sometime early in 2012.

After skipping the Immortals presentation for some much needed fresh air, I returned to the Hall H catacombs to see the panel on Knights of Badassdom, a film I knew next to nothing about. Directed by Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2: Dead End), who was on hand to discuss the film accompanied by his large cast, the comedy/horror hybrid is set within the world of Live Action Role Play (LARP), where grown men and women engage in medieval battles with foam weaponry. Lynch described his desire to stay true to the rules and regulations of LARP while also crafting a hilarious misadventure shared by a trio of roommates played by Steve Zawn, True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten, and Game of Thrones’s Peter Dinklage.

Obviously excited to present his labor of love to its desired audience, Lynch described the experience as “a summer of hanging out and throwing lightning bolts at each other.” Lynch stressed the importance of practical creature effects for the brutal succubus that descends on the Larpers after an ill-fated spell beckons her from hell. “It was important to have real creatures on set,” Lynch said, further validating the need to avoid the artificiality of green screen when possible. Each cast member, including Kwanten, Dicklage, Community’s Danny Pudi, and Firefly’s Summer Glau shared fond memories from the shoot, displaying an infectious passion and excitement about their work together. Lynch solidified this feeling stating, “Everybody wanted to be on set and see what madness happened next.” Look for Knights of Badassdom in the near future, probably late 2011.

The Universal Pictures panel followed, presenting the first look at the cast and concept art of Snow White and the Huntsman. As large crowds piled into the auditorium, the moderator introduced first-time film director Rupert Sanders, presenting a reel of his previous work on video game commercials to perk the audience’s excitement for this freshman filmmaker. Sanders has an obvious eye for camera movement and actor blocking, as witnessed in his superbly crafted Halo 3 and Call of Duty spots. Hollywood producer Joe Roth (Alice in Wonderland) accompanied Sanders, telling the crowd the filmmakers “want to make the definitive version of the Grimm’s Fairy Tale, on a scale of Lord of the Rings.” 

Cheers erupted when the attractive cast strutted onto stage, including Thor’s Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, and Twilight’s Kristen Stewart. The film hasn’t even begun shooting yet, so Sanders and Roth depended heavily on concept art with the actors in costume to create buzz about the film’s prospects. A low budget (by Hollywood standards) test short film directed by Sanders also showed his tonal intent with the material, which looks like an impressionist cross between the visual styles of Zach Snyder and Tarsem Singh. Sanders confirmed his desire for a moody approach by saying, “It’s not going to be a little girl sitting by a well with tweety birds.”

Luckily, the panel saved the best for last. One of the final images shown was of the “eight dwarfs” lined up in battle garb, an impressive group played by the likes of Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, Ian McShane, and Nick Frost just to name a few. “This is my version of a British SAS squad,” Sanders hilariously mused, rousing the crowd one last time before departing the stage. We should all get ready for some revisionist fairytale mythology to be released in summer 2012.

Instead of sticking around for the annual “Evening with Kevin Smith” presentation, I hightailed it home to eat before returning downtown for the San Diego Film Critic’s Society 10th Anniversary screening of Ghost World, with star Thora Birch on hand for a Q and A. Watching this influential and complex comic-book adaptation for the first time in a decade I remembered why the film had made such an impact on my 19-year old self. Ghost World remains a perfect exploration of the complicated overlap between comic books and cinema, a mutually beneficial relationship perpetually on the verge of breaking new ground in both mediums. For me, this is what Comic-Con is all about.