Action, Lights, Camera: Interview with stunt coordinator/performer Ingrid Kleinig

ACTION, LIGHTS, CAMERA: INTERVIEW WITH STUNT PERFORMER/COORDINATOR INGRID KLEINIG

By Jedd Jong

Getting set on fire, crashing motorcycles into vans, dangling from the side of a skyscraper, driving a big rig across the Namibian desert, duelling with Vin Diesel and shooting arrows into oncoming orcs – it’s all in a day’s work for stunt performer/coordinator Ingrid Kleinig.

Kleinig grew up in Australia in a family of professional stunt drivers. Her career kicked off in a dramatic way, when she performed suspended in mid-air 42 metres above the arena at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Kleinig was a member of the physical theatre troupe Legs on the Wall, performing acrobatics on the side of tall buildings.

In Australia, Kleinig worked on TV shows including Rescue Ops and Cops LAC, before going on to work in Hollywood. She has been a stunt double for Evangeline Lilly in the Hobbit films and Ant-Man and the Wasp, Margot Robbie’s stunt double in The Legend of Tarzan and Suicide Squad and Brie Larson’s stunt double in Kong: Skull Island and Captain Marvel.

Kleinig was one of only two female stunt drivers on Mad Max: Fury Road, she was part of the team that won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture. Kleinig’s other credits include The Last Witch Hunter, Ghost in the Shell, Justice League and Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Ingrid Kleinig Alain Moussi Margot Robbie

Ingrid Kleinig, Alain Moussi and Margot Robbie on the set of Suicide Squad

Kleinig was in Singapore as one of the invited guests at the Disney Storytelling Plus bootcamp, joining people working behind the scenes in the entertainment industry to share her experiences with young aspiring filmmakers. I had brought action figures of Harley Quinn, the Wasp and Captain Marvel along to the interview – noticing the Harley Quinn figure, Kleinig chuckled and said “this brings back memories”.

In this interview, she told me about the role that stunt coordinators and performers have in storytelling, why she doesn’t like to use the term ‘accident’, and a competition between her and Margot Robbie that made producers very nervous.

Photo credit: Alina Gozin’a

JEDD: Looking through your filmography, it’s so impressive. In the Hollywood Reporter video about women in stunts, you said that you would rather be a stunt performer than an actress because you get to do all the fun stuff. 

INGRID KLEINIG: Absolutely.

What ranks as among the most fun of all the stuff you’ve done, give us the greatest hits!

KLEINIG: The greatest hits – I rode a motorcycle and crashed head-on into a van that was on fire, then flew through the flames and landed on the road on the other side.

No biggie.

KLEINIG: No biggie. I’ve crashed a Lamborghini into a lake and gone head-first through the windshield. I’ve made out with Jared Leto, in a sense [laughs] – on camera, that was as Harley Quinn. I’ve done so many great things, it’s hard to narrow it down.

In your bio, it says you have a background in physical theatre. I looked it up, and that involved literally hanging off the side of skyscrapers. 

KLEINIG: Indeed! You did your research. I spent about ten years working with a company called Legs on the Wall, and we did the festival circuits around the world doing acrobatics on the side of skyscrapers.

Ingrid Kleinig on the set of Mad Max: Fury Road

Recently, we’ve seen several second unit directors and stunt coordinators become directors, the most prominent examples probably being Chad Stahelski and David Leitch of 87eleven. What are the unique insights that someone with a background in stunts can bring to the table as filmmakers and storytellers? 

KLEINIG: A lot of directors of action films don’t necessarily have experience shooting action, so coming from that background obviously Chad and Dave now with the John Wick films and everything that they’re doing, Hobbs & Shaw, they’re very much action-based films. It centres around the physicality and stunts and so what they can do is enhance that side of it. There are so many other people coming to the table with the acting side of things and have got their bases covered.

Ingrid Kleinig, stunt coordinator/fight choreographer Richard Norton and Margot Robbie on the set of Suicide Squad

From our point of view, what we do when we’re doing pre-production for a film is stunt pre-viz, which is basically creating a film. We’ll get a script and everything is scripted except for this scene which might be a five-minute fight scene. All it says is – I quote – “they fight”. Or “the biggest finale fight ever of a film” and again I’m quoting, it says “an all-or-nothing battle ensues.” That’s it. We have to fill in the blanks and come on board three months before the actors come on board, before we start shooting, and we play around with ideas and come up with concepts. Go to the director, give us their notes, it’s a back-and-forth. We’re brainstorming and creating and filming from the ground up. That leads directly into second unit direction and of course direction.

Leading on from that, what is something a director says or does that gives you confidence in them and lets you know that they understand how to work with a stunt team? 

KLEINIG: Good question! I think the best thing that a director can do is show faith in their stunt coordinator and their stunt team. You can see it very early on. I particular enjoy working with a director that knows what they want. They’ll come into a room, you show them a scene that you’ve worked [on] thus far, and it’s immediate. “Yes, no. Yes, no. Yes, no.” The “no’s” are generally because of their own story points that they have in their head that haven’t been communicated yet or hasn’t been [worked] out with the rest of the cast and crew. Not stylistically, but more in terms of character arcs and plots and that kind of thing. “She can’t do this here because the scene after this is such and such”. Someone who has all that information in their head and who can see the overall picture, it’s a real privilege to see that at work.

They have all the pieces on the board, moving them around, and it hasn’t all been fitted together yet. 

KLEINIG: Yeah, absolutely. They’ve got the overall picture. We’ve got the script and the pre-viz and what have you, but we are concentrating so explicitly on the action scenes that often we can lose sight of what’s come before and after…

The connective tissue.

KLEINIG: The connective tissue, absolutely. That’s where…working with a director that can be like Rain Man and keep all the balls in the air is a privilege.

Evangeline Lilly and Ingrid Kleinig on the set of Ant-Man and the Wasp

While every safety precaution is taken, stunts are inherently dangerous and sometimes tragic accidents happen. Olivia Jackson was very badly injured doing Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Joe Watts is in a coma after an accident on the set of Fast & Furious 9, and Joi “SJ” Harris died on the set of Deadpool 2. How do such incidents affect the stunt community, and what is it like trying to maintain standards of safety and prevent accidents from happening?

KLEINIG: First of all, I don’t believe in the word ‘accident’. There is no such thing as an accident. There is always human error at play in those instances, so there has been a mistake somewhere along the way. In every one of those instances, obviously hindsight is a wonderful thing, but you can see the point or the moment where something could’ve been done to prevent what happened. Unfortunately, that’s hindsight speaking, and beforehand there were checks and balances that weren’t put in place or an extra step wasn’t put in place.

A lot of the time, I think it’s because it’s not necessarily a difficult stunt. It’s often not the most difficult stunts when people are getting injured. Because it’s not seen as a difficult stunt, perhaps not all the safety measures are put in place.

Perhaps it’s a complacency? That’s too strong a word. 

KLEINIG: It is…I think because as a community we do amazing, crazy things all the time, so you can get a little casual with it, especially when you’ve been doing it for a very long time. The global stunt community is very small. We all know each other or there’s one degree of separation so any of these things hit us all very hard. All we can do is learn from them and maintain diligence, and just be aware that every day, not to become casual about it. Maintain the checks, have multiple eyes, multiple heads and multiple hands on every single set-up.

Left: Ingrid Kleinig. Right: Margot Robbie

Andy Horwitz, a producer on Suicide Squad, said of Margot Robbie “Her double is always on set, most of the time [she] just stands there and watches. She keeps thinking she’s going to have to go in.” I understand that a lot of times producers say things like that to hype the movie up, and I don’t want to take anything away from Margot Robbie, but I wanted to know, how did you feel hearing that? 

KLEINIG: [Laughs] You know what, Margot Robbie absolutely earned everything that everybody always says about her. She’s one of the most physically talented performers I’ve ever worked with. She’s unbelievable. She trained as a classical dancer very strongly growing up, which means that especially when it comes to fight choreography, we can do anything we want with her. She’s Australian and we tend to be very outdoorsy, very capable with those kinds of things and very competitive. She and I had this great sort of constructive competitiveness that brings out the best in each other.

There’s actually an anecdote where we were doing breath-hold training for Suicide Squad. I would get to four minutes and she would get to four-and-a-half, she went to five and I got to five-ten, and she got to five-and-a-half. We kept trying to up each other and trying to up each other, and the producers were like “Stop. You have gone above and beyond, no one needs to overdo this, we don’t need anything more. We don’t need five minutes. We only need one minute. Stop.” It’s great and it brings out the best in each other for the film and the character when we’re working so hard.

Ingrid Kleinig on the set of Suicide Squad

Everyone has days when they don’t particularly feel like going to work. Broadway actress Amber Gray calls it the ‘I Don’t Wannas’. What happens when you get a case of the I Don’t Wannas, how do you get yourself through the day? 

KLEINIG: Caffeine! [Laughs] There are days when I wake up and I just go “ugh, I don’t want to go to school today!” but I think it comes down to the fact that I love my job. The hardest part of my job is the pre-production, because sometimes it feels like you’re going round and round in circles. You do a fight scene, you perfect it, you film it, it’s edited and put together, everything’s there, it feels like a complete work of art, you hand it over and it comes back in pieces. You have to do that over and over again. I think for Ant-Man and the Wasp, we did 30 pre-vizes for the restaurant fight scene. It just kept coming back. We sent it out there into the world thinking it’s a work of art. Each time it comes back in pieces, we rebuild it and it just gets better and better. While it’s exhausting, you have to look back and go “we’re doing this because it’s going to get better.”

Watch Ingrid Kleinig’s stunt reel here:

Coming later: 5 belated sequels/prequels

For inSing

Coming later: 5 belated sequels/prequels

As Blade Runner 2049 is released, we look back at 5 other examples of the ‘sequel gap’

By Jedd Jong

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

What’s the logical thing for a studio to do when a film is successful? Make a sequel! Audiences have become to expect sequels at a steady pace: when the Harry Potter film series was ongoing, there was only a one-two year gap between instalments, and the four Hunger Games films were released one each consecutive year. In its heyday, we got a James Bond film about once every two years – now that has increased to three-four years, but the series is still chugging along.

Sometimes, audiences must wait a little longer to see how stories they’ve become attached to continue. There were eight years between The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 12 years between Judgement Day and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, six years between Rise of the Machines and Terminator Salvation, and six more years between Terminator Salvation and Terminator: Genisys. Sometimes, they must wait a lot longer. The 2006 direct-to-video animated film Bambi II holds the record for the longest gap between film sequels – the original Bambi came out in 1942, a whopping 64 years earlier.

Blade Runner (1982)

There are a variety of reasons for sequels or prequels being released many years after the previous instalment in a series: a project can enter development hell with a tussle for creative control ensuing, it can take a while for a film to gain popularity or cult status that would lead to demand for a sequel, or the rights to the original film might have lapsed, with new rights holders making a sequel without the involvement of the original creators.

This week sees the release of Blade Runner 2049, 35 years after the release of the original Blade Runner. The 1982 film, directed by Ridley Scott and based on Philip K. Dick’s novella Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, did not initially catch on with audiences and critics. However, it gradually became viewed as an influential sci-fi masterpiece, and was re-evaluated as Scott released his director’s cuts of the film. A sequel has been in development since 1999, and has finally come to fruition. Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario, Prisoners) takes the director’s baton from Scott, with Harrison Ford reprising his role as Rick Deckard. Ford is joined by Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista and Jared Leto.

Here are five other sequels/prequels that took their time in getting to the big screen. We’re not counting straight reboots like the current Planet of the Apes series, but we will bend the rules a little – you’ll see if you read on!

#1: TRON: LEGACY (2010)
28 YEARS AFTER TRON (1982)

Tron Legacy (2010)

1982’s Tron, directed by Steven Lisberger, is a milestone in the development of visual effects technology. The film stars Jeff Bridges as a computer programmer who enters the digital realm of a video game and fights for survival. Tron was a modest success, and gradually became regarded as a cult film. Following the rise of Pixar, there were rumours that the animation studio would pursue a sequel to or remake of Tron. The desire for a Tron sequel was further fuelled by the release of the video game Tron 2.0 in 2003.

Tron (1982)

Development on a follow-up to Tron began in earnest in 2005, with visual effects artist Joseph Kosinksi being hired to direct the film two years later. Kosinski disagreed with Disney’s mandate that the film be modelled after The Matrix, and set about creating a proof-of-concept short film to demonstrate his vision for the sequel. This convinced Disney, and in 2008, a teaser trailer for what was then called ‘Tr2n’ was screened at Comic-Con. Jeff Bridges reprised his role as Kevin Flynn, who had been living in the Grid for many years. Kevin’s son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) goes off in search of his father, teaming up with an ‘iso’ named Quorra (Olivia Wilde) to defeat Clu (also Bridges), the tyrannical digital duplicate of Kevin. Bruce Boxleitner returned alongside Bridges from the first film. Tron: Legacy showcased cutting-edge visual effects technology, including extensive digital de-aging used to make Bridges appear younger. The film received mixed reviews, but the visual effects and the score by Daft Punk were widely praised. Tron: Legacy spawned the animated series Tron: Uprising, and development on a sequel was underway, but those plans have been shelved in favour of a possible reboot, to which Jared Leto is tentatively attached.

#2: INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008)
19 YEARS AFTER INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Before Harrison Ford made a belated return to Star Wars and Blade Runner, he reprised the role of adventurer archaeologist Indiana Jones in 2008’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas had originally made a deal with Paramount Pictures for five Indiana Jones movies in the late 1970s, but after 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Lucas decided he couldn’t find a satisfactory plot device to base a follow-up on. Lucas turned his attention to The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, a prequel TV series in which Indy as a young man interacted with various historical figures and got entangled in world events. Ford made a cameo in the series, narrating an episode as a framing device. This led Lucas to pursue a film sequel set in the 50s, with Lucas setting his heart on making it an homage to sci-fi B-movies.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Spielberg and Ford were initially resistant to the idea of the movie featuring aliens, but Lucas convinced Ford by saying the ‘aliens’ in the movie would instead be ‘interdimensional beings’. A succession of writers, including M. Night Shyamalan and Frank Darabont, were hired. Darabont’s draft, entitled ‘Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods’, featured ex-Nazis hiding out in Argentina. After making Schindler’s List, Spielberg decided he could no longer use Nazis as cartoonish villains, with Soviet operatives chosen as the villains of the piece. Numerous attempts were made to find out more about the secretive production, with an extra violating a non-disclosure agreement, and a separate incident in which photos and documents were stolen from Spielberg’s office. Returning alongside Ford was Karen Allen, who played the feisty Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Shia LaBeouf played Mutt, their son. Cate Blanchett turned in an enjoyably over-the-top performance as the villainous Irinia Spalko. Ford is set to don that dusty Fedora again in a fifth film, due in 2020.

#3: STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999)
16 YEARS AFTER STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

The other franchise Lucas is known for is no stranger to significant gaps between major instalments. The production and development of the Star Wars franchise is as storied and eventful as the mythos of the films and related media themselves. Lucas had originally intended to remake the classic sci-fi serial Flash Gordon, and when the rights were unavailable, set about devising his own space opera, cobbled from influences as varied as Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, WWII-era dogfight movies like The Dam Busters and 663 Squadron, and Frank Herbert’s Dune. Weathering a torturous production process, 1977’s Star Wars became a smash critical and commercial hit, leading to the sequels The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 and Return of the Jedi in 1983.

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Lucas said he was “burned out” after working on the original trilogy, but having fleshed out the backstory, did not close off the possibility of eventually returning to make prequels. What became known as the Expanded Universe, consisting of books, comics, video games and other media beyond the films, was developing. A driving force of this was the trilogy of novels by Timothy Zahn, which took place after Return of the Jedi and introduced the villainous Grand Admiral Thrawn. These books caused a resurgence in the popularity of Star Wars in the early 90s. Lucas became fascinated with the advancements in computer-generated visual effects technology, modifying the original trilogy to create the ‘special editions’, which were released theatrically in 1997. He decided that the prequels would tell the story of Anakin Skywalker, who would eventually become the Sith Lord Darth Vader. Attack of the Clones would follow in 2002, and Revenge of the Sith in 2005. The prequel trilogy has generally been derided for its over-reliance on visual effects and its poor writing and stilted performances, but there are those who enjoy it for its depiction of the Jedi and Clone Troopers.

There is a 10-year gap between Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens, which picks up the story 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The Force Awakens was released 32 years after that film, its immediate predecessor in the series’ chronology. 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was released 39 years after A New Hope.

#4: THE THING (2011)
29 YEARS AFTER THE THING (1982)

The Thing (2011)

John Carpenter’s The Thing is often cited as one of the most influential sci-fi horror films ever made. The film was adapted from John W. Campbell’s novella Who Goes There?, which also served as the basis for the 1951 film The Thing From Another World. Carpenter’s version did not perform extremely well at the box office, but went on to become a cult classic. Its gory, inventive and spectacular creature effects were devised by Rob Bottin, with Stan Winston making the dog creature when Bottin’s crew was swamped with the other creatures made for the film. The Thing begins with a Norwegian helicopter pursuing an Alaskan Malamute across the Antarctic ice. The helicopter’s pilot is shot dead by the station commander before he can fully issue his warning – the dog is not what it appears. What ensues is a frightening sequence of mistrust and monster mayhem as a parasitic alien life form wreaks havoc in the American base.

The Thing (1982)

The prequel film, also titled ‘The Thing’, sought to answer the question of what exactly happened at the Norwegian base. Producers Marc Abraham and Eric Newman convinced Universal Studios that the film should be made as a prequel rather than a remake. Writer Eric Heisserer, who would go on to become an Oscar nominee for Arrival, described constructing the story as “doing it by autopsy”. He carefully went over the original film, working backwards to ensure everything would line up. Director Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr. insisted on casting Norwegian actors to play the Norwegian characters – you might recognise Kristofer Hivju because he went on to play Tormund in Game of Thrones. van Heijningen also took inspiration from Alien, casting Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the protagonist. The film’s animatronic effects were created by Amalgamated Dynamics Inc (ADI), but most of them ended up being replaced by computer-generated effects in post-production, much to the chagrin of ADI founders Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. The film received mixed to negative reviews, but is worth checking out to see how the filmmakers stuck to rigid parameters in creating a film that takes place just days before the events of the original film.

#5: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)
30 YEARS AFTER MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME (1985)

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Here’s where we’re bending the rules: technically, this is a soft reboot and a sequel, and retains the same director as the earlier three Mad Max films: George Miller. Mel Gibson starred in the three films (released in 1979, 1981 and 1985). Miller refrains from referring to the film as either a reboot or a sequel, calling it a ‘revisit’. The post-apocalyptic action thriller had been mired in development hell for ages. Miller decided to make a fourth instalment in 1998, which was set to begin production in 2001. This was halted due to the economic collapse in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, which led to the film’s budget inflating. Miller decided to recast the role, given the controversies that Gibson had stirred up with his increasingly questionable behaviour. The road to making a fourth film was only beginning, with more potholes along the way for Miller and his crew to contend with: production in the Australian desert was about to begin, but unexpected rainfall put in a spanner in those works. Miller was forced to relocated to Namibia, but production was put on hold due to travel and shipping restrictions imposed as the Iraq War was beginning in 2003.

Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

Miller briefly turned his attention to a possible 3D animated film, but eventually abandoned these plans to resume production on a live-action film, which would now be shot in 3D. In 2010, the casting of Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky was announced. Charlize Theron joined him as Imperator Furiosa. Miller originally intended to shoot the fourth and fifth films in the series back-to-back. Shooting was set to begin in Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia, but once again, Mother Nature had different plans. Unexpected heavy rains caused wildflowers to sprout, ruining the desolate post-apocalyptic setting. The crew picked up sticks and moved back to Namibia, for an arduous 120-day shoot in the desert. Elaborate vehicular action sequences and daring stunts were staged with an emphasis on practical effects. Even so, the film ended up containing more than 2000 visual effects shots. After the R-rated cut tested better than the PG-13 one did, Warner Bros. went ahead with that version. Mad Max: Fury Road was a smash hit, praised for its feminist themes, strong performances and captivating action. It received ten Oscar nominations and won six, more than any other film nominated that year.

Mad Max: Fury Road

For F*** Magazine

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

Director : George Miller
Cast : Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoë Kravitz, Riley Keough
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 120 mins
Opens : 14 May 2015
Rating : NC16 (Violence)

It’s been 30 long years, but with the fourth instalment of the Mad Maxfranchise finally seeing the light of day, it’s time for road warriors to do battle again. Taking over from Mel Gibson in the iconic titular role is Tom Hardy. Max Rockatansky is captured and tortured by scavengers and in the midst of escaping, teams up with “war boy” Nux (Hoult). Their paths cross with that of the Imperator Furiosa (Theron), a warrior woman who drives the “war rig” oil tanker truck. Furiosa plans to liberate the “breeders”, five young women enslaved by the tyrannical Immortan Joe (Keays-Byrne) for the sole purpose of bearing his children. As Max and Furiosa begin to rely on each other’s skills as they cross the inhospitable desert, their various pursuers get ever closer.


            Director George Miller, who helmed the first three Mad Max movies and whose bizarrely diverse filmography also includes Babeand Happy Feet, is back in the driver’s seat for Fury Road. This is a “soft reboot” that stands fine on its own if one hasn’t seen the other movies. The film spent a tumultuous 25 years in development hell, with Gibson initially attached but dropping out and Miller turning his attention to an animated Mad Max movie instead. For long-time hard-core fans, Fury Road is worth the wait. Unlike, say, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, this belated fourth movie is still very much in the spirit of the originals. A noticeable change – an improvement really – is that the pace is a lot quicker here. The original Mad Max trilogy did have its lulls, but things keep moving in this one. It’s also increased in scope and scale, but not to a bloated extent. The editing is also a lot faster too, but thankfully stops short of being whiplash inducing.  


            It’s telling that co-writer Brendan McCarthy was also the lead storyboard artist and concept designer on the film. It’s very much style over substance and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The unique “post-apo-car-lyptic” aesthetic developed by Miller for the first movie has often been imitated and it’s great to see that style on the big screen again in such grand fashion. If we could list every single crew member involved in the creation of the vehicles, we would, because each one is a modern masterpiece of twisted metal. Cinematographer John Seale delivers gorgeous vistas of desolation; one wouldn’t expect scenes in a crazy post-apocalyptic action movie to be described as “poetic”, but many of the shots really are. Seeing as the setting is all desert, there’s the challenge in making sure it doesn’t look dull, a challenge Seale overcomes.

            While some fans are still unable to get over the recasting of Max Rockatansky, Hardy is the ideal replacement for Gibson, Miller citing a similar animalistic quality in the two actors as one of the reasons for this casting. Though he has been sometimes disparagingly classified as a “pretty boy”, Hardy is convincingly tough and does look like he’s been an inhabitant of this wasteland all his life. There’s also that haunted quality to his eyes, bringing life to the precious little back-story we get to glimpse. This is definitely not a subtle movie – the opening voiceover might as well go “hey, I’m the antihero. I have emotional baggage. Let’s go crash into stuff” but Hardy does bring some subtlety to bear. As his sidekick of sorts, Nicholas Hoult plays against type as a wild-eyed crazy kid whom Max grows to see as a kindred spirit. It’s a transformative performance that is entertaining when it could’ve been just plain annoying. Fans will also be pleased to see Hugh Keays-Byrne a.k.a. the Toecutter from the first film return as new villain Immortan Joe.


            Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa definitely has the potential to become an iconic heroine. Sporting a shorn head and a bionic arm, Theron goes the full Sigourney. It makes one realise that even though we’ve got the likes of Katniss Everdeen and Black Widow these days, we do badly need more old-school kickass women in movies. With all its pulpy 80s-ness, Fury Road could have very easily become blithely exploitative, but instead there is an admirable plot thread in which the young women cruelly forced to bear children for the villain fight for their freedom and Max eventually joins their cause. Sure, there are times when some of the women (played by models/actors Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee and Courtney Eaton) seem to blend together and they’re all clad in wispy bandages, but their rousing refusal to be victimised is as invigorating as the big action beats. There are also “badass grandmas” in the form of actresses Jennifer Hagan, Melissa Jaffer, Gillian Jones and Antoinette Kellerman.

            Mad Max: Fury Roadis definitely an acquired taste. There will be audiences who, upon seeing the exaggerated vehicle designs, over the top costumes and scary makeup, will dismiss this outright and we see where they’re coming from. This being as heightened as it is, it might be difficult to find an emotional foothold and since this is essentially one big long chase, fatigue might set in. However, for those who grew up with the series, this will be a particularly awesome dose of nostalgia. Action movie junkies who are tired of blockbusters that lean too heavily on CGI effects will get a kick out of the authentic metal-on-metal tactility seen here.

Summary:While it might be difficult for those without a personal connection to the series to get into gear, Fury Roadoffers long-time Mad Max fanatics a heaping serving of exhilarating vehicular carnage and an excellent replacement for Mel Gibson in the form of Tom Hardy.

RATING: 3.5out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong 

San Diego Comic-Con International 2014: Postcards from the H

As published in Issue #55 of F*** Magazine 
Here it is: my 8100-word first-hand account of the major movie panels held in Hall H on Saturday. The other panels held in Hall H this day that are not covered in the following article are The Boxtrolls, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and Entertainment Weekly’s Women Who Kick Ass panel. The article runs long enough as it is and I might save The Boxtrolls and Sin City for closer to when the films are released. The Women Who Kick Ass panel featured actresses exclusively from television shows, and as cool as that panel was, I write for a movie magazine. Starting this article, I thought it would be a fairly quick affair, but with all the transcription involved, I ended up spending 12 straight hours on the first draft alone before getting on the plane. So, really appreciate your reading this article! 

 F1

Text: 
POSTCARDS FROM THE H [San Diego Exclusive]

F*** is at the epicentre of geekdom for Comic-Con’s biggest movie panels.

By Jedd Jong 30/7/14
Photos by Jedd Jong
The air bristles with excitement as thousands mill about, settling into their seats within the cavernous exposition hall. It’s 9:00 am on Saturday at San Diego Comic-Con International, and this means only one thing – those who have waited in line overnight, some from as early as 3:00 pm the previous day, will not be disappointed. Hall H is the Holy of Holies of the geek world. Every year at the convention, those who find themselves huddled in this sanctuary are treated to A-list celebrity appearances, exclusive footage screenings and more than a few exciting surprises. This year, F*** is there to bring you all the latest movie news.
WARNER BROS. PICTURES
First up, Warner Bros. takes over Hall H. “Warner Bros. likes to go big,” states Comic-Con programming director Eddie Ibrahim. On cue, the curtains covering the walls on each side peel back, revealing screens running the length of the massive walls. Moderator Chris Hardwick, dressed as Marty McFly from Back To The Future, runs onstage.
Conspicuously missing from the published schedule of the movies Warner Bros. would be bringing to Hall H was Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice. This is clearly the big film on everyone’s mind. So, a half-expected but still very welcome surprise is unleashed upon Hall H, as concept art and animatics for the new DC movie flash across the screens to whoops, yells and gasps. Whoops, yells and gasps are a crucial part of the experience here.
Director Zack Snyder is ushered out by Hardwick. He says that announcing the movie at last year’s Comic-Con feels like it happened “just yesterday” and explains that he has rushed to San Diego after spending the night filming in Detroit. “I couldn’t be happier with the way everything’s going, just super-amazing – the talent, the sets, the special effects and everything is going amazingly well,” Snyder says enthusiastically.

Even though they are still deep in production, Snyder introduces a “teeny little thing” with which to tease the fans. The hall goes dark and the footage rolls. We find ourselves on a rooftop in Gotham City as Batman, clad in heavy armour clearly based off the Dark Knight Returns graphic novel, stands next to a shrouded Bat-signal. Batman yanks the tarp off and the Bat-signal turns on, casting the stout Bat symbol into the cloudy sky. The silhouette dissolves and out of nowhere, Superman appears, arms folded, looking none too happy. His eyes glow red. Batman’s lenses glow blue. The screen goes black and the crowd screams.

At Snyder’s behest, the World’s Finest, Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck, arrive in Hall H to more deafening cheers. They are immediately joined by the woman who makes the World’s Finest the Trinity, Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot. The three stars smile and wave but do not sit down or field questions for they would surely be swamped. Unable to contain his own glee, Hardwick snaps a selfie with the Power Trio. “We gotta go back and finish making the movie,” Snyder says as the teaser gets an encore showing.
Jupiter Ascending’s Channing Tatum makes a quick appearance, accompanied by footage from the space opera. The Wachowskis’ sci-fi adventure has been delayed from July this year to February of 2015 and having to follow Batman v Superman must have been at least a little awkward for Tatum. It does seem like it will be stunning in 3D, though. From dazzling alien cityscapes, we journey to a barren future wasteland. Following its own share of delays, Mad Max: Fury Road will finally careen into theatres in 2015 and long-time road warriors are greatly anticipating this one. Charlize Theron cannot be in Hall H as she is filming in South Africa, but she delivers a pre-recorded message. “It just felt like such a brilliant opportunity,” she says of working with director George Miller, before introducing a retrospective supercut of the Mad Max trilogy, also directed by Miller.
It is the first Comic-Con for Miller, something of a legend for creating Max Rockatansky and the post-apo-car-lyptic world he inhabits. The Australian director expresses how overwhelming it is to go from growing up in a small rural town to presenting his film in front of over 6,000 fans. To continue the numbers game, 3,500 storyboards were drawn for the movie which, being light on dialogue, was meticulously plotted in visual form instead of being first written as a screenplay. Miller describes it as one big, long chase and, like the trilogy that came before it, a “Western on wheels” where there is no rule of law and no honour.


“Who knew Mel Gibson would literally turn into Mad Max at one point?” Hardwick asks to nervous laughter and oohs from the crowd. After pausing nervously himself, Miller answers with an explanation that charismatic actors, in addition to having a loveable and accessible side to themselves, also often have an attractive element of danger, something Gibson possesses. Miller asserts that the new Max Rockatansky – Tom Hardy – has got that in him too, comparing watching Hardy at work to watching a “big, wild animal”. Vehicles play a pivotal part in the world of Mad Max – the two rules being that the vehicles couldn’t have advanced electronics as a part of them and had to be robust enough to look like they could weather an apocalypse and make it out the other side.
Following questions from the floor, the teaser for Mad Max: Fury Road rolls for the first time ever. “My name is Max – my world is fire and blood,” goes the voiceover. A shot features coloured smoke explosions filling the dusty air, gorgeously-filmed desolation on full display. Max is shown getting tortured, his back painfully tattooed and his hair shorn off. Imperator Furiosa (Theron), bald with one metal arm, liberates a group of slave women and sits at the wheel of a giant oil tanker war rig. It’s Charlize Theron going the full Sigourney. The clip ends with a snippet of a truly wild chase through a crimson sandstorm, Max hanging on to the outside of a psychotic rogue’s car as his body is blasted with particles. The footage ends, Miller mentions the rollicking score by Junkie XL and Hardwick sings a line of Tina Turner’s We Don’t Need Another Hero from Beyond Thunderdome.

To cap off the Warner Bros. presentation, we travel to Middle Earth. Hardwick leaves and replacing him for this segment is none other than the Laketown Spy himself, Stephen Colbert. Appearing in full costume, Colbert assumes his role as moderator for the panel for The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies. A life-long Tolkien devotee, Colbert passionately and humorously relates his initial concern for how his beloved books would be adapted and says how his fears were assuaged by the work that Peter Jackson and co. had all done. This eventually led to Colbert beating co-writer Philippa Boyens at a Tolkien trivia contest and later, Colbert, his wife and two sons getting cameo appearances in The Desolation Of Smaug as part of the Laketown spy network. “I hope I have fulfilled Professor Tolkien’s vision”, Colbert jokes about his portrayal.

Following a hysterical blooper compilation from all the previous Hobbitand Lord Of The Rings films, the cast and film-makers take their seats at the long table on the Hall H stage. Director Peter Jackson, co-writer Philippa Boyens, actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Graham McTavish, Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis all emerge to greet the fans who have followed them there and back again. Colbert opens by sincerely thanking Jackson; Jackson apologises on behalf of Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and Ian McKellen, who are absent due to commitments to theatre and film projects.

Jackson reveals that, in 1995, his first pitch to Miramax was to make a Hobbitfilm first and, if that was successful, to make two Lord Of The Rings movies. “Everything’s changed… it’s an adventure,” Jackson says about the process.

Colbert asks about the evolution of the tone through the three Hobbitfilms. “There is a lot of sadness and tragedy, which is good. It’s always good when you can kill off some of your main characters,” Jackson says with the slightest tinge of George R. R. Martin-esque sadistic glee. He states that the film will leave behind the lighter feel of the first Hobbit movie and approach the tone of The Fellowship Of The Ring.

Cumberbatch is asked to describe the difference between Smaug and Sauron, both of which he portrays. “One’s a dragon…” he begins to laughter. “And one’s an all-seeing non-corporeal entity of evil.” When asked about the performance capture he did for Smaug, Cumberbatch says it was much harder for the others acting against an imaginary Smaug than it was for him in the studio. “I was just throwing myself around a carpeted floor like a lunatic.”
Andy Serkis’ advice? “Just make sure you don’t get carpet burns, really.”
“I’ve often thought that the entire journey is seeking a female dwarf,” McTavish jokes. “It’s nice to be the only representative of my race here today, I feel a little outnumbered by my elven compatriots. It’s been an extraordinary experience being a dwarf when you’re 6’ 3”.”


Cate Blanchett reveals we will see a crack in Galadriel’s serene demeanour this time. “I lose my s***. Elven s***,” the Oscar-winner says.
Colbert chimes in with “I’m sure it sparkles.”
“She gets to kick Sauron’s arse a little in this next film,” Jackson adds.
“I’ve noticed there is a difference in class in Elvendom and Orlando, your father does not want you to date down,” Colbert says regarding the Legolas/Tauriel romance.
“I’m a low-class trash elf, but my s*** still sparkles,” Lilly says.
Bloom says he and Wood were seriously discussing taking up New Zealand citizenship, having been charmed and moved by the real-life Middle Earth.
Colbert asks Wood if he has gone back to read the books after making the films. “Truth be told, I haven’t,” he says to gasps, 6,100 pairs of eyes admonishing him.
“Elijah, do you know how to read?” Colbert deadpans.
Wood says he read The Hobbit as a child but was too daunted to read the LOTR books. “I felt like I was living it in such a profound way that I never really consulted the books,” he rationalises.
Lilly says she treats the stories with such reverence that, until today, she has refused to read the last 25 pages of Return Of The King because “the story must go on.”
Serkis talks about how his life and career have taken an unexpected turn after playing Gollum and then King Kong. “I thought my life was going to go back to normal and I was going to play normal characters in normal films,” he confessed. “I’ve just played a 3.5-foot ring junkie and now I’m going to play a 25-foot gorilla – wow, this means typecasting is no more!” He also acknowledges the artists and technicians at Weta Digital: “They’re the most fantastic, amazing bunch of people to work with.” Colbert flatteringly compares Serkis to Lon Chaney, the famous classic monster movie actor who would transform into various iconic movie monsters with elaborate make-up.
Then, the teaser trailer is screened. “One day, they’ll remember everything that happened – the good, the bad, those of who lived and those who did not,” goes Bilbo’s voiceover. The haunting A Walking Song/The Edge of Night plays in the background as we are greeted with stunning Peter Jackson vista after stunning Peter Jackson vista.
“Will you have peace or war?!” Bard the Bowman challenges.
“I will have war,” Thorin replies.
After the footage ends, Colbert says, “Thank you for not giving away the part where the leader of the spy network saves the day.”
When the discussion turns to props and make-up, Lilly offers, “I know how sexy a big pointy ear can be.”

If you’ve always wanted to hear Smaug say “button lady”, that’s what happened in Hall H when Cumberbatch obliged a request during Q and A from a fan whose outfit was covered in collectible LOTR and Hobbit buttons. She asks if Bard or Legolas is the better archer.
“Both of these guys are really good at archery in real life,” Lilly says. “They’re both thinking ‘How do I tell them that I’m the best? This guy’s okay but I’m better!’”
Bloom throws down the gauntlet, saying of Evans, “He’s got longer arrows and a bigger bow, but I’m the better shot.”
A fan dressed as a gender-flipped Thor asks about the technical aspects of acting opposite nothing, and all eyes on the panel immediately turn towards Serkis. “All you need is the eyes of another actor to look into,” Serkis says. “It’s about embodying the character in a very normal way, even though all you’re wearing is a spandex suit. The ability to lose yourself in a world, to lose yourself in a character, to bury yourself in a part so deep that you believe that you’re that person.”
Blanchett speaks about the lengths Jackson, Boyens and Fran Walsh would go to in order to ensure their actors had as clear an idea of their later-to-be-enhanced scenes as possible. “They’d show you pictures, drawings, plates they’d already shot, the atmosphere you were in.” As an actor whose background is in the theatre, Blanchett says the process is akin to “doing Chekhov…with prosthetic ears”.
Another member of the audience asks the cast where they would take their characters if they came to Comic-Con. “Hall H,” Cumberbatch replies to cheers. “I don’t think he could fit in here, it would be a bit of a squeeze.” This writer immediately imagines a contented, geeky Smaug atop a massive pile of posters, comics, toys, shirts and other assorted Comic-Con swag.

Serkis breaks out his Gollum voice, which we all absolutely go nuts for. “Well, my secret dream, precious/yes, what is it?/I would like to go backstage with Stephen Col-bert and see what he’s got inside his costume, precious!”

The panel concludes with the announcement of an exclusive giveaway in which 75 fans will win a trip to New Zealand, courtesy of Warner Bros. and Air New Zealand. 2 out of the 75 names are announced, the overjoyed winners giddily running to the front of the hall to discuss their holiday plans with a Warner Bros. representative.
LEGENDARY PICTURES

Following Warner Bros. in Hall H is the studio with whom they were formerly distribution partners. Legendary has moved on to teaming up with Universal and is fresh off the monster hit Godzilla. Moderator Jessica Chobot introduces studio chief Thomas Tull, who has Thunderstruck as his entrance theme. “Right here, several years ago in Hall H, is where we kicked off the campaign to bring the King of the Monsters, Godzilla, back.” Tull apologises on behalf of director Gareth Edwards, who is “locked up in a galaxy far, far away” and thus cannot be at Comic-Con. We do get a video message from Edwards, though.


In the footage, the director stands in front of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. “Due to the destruction caused by Godzilla, Thomas has forced me to personally come up here to supervise the rebuilding of the city,” he explains. Thanking the supporters at Comic-Con, Edwards announces he will make a sequel, but not before taking “a break from all the fanboy opinions” by doing a “small little sci-fi movie… I can officially confirm the creatures that will feature in that movie will be –” The names are bleeped out as the audience groans and chuckles. Fighter jets swoosh overhead in San Francisco. “You’ve got to keep them on the island, I’m not rebuilding this again, seriously!” Edwards says, exasperated. Edwards also appears annoyed with his leading man – make that monster. “He roars and roars like he’s something special, I’m like ‘Get over yourself, you’re not Bryan Cranston!’” Let’s see Godzilla get more roles in Hollywood after that!

Tull announces that he has been able to “pry some classified footage away from Monarch”. The footage reveals that other threats have been discovered beyond Godzilla and the MUTOs. Blurry, grainy shots of three monsters are shown. Their codenames: Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah. Applause and cheers. The text “CONFLICT INEVITABLE” appears on the screen, followed by “LET THEM FIGHT”.

Tull says that Legendary has been given permission by the owners of Godzillato widen the playing field. “Toho’s been great to us and now we have more monsters to play with,” he says, and ends with thanks to Comic-Con and a promise of footage for next year’s panel.

Next up, we plunge deep beneath the streets of Paris for the found-footage horror adventure As Above, So Below. In the trailer we are shown, urban archaeology student Scarlet Marlowe leads an ill-advised expedition into the winding catacombs of Paris, in which her team discovers a terrifying, infernal secret. The Dowdle brothers take the stage, John directing and Drew producing, with both writing the script together. They explain that the 200 miles of twisting, hellish tunnels – six storeys underground in pitch darkness, dating back to the 14th century – make for an ideal fright flick setting. “We’ve always wanted to do a found-footage, Indiana Jones-type story and we found the Paris Catacombs would be the perfect place for that kind of epic adventure done in a personal style.” As Above, So Below is the first film given permission to shoot in the off-limits areas of the Catacombs.


Making his Comic-Con debut is renowned director Michael Mann of The Last Of The Mohicans, Thief, Heat and Collateral fame. Lending some insight into his process, Mann says that he meets with professional thieves and other real criminals for research excursions in order to make his crime dramas as authentic as possible. Today, he’s here to talk about his techno-thriller Blackhat, starring Chris Hemsworth as an expert hacker coerced into helping the government tackle a cyber-terror threat.


Having just returned from Indonesia and Singapore, Mann wanted to make a film about cyber-crime set in Asia. At the time the film was conceived, the Stuxnet worm crisis that sabotaged the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran had just unfolded. The film was shot in Hong Kong, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur in addition to Los Angeles. Having spent time with actual black-hat hackers, Mann says that, after 7-8 straight hours of coding, they “zone into it” and the experience provides a “pleasurable, opiating feedback loop”. It is escapism, but escapism that has impact in the physical world.
Mann brings out a teaser trailer, the first-ever look anyone has had at Blackhat. A nuclear power plant meltdown caused by an attack on the computer infrastructure is depicted. “This isn’t about money,” an ominous voiceover intones. “This isn’t about politics. I can target anything, anyone, anywhere.” The last resort for the government agencies investigating this crime is to engage the services of black-hat hacker Nick Hathaway, serving time in federal prison for committing four crimes and incurring $4,600 in damages. He asks to have his sentence commuted.

“This isn’t a negotiation,” a fed tells him.

“I just made it one,” Hathaway fires back.

The footage features Hollywood stars Hemsworth, Viola Davis and Holt McCallany alongside Asian actors Wang Leehom and Tang Wei. We get a few glimpses of some steamy moments between Tang and the computer-savvy Thunder God. Then, Hemsworth himself is invited out by his director to squeals of delight. “He’s so pretty,” swoons a woman seated behind this writer.

Hemsworth says that several films Mann has directed rank among his favourites, and that “nobody does precision and detail like him.” He also confesses that he was intimidated by Mann, but that he admires the amount of research that goes into making his films. “We went to a number of prisons to meet the criminals.” Mann outlines Hemsworth’s character in the film as a blue-collar steel mill worker who is granted a scholarship to MIT and falls into cyber-crime.

“We did 74 scenes in 4 countries in 66 days,” Mann says of the hectic shooting schedule. He also describes his star as not just a talented actor whose career is only just beginning, but “a terrific guy and a real regular fella”.


In the age of Wikileaks and Edward Snowden, Blackhatfeels ripped from the headlines. Mann shares that the cast and crew landed in Hong Kong one day before the Snowden story broke. In preparation for his role, Hemsworth studied coding under mathematician Chris McKinlay. “All of a sudden, you realise how vulnerable you are, what you think is safe, information you think secret…” Hemsworth says that a professional told him that, these days, it truly is that easy for someone in the know to gain access to almost anybody’s personal information. Colour us truly paranoid! One hopes that with this training, the hacking featured in the film will be more realistic and less Swordfish-y (hey, that one had as its hacker protagonist a hunk who also plays a Marvel superhero!).

We trek from the contemporary personal cyber-security concerns of our times to the lush Victorian Gothic horror of Crimson Peak, which marks director Guillermo del Toro’s return to a genre he has greatly impacted with his earlier films. Del Toro is a Comic-Con favourite and was greeted with waves of applause. Del Toro explains that, after the tough shooting experience on Mimic, he decided that his painterly horror films would be reserved for his Spanish-language work and that he would direct big popcorn blockbusters in English. However, that changed after Pacific Rim, when Legendary and Universal told del Toro that he had the freedom to make an English-language Gothic horror-romance the way he wanted.


Urging the audience to visit the Legendary booth on the convention floor, del Toro endorses the Crimson Peak walk-through attraction and the popular Pacific Rim Oculus Rift virtual reality experience. “It’s f**king awesome!” he says excitedly. It seems that seeing the “no swearing” advisory on the back of his name card on the table has caused the director to turn rebellious. “We are a year and a half from releasing the movie but nevertheless I wanted to bring you a little bit of a look of the film,” and promised that there would be even more next year.



“I must tell you girls, Tom Hiddleston, for me, is the nicest f**king guy!” he says of Crimson Peak’s leading man to the expected squeals. “It used to be that either you were nice [and ugly], or you were good-looking and an a**hole… this guy ruins everything!”

The footage is gorgeous. It’s an over-used adjective but it fits. Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston), in voiceover, describes the titular mansion as a living thing, with “timber for bones and windows for eyes”. As the ghostly manifestations begin, the voice continues, “We hold on to things – some are good, some are bad, some should never be spoken of again.” Imagine American Horror Story but through Guillermo del Toro’s eyes. Now, doesn’t that just sound like heaven for fans of well-made horror that is as beautiful and seductive as it is truly frightening?

“The colours are amazing!” Chobot exclaims. Del Toro tells us that it was a labour of love building an entire three-storey-high Victorian mansion from scratch on a soundstage, every last carving or relief lovingly hand-crafted by artisan set-builders and decorators.

“We spent the better part of a year designing the film and then built everything to the ultimate detail,” del Toro continues. “I wanted the freedom to create a great adult story for a female lead.” This pleases all the women in Hall H, as well as many men who have wanted to see women in leading roles in genre films. Mia Wasikowska will be playing the female lead, Edith Cushing. While there will be a romantic angle, del Toro wants to “see her live past all that. Past getting the guy, okay? F*** that s***!” He promises a romantic aspect but also a thriller one, beautiful moments juxtaposed with “very brutal, very brutal” moments. “We have scary ghosts, but even scarier people.”

“I know we don’t have time for Q&A, but I love the f***ing Q&A,” del Toro says, turning to the audience, preparing to ask two questions to the crowd gathered before him. “Here we go… I have two things to ask from you and you need to react.”

“Number One: Hellboy 3?”

And react we do, for a good long while.

At TheMountains Of Madness?”

More reactions. Del Toro is known as much for his imaginative movies as for constantly having too much on his plate and that he is entertaining the thought of returning to these long-anticipated projects sends Hall H into a frenzy.

Following Crimson Peak is a fantasy flick of a very different stripe: Duncan Jones’ Warcraft. Bowie Jr. himself, clad in a Lunar Industries t-shirt (referencing his earlier film Moon), sits at the table on stage. “I just got a hug from Guillermo del Toro, so I’m feeling pretty good,” he says. Chobot asks if he feels pressure, seeing as the game franchise has millions and millions of fans. “It’s 20 years of storytelling, so there’s a lot of stuff to draw on,” he says, focusing on the possibilities instead of the pressure.


So, how is Jones going to appeal to long-time fans of the Blizzard games while making the film accessible enough for neophytes? “A lot of films want to make origin stories but I think, in this case, it really merits an origin story. We want to show how the world of Azeroth falls into conflict between Orcs and humans.” Jones asserts that those unfamiliar with the games will also be able to enjoy his Warcraft movie, pointing to Comic-Con as a great example of people “getting into” new properties and series – and he’s seeking to make converts out of filmgoers when Warcraft comes out in March 2016. “There are a lot of people who haven’t played the game that I think we can bring in through the film.”

Jones says he is happy that Blizzard Entertainment, who has wanted a World Of Warcraft film for the longest time, will be getting their wish and that he is extremely lucky to be working with Legendary Pictures on the project. “We were trying to bring the set-building and world-building of the Lord Of The Rings and the technology of Avatar, and it really was like trying to make those two movies. It’s a big project and I think it deserves it and hopefully the final result will speak for itself.”

At last year’s Con, Jones brought a teaser trailer prepared before any of the shooting even began. Now, two months after principal photography has wrapped, he has more. The teaser trailer begins. That signature fantasy movie “one-woman wail” is audible. “I spent more time protecting my king than my own son,” a grizzled voice says in the voiceover as we see typical fantasy movie spectacle (knights, armour, horses, magic etc). “Does that make me loyal, or a fool? I’ve led thousands of warriors into battle and I fear being a father,” he continues. “Does that make me a leader, or a coward?” As we glimpse some of the epic battle scenes, the voice concludes. “Is war the only way?”

The panel concludes with Thomas Tull returning to the stage, thanking the fans present. “You’re here, which is why we bring special stuff here.” He has something to add: “My Mexican brother Guillermo posed a question, and the only thing I can say is ‘When you’re done with Pac Rim 2, we’ll talk’.” Thrilled that Hellboy 3 and At The Mountains Of Madnessmight be on the horizon, no matter how distant said horizon might be, the hall falls silent. No, of course we didn’t!


That would’ve been plenty from the studio, but Tull has one last trick up his sleeve, something the studio has been “tinkering around” with. Without any other introduction, the footage rolls. The camera sweeps across a tumultuous tossing sea, a storm raging. “The long stretches of the waterway ran out, cut off forever from everything you had known,” goes a weary voiceover. “It was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world.” A misty island is revealed and the camera makes landfall. “When vegetation writhed throughout the earth, the big trees were kings.” In the jungle, a sea monster swims through a lake and monkeys swing through the treetops. Everyone in the room is working at figuring out just what this is. “Its very existence was improbable,” the voice continues. We see a craggy cliff face resembling a giant skull. “Being alone in the wilderness, we had gone mad… we penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness.” The camera stops at a range of trees, rustling with loud thumping in the background, something getting closer and closer. An unmistakable giant gorilla bursts through the canopy, thumping his chest. The title card – “LEGENDARY’S SKULL ISLAND”. Now, the possibility of King Kong and Godzilla having a rematch just seems that much more within reach.

MARVEL STUDIOS

The last movie-related panel for the day before a TV showcase later that night is undoubtedly the one for which many waiting in line overnight were the most excited. After all, at last year’s Marvel Studios panel, Tom Hiddleston stormed the stage in full Loki regalia, basking in the adoration of his Hall H “army”. The panel is running 15 minutes late and we are antsy.

Before anything happens though, a supercut assembled especially for Hall H plays, taking a fond look back at all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Fans cheer when they see their favourite heroes on screen. Everyone gets a squeal – Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Loki… even Hawkeye. It’s capped off with snippets from Guardians Of The Galaxy, at the time of writing mere days away from its worldwide release. It’s just mind-boggling to think how far the studio has come, and how quickly they’ve been able to do so. Exciting times!

Hardwick returns to the stage and promises that the hour or so ahead will be “well worth the wait”.
He brings out Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige, hyping Guardians of the Galaxy, the studio’s tenth film. “It always starts with you guys in this room,” Feige says, as the audience lets him know we appreciate his acknowledgement. Feige says he loves the notion that movie-goers are just as excited for the sequels as they are for all-new Marvel movies. Releasing one sequel and one new movie each year seems to be the plan going forward. “What we’re talking about today is 2015. We’re doing a very similar thing, we have a movie called Avengers: Age Of Ultron coming out and then we have something new – Ant-Man is finally coming out. You want to meet some people involved in Ant-Man?” Of course we do, particularly since the troubled production (original director Edgar Wright was controversially let go) has led fans to require some reassurance.

Replacement director Peyton Reed and stars Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll and Evangeline Lilly walk onstage to massive applause. Lilly’s appearance at the panel confirms long-swirling rumours that she will play Hope Van Dyne, the daughter of Hank Pym. In an attempt to quell fears that Reed is not the right director for the job, Hardwick asks him how many years he’s been attending Comic-Con. Reed replies that this is his 20thtime at the convention. He also reveals that, when he was a drummer for his punk band Johnny Quest back in the day, one of the fliers he had drawn to promote the band was an homage to the cover of Avengers #1 – and it turns out that Reed had drawn himself, flying on tiny drums, as Ant-Man.
It is the first Comic-Con for both Ant-Men, the discussion turning to Comic-Con virginity (this writer would say ‘Oh the irony’, but that would be hypocritical) and “popping cherries”. “I am popping my Comic-Con cherry and it is as advertised,” Rudd says.

“I’ve popped enough cherries,” Douglas adds, playing up his reputation as a bit of a Lothario.
“Don’t think I don’t want to just talk about that for the next hour,” cracks Hardwick.
“It’s a mind-bender, it’s so exciting… it’s kind of tough to wrap my brain around. I’ve been doing this as a job for a while but this is a whole other thing! I’m excited by the challenges and I’m looking forward to working with great people and seeing how it all is,” Rudd says.

“I’ve always looked at Marvel movies from afar with tremendous envy,” Douglas says, explaining that, as he has not done many films with a touch of the fantastical in them, he was excited to be a part of a sci-fi action comedy like Ant-Man. Douglas sums up the premise, describing his character Dr. Hank Pym, an entomologist and metallurgist (he struggles with the word) who has developed a serum with which to shrink a human being to the size of an ant, while retaining the strength of a regular-sized person. The goal is also to communicate with ants. Pym’s partner, played by Corey Stoll, has taken the company “in a different, evil direction” and Pym has found a protégé in Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang. He mentions the incredible shape Rudd is in, to a few squeals.

“We’re the first Marvel movie that’s spending a lot of money on CGI to removemuscles,” Reed jokes.
 

“My experience so far has been evading questions about Ant-Man,” Lilly says, happy to be able to break her silence on her involvement in the film. Lilly has had a hectic last six months, between being a mother, producing her children’s book series and working on the Hobbitfilms. She reveals that she actually has taken up meditative breathing just so she can go to sleep. “I’m having a great time! Con is kind of my world; it kind of seems that everything I’ve done on the screen, you guys are in the fray,” she tells the fans. She remembers being in Hall H to screen footage from Lost, a television series that hadn’t even begun airing. “Much love to all of you, my people!” she says, returning the adulation.


Hardwick asks Corey Stoll to describe his character Darren Cross, the antagonist of the piece who takes on the super-villain identity Yellowjacket. “I’m a scientist as well and I have now taken over the company. Some very judgemental people may think it’s in an ‘evil’ direction, but I think I’m just taking it into the future.” Obtaining some Pym particles and putting on the Yellowjacket suit, Cross is able to give Ant-Man a run for his money, causing some serious trouble for our heroes.

On how the cast must stay mum about details of the film until Comic-Con, Hardwick says, “So Comic-Con must be an incredible release for you.”

“Popping cherries, release, this is a family panel!” Rudd protests.

“That’s how families get made!” Hardwick fires back to laughter.

They’ve not even started principal photography, which is still 2 weeks away. “We haven’t started filming the movie yet, but we filmed a little something…” Feige says.  The footage begins; we move through Hank Pym’s lab, hearing his voice and Scott Lang’s but not seeing anybody. Lang protests to Pym that he is not a superhero.

“Which means that you’re not an egomaniac and you’re not an undisciplined moron!” Dr. Pym snaps back. “Causing more destruction than he stops. Superheroes? What a goddamn joke. You, you’re different. You’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do.” Scott voices his doubts. “Jesus Christ! I think somebody already shrunk your balls!” Pym says bluntly. “Don’t worry, Scott. It’s a smalljob.”

We then cut to a rooftop where a shrunken-down Lang in his Ant-Man costume is running to the ledge of the building, either in pursuit or being pursued. He struggles to mount his steed – an actual wasp. The helmet is not working and thus is not communicating his thoughts to the wasp effectively. He leaps and catches the wasp as it flies away, pulling himself onto its back. “It’s okay, I got this,” he says as the footage ends.

No offence to Ant-Man, but the Marvel flick everyone is here for is Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Feige apologises on Joss Whedon’s behalf; the writer-director of the giant sequel cannot be at the Con because he is laid up in hospital in London, following serious knee surgery. Feige asks that we offer our well wishes over Twitter. “Look at the photos he’s put up, it’s very pathetic, it’s very sad,” he says. “But, we do have some other people.” Now, that’s under-selling done right.

Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough plays as the entrance theme for our Avengers (and their adversaries). The first to stride onto the Hall H stage is Robert Downey Jr., dressed as Tony Stark and carrying a metallic briefcase. He opens it up, it is filled with roses which he tosses into the audience, after which he does a big dramatic bow. Jeremy Renner, Mark  Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans, Paul Bettany and new additions James Spader, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen walk out, an epic gathering of heroes and villains and those in-between if ever there was one.
“This is good, this is what’s supposed to happen,” Hardwick says, giving voice to all our thoughts.
“It just keeps getting better,” Downey Jr. says. “This is the longest bench of talent I’ve ever been a part of and we’ve got a real nice movie for you guys next year.” On Iron Man’s role in the continuing Marvel saga, Downey Jr. Says, “I’ve become a little less significant each time, which is just fine because they’re all so damn good!”



“It’s always thrilling, man… glad to be here, very honoured,” says Renner. “Meeting this guy over here,” Renner says pointing to Downey Jr., “He’s the one who convinced me and washed my car in a thong… I have pictures, I’m Instagramming that s***.” Renner says that, while he never imagined he’d play a superhero, he could not be more grateful for it.

Hardwick says that, when Ruffalo first made a Comic-Con appearance for the first Avengersfilm, he was bewildered by how the crazy Con machine works but it appears that, since then, he has truly embraced his role as the not-so-jolly Green Giant and that Green Giant’s fans. “They don’t treat me like this at home, that’s for sure,” he chuckles. This causes the audience to whoop and cheer for him even more. “That’s really nice…” he says.

The crowd chants “Hulk, Hulk, Hulk!”
“No, don’t get him excited, that’s when it gets bad!” Hardwick warns. “Keep his pulse rate down!”

On gaining recognition since becoming an Avenger, Ruffalo says, “People don’t even know who I am other than Hulk.” When people on the street shout “Hulk, Hulk!” at him, he says his response is to say “The name’s Banner”.

“You are in exceptionally good shape,” Hardwick says, in awe of Chris Hemsworth’s physique. “That arm is the size of my torso!”  The girls squeal. “What has Thor meant to you all this time?” Hardwick asks.
“Best experience that I’ve had on the set, off the set, to work with this group of people to bring this character to life and to be part of this madness…” On the subject of what he would like to do as Thor that the character hasn’t had a chance to do yet in the films, Hemsworth says, without missing a beat, “turning into a woman”, in reference to the recent explosive announcement that the new Thor in the comics will indeed be female. “I don’t want to speak too early and jinx it, but I think it could be my Oscar,” he says.
“Naw, he’s got that purdy girl hair, he’s gonna be fine,” drawls Hardwick.


Smulders says it was fun getting to do a signing and connecting with fans, if only for a moment. Did she think Maria Hill would recur in this world as often as she does? “I had hoped! Joss is the one who brought me into this world, we just keep going on films and on TV and I’m so grateful,” she says, hinting that we might just see more of ex-Agent Hill in the new season of Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.


On the eye-patch messing with his depth perception, Jackson says, “I was smart enough to figure that out… I’ve got that down pat, cancel the insurance!” Speaking about the reception he always receives at the Con, Jackson says “Comic-Con is phenomenal, it’s totally amazing… I’ve been coming here since Episode I of Star Wars. Seems like every year I come here and feel like I belong, I get validated with all the love and energy from you guys and it just makes me feel like doing more! We make the movies because we want to entertain you guys and I make movies because I want to see myself in them!”

Next, the Star-Spangled Man himself. Apparently, the two Chris-es compare muscles. “It’s very difficult to stand next to him [Hemsworth],” Evans concedes. “Magic, CGI, stuntmen,” Evans says, downplaying the effort it takes for him to get into super-soldier shape. So, having been in the modern world for a while now, is Steve Rogers totally settled in? “He’s not just amazed at cell phones and the Internet, he’s up to speed, but I think he’s looking for a place to belong.” Following the collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D., Rogers, used to following orders all his life, has to re-evaluate his place in the world. “He’s looking for home,” Evans says.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson finds being a part of the established Marvel Cinematic Universe “overwhelming and surreal”, and is grateful to have been chosen by Whedon for the part. “What Joss did in the first one seemed like a mission completely impossible to do, that everyone had their moment… he has that tone when you can have a journey, be emotional and sad at moments and be light-hearted and action-packed.” He notes that he thoroughly enjoys working on Marvel movies – and that there will presumably be many more to come.

InAvengers: Age of Ultron, Paul Bettany steps out of the recording booth to play Vision. “They’re making me work for my money,” he jokes. “I used to turn up for 45 minutes in a dark room and get a bag of cash. Now I have to work.” He says that his kids are absolutely excited, and that, prior to his playing Vision, “they had no interest in what I did”. He is pretty impressed that his children were able to keep his casting as Vision secret for a year and a half.

“That you know of,” Hardwick adds.

The big bad of the piece, Ultron himself a.k.a. James Spader, has done Comic-Con last year for the TV series The Blacklist. “I’ve always thought my whole life that life could never get weird or crazy enough for me and I’ve got to tell you one thing – this place may be the craziest, weirdest place!”

“You should now pat yourselves on the back everyone, that you are part of James Spader’s weird fever dreams,” Hardwick jokes.

“I’m playing an 8-foot robot in this movie,” Spader says about Ultron. “I’ve always played humans and shooting this film was as startling and surprising and challenging and exciting as coming here, truthfully, for the first time. Doing this film, everything was so entirely new”. He sums up his experience as just “unimaginably exciting”.

Elizabeth Olsen is last but certainly not least to speak on the panel. “What a list of people to follow, it doesn’t feel that great,” she says. Though she was at first intimidated by her potential colleagues, she says everyone was very welcoming. “It’s fun to bring a new element to the game, there’s now magic, there’s mutant – mutated people…”


Oops! The 6,100-strong crowd certainly caught that slip-up. Let’s hope nobody from Fox is at the panel!
“I think it ends up adding something kind of epic to the fights,” Olsen says of the introduction of magic into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “I practise daily just staring at a pencil and trying to get it to move,” she jokes. “You should see it, it’s like flying, I’m nailing it!”

At this point, Robert Downey Jr. chimes in. “She actually cast a spell on me two weeks ago and hopefully before this is all done, she’ll relieve me. It burns!” The audience gives that kind of laugh you give when you hear a dirty joke. “It could mean anything!” Downey Jr. puts his hands up in the air mock-defensively.
Due to her pregnancy, Scarlett Johansson can’t be here, but sends a video message. “Hey guys, I don’t mean to cramp your style but we’re kind of running out of time here. Hey Kev, you wanna be a doll and roll us that video footage?”

Oh yes. The first look at Avengers: Age Of Ultron.

We open during a party at Avengers tower. Thor puts Mjolnir down on the coffee table. Clint Barton is dismissive of the notion that only Thor can lift the hammer. “Whatever, man, it’s a circus sideshow, a party trick.” This leads everyone to try their hand. Tony Stark goes first.

“If I lift it, do I get to rule Asgard?” he asks. Thor says yes. When Tony is unsuccessful, he enlists the help of James Rhodes – both now wearing their armoured power gauntlets. Still no luck. Even Cap can’t manage.

Thor asks if Natasha would like to try. She declines, saying, “That’s not a question you want answered.”
Tony postulates that it’s some kind of biometric identification system. “Whosoever carries Thor’s fingerprints is, I think, the literal translation?”

Thor has a simpler answer: “You’re not worthy.”

It’s all fun and games until Ultron crashes the party. “How could you be worthy?” the robot asks in a menacing metallic voice. “You’re all killers. You want to protect the world but you don’t want to change. There’s only one path to peace – extinction.”

We then segue into the teaser trailer. “I had a vision,” Ultron says in voiceover. “The whole world screaming for mercy.” We see scenes of the expected superhero mayhem, the highlight of which is a clash between the Hulk and Iron Man in his robust Hulkbuster armour. We also glimpse Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s powers in action as a chillingly creepy remix of I’ve Got No Strings from Pinocchioplays in the background. Another key visual is Captain America’s shield, shattered.

“It’s the end,” Tony says. “The end of the path I started us on.”

“Nothing lasts forever,” Natasha agrees.

At the end of the trailer, Ultron intones, “There are no strings on me.”

Gepetto sure had it easier than Tony Stark.

Hardwick wonders aloud how Marvel will top Ultron in the bad guy stakes.

On cue, Josh Brolin, his left hand covered in a toy Infinity Gauntlet, emerges, jumping on the table and punching the air with his bejewelled fist. Brolin will provide the voice and performance capture for the dastardly intergalactic warlord Thanos, who will appear in Guardians Of The Galaxy before he ever tangles with the Avengers. “Where’s my rose?!” Brolin demands. As RDJ hands him one, Brolin stuffs it into his mouth, sending petals flying.



We’re already all giddy, but there’s one last thing: a video message from Chris Pratt and James Gunn, star and director respectively of Guardians Of The Galaxy. The conceit of this clip is that they aren’t aware that the camera is already rolling and are discussing what they should say to the Hall H audience. Gunn broaches the subject of announcing a sequel. “Too bad we don’t have the balls,” he sighs as the screen cuts to the GotG logo. Over the top is scrawled, chalk-like, the number “2”. Beneath it is the release date – July 28 2017. Early word of mouth for Guardians has been overwhelmingly positive, so it is no surprise a sequel would be coming – though the way in which it is announced is certainly amusing.

And that’s our day in Hall H. We hope that through these 8000+ words, it feels like you, dear reader, were there too.