News-wise, Comic-Con nowadays is all about the movies. It's where you first learn there are other monsters in Godzilla, or that Batman will be in the Man of Steel sequel, or maybe you see a Warcraft proof-of-concept. If you're lucky, something like 300 or Mirrormask will blow your mind by being way different and better than you imagined. If you're not, you'll end up in the umpteenth panel about how Emily the Strange is really really really maybe going to be optioned for a movie next year, and this time we're serious. Or you sit through the obligatory tag-along movie; nobody needs to see a panel on the next Resident Evil or Underworld film, but like the undead, they keep coming anyway. Point being, there's more to the movie panels than the big stuff that gets reported.
You might want to avoid the whole circus completely, but if you don't, we're gonna break down this year's big movie panels by type, and then by what specifics you might expect. Other than Chris Hardwick and Ralph Garman hosting every single one, of course.
1. The Potential Newsmakers You'll Never Get in to.
Big studio. Hall H. Major geek properties upcoming. And thanks to the idiotic new wristband system, you're not getting in unless you're in line by at least midnight...for something that doesn't even start until 11 hours later. If these panels are the only reason you came to Comic-Con, it's worth it. If not, you might want to start preparing yourself for disappointment now. And also realize that not all of them will break the news that you're hoping for.
Warner Bros (Saturday July 26, 2014, 10:00am - 12:00pm, Hall H) have a lot of expectations riding on them - will they surprise with unannounced Batman v. Superman stuff? Perhaps not, but you'll definitely get your first real look at the new Mad Max, with director George Miller returning to his roots in a post-apocalyptic actioner that is apparently low on CGI and is essentially a movie-length car chase. WB will also try to raise your expectations for the Wachowskis' Jupiter Ascending and the final Hobbit film, after which Peter Jackson is expected to announce a ten-movie adaptation of The Silmarillion (not really...we hope). If DC heroes aren't in attendance at this one, though, they might be at the Legendary Panel immediately following (Saturday July 26, 2014, 12:25pm - 1:10pm, Hall H). While that company's new home is at Universal, they've been part of all the recent DC movies, and they're not officially saying what their lineup is...though the eternally shelved Seventh Son may make another appearance, and I wouldn't be too surprised if Duncan Jones showed something from World of Warcraft, or Guillermo del Toro showed up to spitball about Pacific Rim 2.
Marvel Studios always announces something at their panel (Saturday July 26, 2014, 5:30pm - 6:30pm, Hall H), whether it's that Thor 3 will be called "Eek...A Vagina in Asgard!" or that Benedict Cumberbatch will be playing Dr. Strange (pure speculation...but they are expected to announce the actor, and Benedict will be there). Count on some Age of Ultron footage, and be surprised by whatever else is ready. I've been told the Guardians of the Galaxy cast will not be there.
Paramount (Thursday July 24, 2014, 3:00pm - 4:00pm, Hall H) could also surprise, especially if they coax down Christopher Nolan, never a Comic-Con fan, to show off some Interstellar. More likely, however, is that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the SpongeBob sequel will dominate, in attempt to win over fans skeptical that there's cinematic juice in either property at the moment. Longshot: any details about the Terminator reboot, which comes out over a year from now but will hit theaters prior to next Comic-Con.
When it comes to Fox (Friday July 25, 2014, 4:20pm - 6:20pm, Hall H), the biggest x-factor is their cinematic reboot of the video game Hitman: Agent 47, with Zachary Quinto now in the lead as the shaven-headed shooter. Most everything else they have - The Maze Runner, Kingsman: The Secret Service and The Book of Life - has already been showcased elsewhere. Though there's always the comedy Let's Be Cops, starring Damon Wayans Jr, Rob Riggle and Keegan Michael-Key, in the kind of movie presentation. the studios force Con audiences to sit through to get to the good stuff, just because there's a captive audience. If you're expecting an X-Force announcement, well, it's possible...but we expected one last year too.
2. The Known Unknowns.
Much as I hate to invoke a certain former Defense Secretary, Comic-Con schedules to have to be planned out as strategically as battle, and the second tier of movie panel involves the upcoming movies that may or may not be good, but are definitely giving us a first look.
For starters, Sony (Thursday July 24, 2014, 12:30pm - 1:30pm, Indigo Ballroom, Hilton San Diego Bayfront) gets interestingly family friendly, as they present Jack Black as R.L. Stine in the upcoming Goosebumps movie (Ermagerd!), while also trying to convince you that the Chris Columbus-directed, Adam Sandler-starring Pixels is more than just the typical Sandler silliness, and has a nerd-friendly plot about retro-gamers versus aliens that you'll want to see. Hey, it has Peter Dinklage in a mullet.
Disney's Big Hero 6 (Thursday July 24, 2014, 2:00pm - 3:00pm, Room 7AB) sold itself well last week with a great trailer, and the push continues at Comic-Con, though not with big names: director Don Hall, producer Roy Conli, production designer Paul Felix and character designer Shiyoon Kim are the ones who'll anchor a panel on the art and design of the movie. Less secure are Dreamworks Animation (Thursday July 24, 2014, 11:30am - 1:00pm, Hall H), who'll be presenting footage from the human-alien buddy comedy Home starring...um...Jim Parsons and Rihanna (yes, really, and of course neither is expected to be there) and The Penguins of Madagascar, a sidekicks-become-spotlighted feature which will beat The Minion Movie to theaters, and stars Benedict Cumberbatch, who'll be there, fueling the rumors that he's also heading to the Marvel panel as well.
RADiUS and The Weinstein Company promise some surprises at their first panel (Friday July 25, 2014, 3:00pm - 4:00pm, Hall H), which has already announced Alexandre Aja's Horns, in which Daniel Radcliffe starts to grow some particularly Satanic headgear, and Joe Lynch's Everly, in which Salma Hayek tries to defend herself from assassins breaking into her apartment. Hayek and Radcliffe are expected...when it comes to possible surprises, the most likely seem to be Paddington and Tim Burton's Big Eyes. Not surprising in the least - aside from the fact that some said a sequel would never happen - will be Sin City 2, at a separate panel (Saturday July 26, 2014, 2:50pm - 3:50pm, Hall H), where you can marvel at how close to the drawings they got this time around, ask Robert Rodriguez about projects that are probably never going to happen (remember when he announced Red Sonja with Rose McGowan?) and see Frank Miller pretend to be sober, goddamn it.
You might want to only fake sobriety when it comes to the WWE Studios panel (Thursday July 24, 2014, 7:00pm - 8:00pm, Room 7AB) - you can love wrestling, and be excited to see Kane and Hornswoggle in the flesh, without necessarily being sold on the idea of a sequel to See No Evil, or a prequel to Leprechaun. The former will be directed by the Soska sisters, whose American Mary was grossly overrated, but has a significant cult fan base. Persuade them to wrestle the Bellas, though, and I'm there.
3. The Movies We Already Know All We Need to Know About, Don't Need to See More on, but Will Grudgingly Sit Through a Panel for Because of What Happens Later on.
Also known as what you'd feel like if Marvel spent most of their panel talking about Guardians of the Galaxy.
The Giver (Thursday July 24, 2014, 1:30pm - 2:30pm, Hall H) is apparently a novel whose fans have been waiting 20 years to see as a film, but to me it looks like The Hunger Games meets Pleasantville, and anything else I need to know about it can wait until I actually view the movie, though Jeff Bridges on a panel is always a good time.
I really don't need to see any more featurettes on The Boxtrolls (Saturday July 26, 2014, 1:30pm - 2:30pm, Hall H) before I see the actual movie, though I'm sure I'll take yet another second to ooh and aah at the magic of miniature stop-motion. And with an official Hobbit panel that we mentioned already, I can't think what would be gained at an unofficial one (Thursday July 24, 2014, 5:00pm - 6:00pm, Indigo Ballroom, Hilton San Diego Bayfront) put on by TheOneRing.net, featuring "Rumors, conjecture, truths, and spy reports." If you're hardcore enough to glue extra hairs to your feet, though, you might be the target audience.
Likewise, I'm not sure I NEED to see the Sharknado 2 panel (Thursday July 24, 2014, 7:15pm - 8:15pm, Room 6BCF), but I think I WANT to, just in case Tara Reid gets asked about whale sharks again. Also present: Ian Ziering, Kari Wuhrer and Judah Friedlander.
4. The Direct-to-Video Animated Feature Premieres.
Why wait to view an extra-long cartoon in the comfort of your own home, when you can sit on a hard-backed and fully upright chair in a giant hall with muffled sound after a long day of walking around, but before you get to go home and relax? Yes, I ask myself that question a lot at conventions, and the answer is rarely satisfactory.
Batman: Assault on Arkham (Friday July 25, 2014, 7:00pm - 9:00pm, Ballroom 20) is the highest-profile of these, with Kevin Conroy returning to voice Batman in the first feature set in the Arkham video-game continuity. A panel with the cast and crew will follow the screening, which should include a few Blu-ray giveaways.
Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy (Sunday July 27, 2014 10:00am - 11:30am, Room 6BCF) will presumably feature some sort of monster suspected to be sewn together from dead parts, only to be unveiled as some awful human being who hates meddling kids, but also voice actors Mindy Cohn and Grey Griffin.
And then there's Tom and Jerry: The Lost Dragon (Sunday July 27, 2014, 2:15pm - 3:15pm, Room 6A), one of those movies in which they team up that I thoroughly disapprove of on principle alone. "Song, sorcery, and slapstick" are promised/threatened in this tale of cat and mouse returning a baby dragon home. Now, if it were The Last Dragon instead of The Lost Dragon, I could get behind that...