The lines were longer than ever at this year's Comic-Con International, the annual celebration of all things geeky. Just ask the thousands of Battlestar Galactica fans who waited en masse outside of Ballroom 20 to see their favorite Cylons and colonials in the flesh. Meanwhile, the queue for New Line's special Snakes on a Plane presentation snaked (ha ha ha) out the door and down the side of the massive convention center. There are only two possible explanations for the sheer number of people who invaded San Diego for that weekend: 1) Nerds have learned how to clone themselves or 2) Geek culture is now mainstream culture. Either way, Comic-Con '06 was one for the ages. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights of the four-day extravaganza.
Best Teaser Trailer (Movies)
Even though most of the effects were unfinished and there still seem to be too many characters for one movie (c'mon, Mr. Raimi, unless you're planning a three hour epic, do you really have room for Sandman, Gwen Stacy and another Green Goblin?), the teaser trailer for Spider-Man 3 brought down the house. The best part? The final shot, which gave us our first look at the villain every Spidey fan has been waiting for: Venom. Other memorable teasers included Hot Fuzz, a spoof of '80s cop movies from the Shaun of the Dead guys; Guillermo Del Toro's dark fantasy film Pan's Labyrinth; and the third Pirates of the Caribbean adventure, which featured Hong Kong action legend Chow Yun Fat as a Singaporean pirate, as well as an early glimpse of the climactic sea battle. And in the biggest nonsurprise since Quentin Costa revealed himself as the Carver, the supposedly dead Captain Jack is most definitely coming back.
Best Teaser Trailer (TV)
The teaser for Battlestar Galactica's third season has been up on SciFi.com for a while, but seeing it projected on the big screen just reminded everyone that October can't get here fast enough. Fat Apollo! Lucy Lawless! Number Six taking a bullet in the brain! The panel (moderated by TV Guide's Lisa Chambers) only whetted the crowd's appetite, with Galactica master Ron Moore promising that one Cylon will be permanently "boxed" while an insurgency on New Caprica battles their robotic overlords. "It becomes an incredibly dark journey in the third season," warned Edward James Olmos. "So I gotta tell ya: Please don't watch! Just save yourself!" Yeah, right.
Worst Teaser Trailer
20th Century Fox kicked off its almost two-hour presentation with an early look at the fantasy epic Eragon, based on a best-selling series of books by neophyte author Christopher Paolini. Clearly the studio is hoping to earn some Lord of the Rings-style coin with this story of a farm boy and his dragon. Based on the teaser though, Eragon looks more like the misbegotten film version of Dungeons & Dragons that came out six years ago. Maybe that's due to the presence of Jeremy Irons, who is in both films and looks profoundly out of place when clad in fantasy garb. Young Eragon himself is played by an Orlando Bloom look-alike named Edward Speleers, who was brought on stage to answer such probing questions as "Did you have a physical trainer" and "Doesn't the Eragon video game kick ass?" Hey, right now the game looks better than the movie.
Teasers are great and all, but what really drives Comic-Con fans wild are exclusive movie clips. That's why Matt Groening and The Simpsons guys brought along two short clips from next year's movie, one of which showed the Simpson homestead under attack by the citizens of Springfield, while the other found Homer on a dog sled somewhere in the Arctic. Not to be outdone, New Line brought along 10-minute clips from the upcoming Tenacious D movie The Pick of Destiny and from Snakes on a Plane. Fans of The D (and they are legion) roared their approval after seeing the footage, which showed a young J.B. (that's Jack Black for all you non-D heads) arguing with his father (played by Meat Loaf) and being sent to his room, where a poster of guitar legend Ronnie James Dio comes to life and urges the boy to travel to Hollywood to form the best rock band ever. As for those Snakes, the movie seems appropriately intense, but the editing was overly chaotic and the CGI reptiles looked pretty weak. In the end, Universal wins this award for the 15 minutes they showed of Children of Men, a sci-fi drama being released in September, directed by Alfonso Cuarón and starring Clive Owen. Dark, challenging and expertly filmed, this may just be a cult classic in the making.
Best Badass Mother-----r
Snakes on a Plane may still disappoint, but Sam Jackson was in top form in his first Comic-Con appearance. Proudly sporting a SoAP T-shirt as well as a gold-snake necklace, the eternal badass cracked wise with the audience, talked about his favorite fan tributes to the film (FYI: he loves the song "Someone Tell Sam Jackson He's My Bro," which can be found on YouTube) and even hit on some dude's mom. "Is the snake's behavior anywhere near realistic?" asked one brave soul. "Of course it's realistic!" Jackson shouted. "We checked with snake experts all over the f------ planet and they said, 'That's exactly what those motherf-----s would do.'" And when another person asked how the snakes got on the plane in the first place he yelled, "Spend your money motherf------ and go see the movie!" That's why we love you, Sam — it's your way with (swear) words.
You know how your parents always told you that there's no such thing as a stupid question? That rule doesn't apply at Comic-Con, where dumb queries are a fact of life. The worst offenders are those people who mistakenly believe they're being funny when they ask stupid things. Check out the guy at the Snakes on a Plane panel who claimed to be a pilot and then went on to add that he had only dealt with one snake on a plane — one that "went down to his knee." Yeah, really creative thinking there, guy. You're hilarious — expect that call from Saturday Night Live any day now. There were too many other stupid questions to list them in their entirety here, but the runner-up was probably the idiot who asked Kirsten Dunst if kissing Tobey Maguire was "dreamy and creamy." Eww, dude. Just… eww.
Least Successful Attempt to Start a Flame War
Television animation was rocked to its very foundations earlier this year when South Park had the nerve to take a swing at Family Guy and The Simpsons in the two-part "Cartoon Wars" episode. So naturally one of the first questions at the Family Guy panel was, "What do you think of South Park?" Clearly, the fans were hoping to hear some trash talk, but the producers nipped those hopes in the bud right away, claiming that they loved the episode and have even begun referring to the random jokes the show is famous for as "manatee gags." The next day at The Simpsons panel, someone asked Matt Groening how he felt about rival Family Guy. "Family Guy is great," he replied enthusiastically, adding that "he's following in Seth McFarlane's footsteps" by bringing Futurama back to TV after it was canceled. So move along, folks — no controversy to see here.
Most Awkward Moment
Midway through the Lost panel, a woman stepped up to the mike and asked exec producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, "Have you no shame?" The pair looked a little confused, so she pressed on "Tell us the truth about the Hanso Foundation." Uh oh… apparently there was a ringer in our midst. At first, Damon playfully responded to her outlandish accusations. "The Hanso Foundation is a philanthropic organization we've co-opted for the puposes of Lost," he explained. "We have no connection to the foundation." But the woman persisted, shouting "That's a lie! You're protecting a very dangerous organization." As she continued her tirade, you could see Damon's face fall. "Look, it's not real. It's a television show," he said, sounding vaguely frustrated. Finally, she got to the point of her speech. "My name is Rachel Blake and if you want the truth, you will go to Hansoexposed.com. You have blood on your hands and you disgust me!" With that, she was escorted out of the room by security. It's been revealed since then that the woman was actress named Jamie Silberhartz, who appeared as Rachel Blake in the online game, The Lost Experience. Chalk this up as a potentially funny gag that went on much too long.
Most of the actors and filmmakers who showed up at the Con claimed to be fans of comics, sci-fi and the like, but only Guillermo Del Toro seemed to mean it. The Blade II director was there promoting a new Hellboy animated film, as well as the aforementioned Pan's Labyrinth, due out at the end of the year. "I'm first a fan and then a filmmaker," Del Toro said proudly. "To me, Comic-Con is as important as any film festival." Big words, especially since he just got back from the Cannes Film Festival, where Pan was selected to be the first fantasy film ever to play in competition. But you could tell that he wasn't just blowing smoke up our posteriors. "You'll find some of the most well-read people you'll ever meet at these conventions," he told a roomful of ecstatic geeks. Congrats, Guillermo — you just sold a whole bunch of tickets to Pan's Labyrinth.
Most Conspicuous Absence
For the second year in a row, there was no Smallville panel at the Con, which is odd seeing as how the show is entering its sixth season on a new network. Of course, TCA commitments might have kept the cast and crew occupied, but you'd think CW would have at least sent someone from the show (Pete Ross aka Sam Jones III is probably free) to drum up excitement. Not that Superman went underrepresented in San Diego. Bryan Singer turned up to listen to feedback on Superman Returns, and Richard Donner joined him on stage to hype his long-awaited director's cut of Superman II. Even Brandon Routh showed up to sign autographs at the DC booth. But his small-screen counterpart remained noticeably MIA. Is there a war of the Supermen that we're not being told about?
The George Lucas Award for Beating a Dead Horse
Bad traffic kept Kevin Smith from making his Saturday afternoon engagement at the Con, but he turned up at the end of the day for one of his patented Q&A's/stand-up comedy routines. The problem was he only came armed with old material. "I'm one c--- in the mouth shy of being gay myself," he joked, a line he used only a week earlier at the Clerks II premiere. He couldn't let the opportunity pass to take another potshot at Joel Siegel either, retelling the story of the critic's Clerks II walkout that TVGuide.com's own FlickChick has already recounted in much more accurate detail. Time to get some new jokes, Kev.
Most Extreme Makeover
Billy Campbell, currently of The 4400 but eternally known as The Rocketeer, showed up for the press conference sporting long hair and a big bushy beard. But you couldn't really blame the guy for looking like a refugee from a production of Jesus Christ Superstar. After all, he had spent the past year and a half on a boat. "I just got back from sailing around the world for 13 months on a three-mast square-rig sailing vessel," he said. "We went through all the oceans in the world, stopping in over 25 places, and donated cargo to isolated villages along the way. It was dangerous sometimes, like when we ran into a gale off the coast of Africa. But the ship is built for that kind of condition. It was something I always wanted to do, and I was terribly excited to finally do it. We made it home safely on the east coast of Canada three weeks ago, and I went back to work." Now that's a vacation.