Children of Lost (and Tron!) Show Expectation Shift @ Comic-ConPublished on: July 28, 2008
SAN DIEGO — The geeks have their work cut out for them next year. This was, after all, the first time that Comic-Con’s annual fanboy enthusiasm was overtaken by a bunch of screaming tweens. On at least two separate panels here this weekend, presenters pulled the old summer-camp routine, asking one section of Hall H (the 6,500-seat presentation room where fans line up for hours to get an early taste of anticipated future releases) to out-cheer the other half. But what would Heroes writer Jeph Loeb or Terminator Salvation director McG think if they knew that they’d been outdone by the girls at Thursday afternoon’s Twilight panel, who rattled Hall H with the kind of screams rarely heard outside Miley Cyrus concerts?
Like a slow-motion Michael Bay sequence, it seems Comic-Con is transforming each year, getting bigger and louder in the process. Major changes for 2008 went beyond the ear-piercing tweens to the fact that two television shows graduated from standing-room-only conference rooms to Hall H, which has traditionally been reserved for film presentations. Heroes had no trouble filling the space (some fans even camped out the night before, with others stretching more than a mile around the San Diego Convention Center for access to the panel), with many sticking around for a peek at the next season of Lost, the sci-fi mega show that has become as much a weekly event as simply a series.
But before digging into the fall TV season, it’s worth recapping the weekend’s big surprise, which had all of Comic-Con buzzing: a sneak preview of Tron 2 buried at the end of Disney’s tepid Race to Witch Mountain presentation. After Dwayne (the artist formerly known as “The Rock”) Johnson and friends unveiled their take on the classic Disney franchise, neither remake nor sequel, the lights went down for a special surprise.
The clip opens in a dark, computer-generated universe. Lightning cracks overhead, and the camera swoops around to find a man in a blue Tron suit. He leaps into the air as a lightcycle materializes around him—the vehicle’s design totally consistent with the original film, yet presented in a single, dynamic CG effects shot that would have blown the minds of the team behind the original. A race ensues, with the two lightcycles speeding off in streaks of blue and yellow. Instead of moving at 90-degree angles as they did in the original movie, however, they ride as if controlling real motorcycles, bashing and weaving between neon-lit obstacles.
Suddenly, the yellow cycle outwits the blue rider, cutting him off outside a fissure in a move that sends the rider tumbling through the air. Cut to a closeup of Jeff Bridges, bearded and aged, peering down on the competition from a nearby tower. The film is just now starting production, with the casting process still underway, but the impact that the “TR2N” logo made in that room turned a dud of a panel into one of the most talked-about moments of the weekend here.
After a jam-packed panel for the equally mystery-laden NBC show Heroes brought spoilers galore, the Lost session was more about keeping secrets than sharing them. (To be fair, shooting has not yet started on the show’s next-to-last season, which premieres in February.) Still, as they did in an exclusive interview with PopularMechanics.com before last season’s final surprises, show runners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse did indicate a few things. “Once again, when Season Five starts, you’re not going to know when and where you are,” Lindelof teased. “And then the way we’re going to tell stories is going to be a little different, too.”
Riffing on the show’s flash-forward technique (Season Four featured glimpses of what happened after the “Oceanic Six” made it off the island), a short video featured future versions of Lindelof and Cuse wearing T-shirts that read, respectively, “N.Y. Yanks: World Champions 2010” and “Obama—Four More Years.”
When a fan asked a question about whether Rousseau, a supporting character who was shipwrecked on the island 16 years before the Oceanic flight crash landed there, would ever warrant a flashback, Cuse confided, “We will say this: You will see definitively [learn] this year Rousseau’s story, but to use the word ‘flashback’ might be disingenuous. There will still be flashbacks and flash-forwards on the show, but we’re going to do something different this year.”
Worried about other Lost characters who have disappeared or died? “Dead is a relative term,” Cuse hinted. When someone specifically inquired about Faraday’s fate, Lindelof quipped, “Are you referring to the Zodiac boat with Faraday and the five people who have never spoken a line on the show? I would say that things are looking up for Faraday.” But don’t expect the others to be so lucky.
Meanwhile, there were plenty of details on Saturday about Lost creator J.J. Abrams’ second plane-crash mystery series, Fringe—including hints that it will feature more stand-alone episodes than the intricate Lost, despite big corporations, a murky line between faith and science and all the other accoutrements that keep the geeks lining up their TiVo queues.
Speaking of lines and the changing dynamics of Comic-Con, the Fringe session became most notorious for what it did not spoil: a teaser for the new Star Trek film, which Abrams is directing. Hall H was only semi-packed for the panel, and most of the fans went home unhappy—expecting the most as TV franchises creep into film territory, as old favorites make splashy comebacks.