by Frankie TAGGART
Warner Bros. closed the final full day of the Comic-Con International fanfest on Saturday as the belle of the ball, bringing its roster of superheroes to take a bow in San Diego.
The studio took over the 6,500-seat main arena at the world’s largest celebration of fan culture for two star-studded hours, serving up tantalizing teasers for its DC Extended Universe series of comic-book movies.
With Disney-owned Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm both bowing out this year, it was Warner’s chance to shine and the studio obliged with a line-up of the world’s biggest stars, including Johnny Depp, Chris Pratt, Jude Law, Elizabeth Banks and Eddie Redmayne.
One of the most eagerly-awaited presentations of the week, it was a chance for WB to show it is back on track after poor reviews for its DC Extended Universe movies “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Suicide Squad” and “Justice League.”
The studio set out its stall with extensive looks at James Wan’s upcoming “Aquaman” and “Wonder Woman: 1984,” a follow-up to 2017’s “Wonder Woman,” the DCEU’s only unqualified success.
“The way we look at this is not a sequel, it’s a new chapter, it’s a new story,” said Israeli actress Gal Gadot, who was shown as Wonder Woman saving a young girl from gunmen in rough early footage.
Director Patty Jenkins described the era of the sequel — out in November next year — as “mankind at its best and worst.”
– ‘Half-naked’ –
“We’re aware of things now that we weren’t in the 1980s,” she told the crowd. “There were some incredible and beautiful things in the 80s but at the same time… it’s us at our most extreme.”
The presentation also unveiled the first trailer for “Shazam!” — an altogether more light-hearted entry in the DC universe starring Zachary Levi that is due out in April next year.
But the undoubted star of the show was “Aquaman,” which raised the roof as a shirtless Jason Momoa appeared onscreen in a new trailer as half-human, half-Atlantean hero Arthur Curry.
“You’re in armor or you’re half-naked in tattoos and it was a bad choice looking back to wear denim,” Momoa recalled of the production, which required him to be wet most days.
“They look like leather pants, but they’re not.”
There was a second preview for the Christmas release that unveiled Aquaman’s nemesis, Black Manta, as well as more underwater action, a rooftop chase and a final view of the Momoa in his superhero threads.
Warner’s first exclusive of the session gave Harry Potter fans a look at the legendary battle between Professor Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” which hits theaters on November 16.
Troubled star Johnny Depp was a surprise appearance onstage, missing “Aquaman” actress Amber Heard, his wife before last year’s acrimonious divorce, by less than an hour.
– Loud gasps –
Depp plays Gellert Grindelwald, a casting that irked many since the actor has been dogged by controversy in his private life, including allegations of domestic abuse.
The mustachioed, platinum-haired A-lister didn’t take questions but came onstage in costume after the Q&A to rapturous applause, alongside Redmayne and newcomer Jude Law, making his Harry Potter debut as a young Albus Dumbledore.
Up next was “Lego Movie 2” with sit-com support actor turned in-demand megastar Chris Pratt, who plays Star-Lord in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies.
The actor laughed that he first accepted the role of Lego construction worker and planet-saver Emmet Brickowski in the 2014 original when he was still Andy on comedy series “Parks & Recreation.”
By the time he’d finished recording his voice part he was a Hollywood star and a Marvel superhero.
“It was one of those moments when I thought, ‘Oh, I’m living in a computer simulation — this is the Matrix,” he joked.
If it’s not superheroes and wizards, it’s skyscraper-sized lizards, and a trailer from “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” drew loud gasps from the Comic-Conners.
Led by 14-year-old “Stranger Things” star Millie Bobby Brown, the footage showed a city collapsing as Godzilla and fellow giants King Ghidora, a three-headed dragon, the insect Mothra and the winged beast Rodan do battle.
Michael Dougherty’s movie is part of WB’s “MonsterVerse,” which launched with Gareth Edwards’s 2014 “Godzilla” and last year’s “Kong: Skull Island.”
“I’m still a kid playing with Godzilla toys. They’re just bigger more expensive Godzilla toys,” he said. (Agence France-Presse/AFP)