Comic-Con 2009 Highlights

Taylor Lautner, left, Kristen Stewart, center, and Robert Pattinson, right, pose at a news conference held to promote their new film "Twilight: New Moon" at the Comic-Con International 2009 convention held in San Diego Thursday, July 23, 2009. The annual comic book and popular arts convention attracts over 100,000 people and runs through Sunday July 26. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
AP Photo/Denis Poroy

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Comic-Con Highlights

Now in its 40th year, the festival that began as a comic-book convention has morphed into a celebration of pop culture, drawing a host of A-list celebrities from all genres.

"Iron Man 2"

The buzz for the first "Iron Man" film began at Comic-Con, director Jon Favreau said, so he thanked fans for their support by showing an exclusive clip from next summer's sequel.

"Nobody cared before you guys did," Favreau told a capacity crowd inside the San Diego Convention Center's largest assembly hall Saturday. Then he rolled the clip, which introduced the film's anticipated new characters.

It showed an eye-patch-wearing Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Nick Fury, and a redheaded Scarlett Johansson throwing down as martial-arts master Black Widow. It introduced Sam Rockwell as weapons guru Justin Hammer; a fearsome-looking, heavily tattooed Mickey Rourke as the villain Ivan Vanko, who becomes Whiplash; and Don Cheadle as Col. James Rhodes, who becomes War Machine.

Downey, Cheadle, Johansson and Rockwell joined Favreau at Comic-Con to present the footage.

"You guys saw it before we even saw it," Cheadle told the crowd.

"That trailer blew my mind, actually," Rockwell said.

Johansson said she trained in mixed martial arts so she could perform her own stunts. And Rourke visited a Russian prison to add authenticity to his character, Favreau said.

"I thought I was eccentric," Downey quipped. "He's something else."

"Iron Man 2" is set to hit theaters in May 2010.

"Sherlock Holmes"

Robert Downey Jr. needs no introduction - so he walked onto the San Diego Convention Center's biggest stage without one.

The 44-year-old actor stepped out unannounced and presented a clip from his forthcoming film "Sherlock Holmes" to an enthusiastic crowd of more than 6,000 Comic-Con fans Friday.

Downey called Holmes "an intellectual superhero" in the tale set in England in the 1800s. The film is based on the original stories by Arthur Conan Doyle and the era's obsession with the occult.

"We reinvigorated it by changing it less" than other adaptations of the story, Downey said.

Also starring Jude Law as Dr. John Watson and Rachel McAdams as Holmes' love interest, Irene Adler.

"Tron: Legacy"

Jeff Bridges promises the new "Tron" is just as groundbreaking as the 27-year-old original.

The 59-year-old actor and star of the original film came to Comic Con Thursday to help present early footage from "Tron: Legacy," due in 2010.

Bridges notes that when "Tron" was released in 1982, the Internet and personal computers didn't exist. The futuristic tale took viewers to a digitized virtual world, a concept that was decades ahead of its time.

Despite modern moviegoers' everyday interaction with technology, Bridges says he "can guarantee you're going to get the same kind of pop with this one. Everything's going to be super-ized."

Filmmakers showed some concept sketches and a brief, never-before-seen clip.

"New Moon"

"Twilight" fangirls came to Comic-Con by the thousands, some spending two nights outside the San Diego Convention Center, to see the movie's stars in person at a panel Thursday for the film's sequel. They wore homemade T-shirts, made friends with fellow fans and talked about their allegiance to Team Edward or Team Jacob.

Director Chris Weitz was joined by Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart and Ashley Greene. High-pitched screams drowned out the introductions.

Those same shrill screams (of joy) also threatened to overwhelm the dialogue during the clips filmmakers showed.

So many women and girls relate to the "Twilight" series because they identify with Bella, Stewart said.

"Because it's a first-person narrative and you're always so very inside of her head, I don't know, it's just closer to home," she said. "You feel like it's not happening to someone else, like it's happening to you."

Fourteen-year-old Tori Kaiser waited more than 24 hours for her seat near the front during the "Twilight" exhibition.

"It was so worth it," she said. "I had this big Taylor Lauter poster and he pointed at me twice and waved at me, so my life is totally complete right now. I'm, like, really happy."

Lautner said the overwhelming response from fans bolstered the cast's performance in "New Moon." It opens November 20.

"The Green Hornet"

Seth Rogen arrived at Comic-Con with a sweet ride.

The "Funny People" actor stopped by the pop-culture convention's show floor Wednesday to unveil the Black Beauty, a modified 1965 Chrysler Crown Imperial he'll drive in "The Green Hornet."

Rogen, with writing partner Evan Goldberg, wrote the script to the upcoming big-screen relaunch of the comic book and TV show about a masked crime-fighter.

The vehicle is an homage to the Black Beauty driven by Van Williams in the original series. Rogen said the car's weapons which include rockets, mini-guns and a "big flame-thrower" were upgraded for the film to make them more powerful. The original Black Beauty from the 1960s TV show was equipped with explosive charges, gas nozzles and a scanner.

"Alice in Wonderland"

Tim Burton came to Comic-Con on Thursday to show the trailer for his re-imagining of "Alice in Wonderland." The director said the 3-D peek through the looking glass is his most challenging film yet.

"It's the first time we've done a lot of green screen," he said. "It starts to freak you out after a while."

Burton also brought Johnny Depp, who plays the Mad Hatter in the film, to the panel. Flashbulbs popped and the crowd erupted in cheers. Depp waved, then he and Burton left the stage.

Oren Aviv, president of production for Walt Disney Studios, said Burton sketched the various costumes, characters and settings for years before taking on the project.

"To see this world come to life," Aviv said, "it's amazing."

Disney's traveling exhibit of props, costumes, sketches and set models from the movie is also on display at the 40th annual Comic Con, including a dress worn by Alice, the Mad Hatter's hat and the Red Queen's heart-shaped throne.


James Cameron originally wrote "Avatar" as a way to challenge the special-effects firm Digital Domain, where he served as chief executive. But it took technology 14 years to catch up with his vision of a faraway planet populated by other-worldly plants and animals where humans embody avatars just to brave the landscape.

On Thursday, he presented world-premiere footage of his progress to more than 6,000 fans at Comic-Con. The "Titanic" director showed more than 20 minutes of footage from the film.

"Avatar" introduces viewers to the planet of Pandora, where the lithe, blue, indigenous Navi people inhabit a lush and wondrous place dense with green forests, fluorescent pink flowers, bizarre hammerhead dinosaurs and flying dragons. Sam Worthington plays Jake Sully, a soldier on duty there, and Zoe Saldana plays Neytiri, the Navi princess who befriends him. Sigourney Weaver also stars in the film, playing botanist Grace Augustine.

A longtime sci-fi fan who likens himself to the average Comic Con conventioneer, Cameron said "Avatar" is more than just a fantastic tale 14 years in the making.

"The technology could be made [for it] to happen, but also [it] was just wanting to do something, I don't want to say important," he told fans. "But something that has this spoonful of sugar of all the action and the adventure and all that, which thrills me anyway as a fan, but also wanting to do something that has a conscience, that maybe in the enjoying of it makes you think a little bit about the way you interact with nature and your fellow man."

He announced that fans worldwide could see 15 minutes of the film for free on "Avatar Day," Aug. 21. The film is set to open Dec. 18.