Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Comic Con Report, volume 3

I'm afraid Starz may not be the all permissive cable channel Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi continually proclaimed it to be throughout the Ash vs. Evil Dead panel on Friday. By far the most entertaining panel I saw at the Con, I was delighted to see Starz had uploaded the entire panel, including trailer footage, to YouTube. Or so I thought. Watching through it this morning, I discovered that they edited out the best part, the end of the impromptu Ash costume contest when Bruce Campbell pretended to get his finger stuck in the pin-up girl Ash's bra. Fortunately, someone did upload the entire unedited panel to YouTube and you can see the offending moment at 36:10.

The money thing was from a running bit Campbell had where he was giving away his Australian currency to Sam Raimi and to Lucy Lawless. I guess someone at Starz is afraid of controversy. I wonder if they've had lawyers approach the poor woman while anyone with eyes can see this was clearly the most thrilling moment of the Con for her. I saw her offstage smiling and excited with her friends. Though even as the situation unfolded I thought Campbell was a brave man to not look even slightly afraid this was going to come back to haunt him. There was also a moment where he asked for a show of hands, how many women in the room would be willing to have sex with him that night. The guy seemed more like a rock star than a movie star.

Most of the clips I took were of Sam Raimi talking about his perspective on the Evil Dead series, how the first one was more about an unseen menace and the focus gradually shifted to Ash, that the Starz series will be a mix of the two. Raimi directed the first episode and the trailer looks great.

Though it was slightly worrying that Raimi referred to the nervous, quiet young man at left of the panel, Craig DiGregorio, as the "showrunner". Raimi and Campbell did nearly all of the talking which made DiGregorio seem like rather a weak influence. I hope the first episode won't be followed by a series by someone with a weak and uncertain vision.

I saw from early in the morning I had no chance of getting into the fabled Star Wars panel. Fortunately the whole thing is on YouTube and you've probably already seen it if you're interested. I knew it was going to be hard to get into even before I read that the Game of Thrones panel and the Walking Dead panel were both scheduled for Hall H on the same day as the Star Wars panel. Basically, there were already two panels that each would have drawn a massive crowd in their own rights even if they were alone. I almost wondered if Disney plotted it that way to inflate the numbers though I honestly don't think Star Wars needed the slightest bit of help. I heard later how J.J. Abrams moved everyone in the audience out to the bay to see a concert of Star Wars music performed by the San Diego symphony orchestra. Even people who didn't get into Hall H could've seen and heard it from a reasonable distance but I, having just gotten out of the Evil Dead panel, was the schmuck on the trolley wondering why it was so easy to get a seat.

So after I saw the impassible mob of people in the morning, I set my sights on the Ash vs. Evil Dead panel which was in Room 6A, on the top floor. Room 6A isn't a hall or a ballroom, it's only the second largest "room", about the size of two average sized classrooms. It's a nice, close space. I rightly guessed that it would be hard to get into so I decided to sit through five panels preceding it, all for television shows I've never watched, though in the case of three of them the panels made me genuinely interested in checking the shows out.

First up was Nickelodeon's cgi Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series with the voices of the turtles, Seth Green, Sean Astin, Greg Cipes, and Rob Paulsen, appearing on the panel along with Kevin Michael Richardson, who plays the villain Shredder, two other cast members, and the two head writers. There was a very nice energy to the panel, the four turtles in particular having a natural rapport which made sense when Green mentioned the four of them had been friends for years. Paulsen was one of the voice actors from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series and seemed like he was enjoying something like the limelight after decades of working in more or less obscurity, just about getting himself into trouble with a Gilbert Gottfried impression where he said he was "happy to be on the show because otherwise there weren't many Jews" among the mutants. Gottfried had apparently guest starred in the previous season and I was truly impressed by the upcoming roster of guest stars for the next season which will include Lance Henriksen, Ron Perlman, and Peter Stormare--Paulsen joked, "He's a Nihilist, he doesn't care about turtles."

The cast and crew seemed most excited to announce that David Tennant will appear in the upcoming season and Tennant's character, an alien robot, appeared in a video message during the panel speaking with a posh English accent.

The writers talked about casting Henriksen as a nod to Aliens and apparently several episodes have featured homages to 80s horror films, including Carpenter's The Thing. So suddenly I find myself strongly compelled to watch a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series for the first time since I was twelve.

Greg Cipes, who was dressed as a hot dog, voices Michelangelo and he returned for the next panel because he also voices Beast Boy on Teen Titans Go.

Here he serenades a girl cosplaying as Raven, another character on the show, apparently Beast Boy's love interest. This is the second time I had to sit through a Teen Titans Go panel, I found Cipes insufferable last time but here I kind of liked his rapport with the children. We were treated to a full episode of the show--about fifteen minutes--and I found it had improved since the last episode I saw, which was also foisted on me at Comic Con. They've continued with the absurdist humour, Teen Titans Go being essentially an omake theatre, or absurd humour version of the now long gone Teen Titans series. The absurd humour before seemed forced and self-consciously imitating Japanese television. In the new episode I saw, which concerned the Titans suddenly becoming obsessed with weight lifting, it was actually genuinely funny though still curiously irrelevant to the DC characters. You could easily swap out Robin for just about any other character and it would make as much sense.

This was the last of the kids show panels, next was The Man in the High Castle, an upcoming television series based on Philip K. Dick's novel of the same name. It's produced by Ridley Scott, who wasn't present, but the entire cast was there, most of whom I didn't recognise, along with Philip K. Dick's daughter and the showrunner Frank Spotnitz.

It's weird when I look at pictures later and notice people on the panel appear to have been looking directly at me.

The series, like the novel (which I haven't read) concerns an alternate universe where the Axis powers won World War II, the U.S. being divided between German control on the east coast and Japanese control on the west. It might be a good show but the panel didn't sell it very well, I have to say. The most fascinating thing was observing how thoroughly consumed with herself series star Alexa Davalos seemed to be, speaking slowly and softly, constantly caressing her hair and becoming angry when two separate people tried to move the microphone closer to her so we could actually hear her.

This fairly sedate panel was sharply contrasted by the very lively one for the History Channel's Vikings and judging from the fur, the shields, and functioning horn in the audience, this was the panel many of the people in the room had been waiting for.

The cast seemed like they were quite comfortable with each other, joking about who had had sex with whom. Showrunner Micheal Hirst was more sedate and a good deal older than the cast. Australian cast member Travis Fimmel joked that it was great having an English gentleman "thinking about me alone in his study." "Not exclusively," returned Hirst.

It sounded as though Hirst had done a great deal of thinking and researching in his study and I found myself genuinely interested. The cast seemed to be going at in in a slightly more Dionysian fashion, though. When Clive Standen was told by an attendant that he was not to throw t-shirts he immediately responded by pitching t-shirt after t-shirt into the crowd. The panel went long because Standen and Katheryn Winnick stayed behind to chat and take pictures with people.

Winnick seemed like a particularly cool lady, apparently having been a martial artist from an early age she was quite willing and able to play rough as a shieldmaiden. She came pretty close to voicing a complaint about an episode where a guy saves her that had originally been written with her saving the guy. But she backed off, saying something about how great it is to be working on a television show where things were constantly changing.

Raffle tickets were given out for an opportunity ride around in a Viking ship car I saw driving around the next day.

The next panel, the last one before Ash vs. Evil Dead, was supposed to be for the CW series Sleepy Hollow but the panel was cancelled, possibly because hardly anyone likes that show and the axe, or sword, is about to fall on it. One can hope--I've seen the first episode, it is execrable.

So J. Michael Straczynski was pressed into service and he conducted an impromptu Sense8 panel solo. Sense8 is a NetFlix series co-created by the Wachowskis. I'd heard mixed things about the show and as I hadn't liked the previous two films the Wachowskis had made I hadn't planned on checking the show out but I liked what Straczynski said about the twelve episode series essentially being a twelve hour movie and that many things were unclear from the beginning because the audience is only let in on information that the POV characters are aware of.

Looks like I'm the only one to post video of this so far so here you go:

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