A First-Timer’s Account of San Diego Comic Con 2013 – Day 1

San Diego Convention Centre

For years, I have wanted to go to the infamous San Diego Comic Con. The ultimate nexus of all things pop culture. This year, thanks to my cousin agreeing to go with me, I made my way. This is the account of my 4-day experience at the center of all things nerd.

DAY 1
My first day at SDCC started in Toronto. After checking out the amazing Justin Timberlake/Jay-Z concert the night before, I was up and out early Thursday morning to fly to San Diego. Once arriving in front of the convention centre, it was like a huge shock to the senses. Thousands of nerds, in their finest geekwear and cosplay all descended to this one place. It. Was. Crazy. Trying my best not to look like such a newbie, I made my way in to meet up with my cousin. A short walk in the exhibit hall and we then moved onto Hall H, the biggest panel room of the con (holding upwards of 6500 people). Be it that there weren’t really any HUGE panels happening that day in Hall H, our wait to get in was no more than 30 minutes.

The first panel we got to see was Entertainment Weekly’s The Visionaries, their yearly panel which includes three directors; this year’s lineup was Marc Webb (The Amazing Spider-Man, 500 Days of Summer), Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, the upcoming Gravity) and Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz). For a fan like me, who truly cares about all aspects of Hollywood, it was really great to hear these three directors talk about the filmmaking process, along with their stories and struggles.

L-R: EW's Anthony Breznican moderates, Alfonso Cuaron, Marc Webb, Edgar Wright

L-R: EW’s Anthony Breznican moderates, Alfonso Cuaron, Marc Webb, Edgar Wright

That was followed by the slightly high-profile Summit/Lionsgate panel introducing Ender’s Game and Divergent. Ender’s Game, based on the highly-acclaimed novel, stars newcomer Asa Butterfield working alongside Sir Ben Kingsley and Harrison Ford. Yeah, Harrison Ford showing up was a big deal! I, however, was mainly interested in Divergent – a book that, for the record, I haven’t read yet, but EW has done a hell of a job promoting it that I became intrigued by it. The story itself, about a future Chicago where people are divided into four factions based on their good traits, was already interesting. But then the cast that was assembled for this movie was incredible (oh hey, Maggie Q!) What I found particularly surprising at this panel was that it featured literally never-before-seen footage of the movie (they had only wrapped on the movie 2 days beforehand). I’ll tell you this: the footage they showed looked AWESOME. I’m going to have to fast track on reading the series before the movie comes out.

 

L-R: Moderator Chris Hardwick, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer, Ansel Elgort, author of the novel Veronica Roth, Theo James, Shailene Woodley, director Neil Burger, Zoe Kravitz, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Ben Lamb, Christian Madsen, Amy Newbold, Miles Teller

L-R: Moderator Chris Hardwick, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer, Ansel Elgort, author of the novel Veronica Roth, Theo James, Shailene Woodley, director Neil Burger, Zoe Kravitz, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Ben Lamb, Christian Madsen, Amy Newbold, Miles Teller

L-R: Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, director Gavin Hood, producer Robert Orci, and Harrison Ford!

L-R: Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, director Gavin Hood, producer Robert Orci, and Harrison Ford!

We called it a day at the convention centre after Divergent, but the day wasn’t over for me. Before the Con, I had tried and surprisingly succeeded at scoring an invite to the annual Ausiello party. Me being, well, me, I wasn’t entirely prepared for parties and socializing (I am socially awkward and an introvert after all), but who I am to pass on the chance to potentially meet celebrities? To which I did. It was really cool to see and meet Yvette Nicole Brown (Shirley from Community) and Retta (Donna from Parks and Recreation); they honestly could not have been any nicer. On top of that, I met and talked to some cool people too – fellow fans just hanging out and talking about what we’re looking forward to at the Con.

At the Ausiello party and got to meet Yvette Nicole Brown!

At the Ausiello party and got to meet Yvette Nicole Brown!

Also got to meet the hilariously awesome Retta!

Also got to meet the hilariously awesome Retta!

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‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ Delivers on All Counts

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When it was announced that Sony was going to reboot the Spider-Man franchise, only 5 years after the last installment, it was met with groans and concerns by all. Was it too soon to be rebooting a successful franchise? Was Hollywood THAT desperate that a reboot was even necessary in the first place? Even I was a little bit wary over the decision. But what most people don’t realize is that Sam Raimi and company just could not agree with studio executives over the direction of a Spider-Man 4 and so they dropped out. Sony, not wanting to lose out on a lucrative franchise, opted for a reboot with a new team at the helm – a decision that proved itself when The Amazing Spider-Man released in time for the Fourth of July holiday.

The Amazing Spider-Man is directed by Marc Webb, whose previous film was his directorial debut, the indie rom-com (500) Days of Summer. To go from an indie to a summer blockbuster, Webb was a rather interesting choice, with people doubting his ability to take the reigns on such an action-laden movie. Instead, Webb  proved doubters wrong and created a movie that seems to please the comic geeks, the action lovers, and those who simply appreciate a good movie. Sure there are aspects to the movie that may not go over well with some, but one cannot deny Webb’s skills in crafting a well-rounded movie. It helps that Webb has gone on record saying he has been an avid fan of the comic books for a long time, which certainly makes his hiring seem less haste than just hiring any big name director. Working from a script by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves, Webb takes The Amazing Spider-Man back to Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s origins, with a young Peter abandoned by his parents, sent to live with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and eventually, gets bitten by a radioactive spider (the story we all know). The approach taken with this movie draws similarities to Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman – a whole-hearted effort to really ground the movie and give it a sense of realism, as opposed to making the film “comic-bookish.” In this reboot, our hero is played with spectacular charm and wit by Andrew Garfield, best known for his role in The Social Network. We follow Peter as a wallflower photographer navigating the world of high school and it is here that we meet Peter’s love interest – no, not Mary Jane Watson like in Raimi’s trilogy, but rather Gwen Stacy played by the incredibly talented Emma Stone. In attempts to find out more about his father’s work before he disappeared, Peter is led to Dr. Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans), who becomes Spidey’s first foe, The Lizard.

There were 2 aspects to the movie that worked incredibly well to distinguish it from its predecessor. For one, Webb and the writers worked to really flesh out Peter’s character. When watching a blockbuster movie, it is not often that you see actual character development or character insight to make you understand their motives and intentions. We are very much use to seeing characters as they are and then just a bunch of action sequences to tell the story. But here, the writers make a concerted effort to show Peter as an actual human being (not just a fictional character) and we get to understand the reasoning behind his actions and how he goes about dealing with the situation he’s in. Though the writers did a wonderful job with regards to Peter’s character, I wish they had put as much thought in writing the Dr.Conners/Lizard character. It is one of the few weaknesses in the movie, whereby we get only a half-hazard explanation as to why Conners as the Lizard would wreak havoc (for lack of a better term) on NYC.

The second aspect of the movie that worked so well was without a doubt, the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Maybe it has been a while since watching Raimi’s trilogy, but it feels as though the chemistry between Garfield and Stone was much more believable than Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. (It is certainly no wonder that Garfield and Stone have begun dating in real life.) As Peter and Gwen, the actors convincingly portray young love/first love, with all of its sweet, cute, awkward qualities at play. Not to mention, Garfield and Stone are total cuteness overload (in a good way).  The last time I watched a movie and was completely convinced of the relationship on-screen was Like Crazy, starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, and I had similar feelings watching ‘Amazing‘ as I did watching this movie – all the emotions just felt real.

In the end, The Amazing Spider-Man gave us a very well-rounded movie. Though I saw the movie in 2D, I can certainly see how the 3D version would enhance the action scenes and the scope/depth of the backdrop that is NYC. It is a movie that is much more than just your stereotypical blockbuster; it is well worth your time and money.