Get your spandex out


Staff member

If you want to launch your new arthouse movie, the best place to do so is at the Cannes film festival, or failing that, perhaps Venice or Toronto. If you're a studio head planning a campaign for genre fare then you had better be lining up with the spandex-clad fanboys at Comic-Con in San Diego this month.

At least, that was the established thinking until pretty recently. Over the past few weeks the blogosphere has been awash with speculation that major studios are staying away from this year's convention, with most of the blame apparently laid at the feet of poor old Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs the World.

Universal spent a fortune promoting the movie at Comic-Con last year, even draping a banner over one side of the San Diego Hilton. The movie was well-received by fans, yet still bombed fairly hideously at the box office. Tron: Legacy and Sucker Punch also failed to live up to expectations despite big Comic-Con pushes. All of a sudden, executives started to wonder if the cheerful, Cheetos-stained chap in the Obi-Wan Kenobe costume really held the key to box office glory after all.

On a press trip to northern California recently, to visit the edit bay for forthcoming Disney film John Carter, I was told that the movie would be giving Comic-Con a miss, which seemed strange. A film about 14 foot (4.27 metre) aliens and battling clans of human-like Martians (based on a pulpy series of planetary romance novels by Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs) seemed exactly the kind of material the fanboy brigade would snaffle up faster than a box of Oreo cookies.

‘Saluting the military'

According to reports from Deadline and in the New York Times, Warner Bros and DreamWorks won't be attending either, while Marvel Studios is still weighing up its options over Captain America, which lands at cinemas halfway through the convention (there will be an event with star Chris Evans, ahem, "saluting the military", and possibly some midnight screenings). Empire online suggests that the first part of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit will debut at the convention, though there appear to be no plans for a panel.

'80s horror

The list of films definitely making an appearance remains impressive, however. Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, The Amazing Spider-Man (with British actor Andrew Garfield as the new webslinger) and Jon Fav-reau's Cowboys vs Aliens (aka James Bond vs Indiana Jones) are all on the roster. Then there's Fright Night, a remake of the '80s horror starring Colin Farrell and Anton Yelchin; and for the Twilighters, Taylor Lautner will be on hand to promote Twilight: Breaking Dawn part 12c, or whatever it's called. I'm rather looking forward to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and its panel should at the very least provide the opportunity to ask Andy Serkis some Gollum questions.

Way out on the left field and away from the major movies, one of the more potentially intriguing events is Shatnerpalooza, which — you've guessed it — will be a celebration of the not-so-celebrated star of Star Trek, William Shatner (or as anyone under the age of 20 might put it: that old guy who used to be Captain Kirk before Chris Pine).

Shatnerpalooza's centrepiece will be the world premiere of The Captains, a documentary in which Shatner interviews all the actors who have played Star Trek captains over the years, including Pine and Patrick Stewart. One can only hope — furtively — for a mockumentary approach in which the 80-year-old Shatner sends himself up by spending each interview interrupting his subject and talking loudly about the episode with the Tribbles or the time he got to snog Uhura. Either way, it's got to be among the convention highlights.

I'll be attending Comic-Con for the first time myself this year, so any hints or advice for a newbie are most welcome. Can I turn up in plain clothes, or do I need to dust off my Hit Girl outfit?