What was the most surprising thing about Thursday's Ender's Game panel in Hall H at Comic-Con? That it was Harrison Ford -- Harrison Ford! -- who brought the house down with laughter.
The famously curmudgeonly Ford was making only his second appearance at Comic-Con -- after showing up in 2010 for the first time ever to promote Cowboys & Aliens -- to talk about playing Col. Graff in the upcoming film based on Orson Scott Card's classic novel.
Ford was accompanied at the panel by director Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), producer Roberto Orci (Star Trek Into Darkness) and young stars Asa Butterfield and Hailee Steinfeld. Hood got things off on a positive, rousing note by standing up and shouting, "I've dreamed about" appearing in Hall H at Comic-Con, launching the panel with what seemed like genuine excitement.
A new, very fast-moving trailer was debuted, showing plenty of battle action interspersed with scenes of Ford and Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham debating whether Ender was ready for the grave burden about to be placed on him. The trailer moved so quickly that it was hard to take it all in (even with two viewings) but at least showed that Hood has mounted an impressive visual spectacle full of true sci-fi scope.
Then it was on to the panel, and two serious issues took center stage before the real clowning began. Ford -- getting off to a deadpan start by growling, "I am never coming here again" after he was interrupted by moderator Chris Hardwick at one point -- explained why he took the role: "I was drawn to the complexity of the moral issues here, the questions about the complex moral issues that are involved in the military. This book was written 28 years ago and imagined a world which has become an everyday reality. The ability to wage war removed from the battlefield is one of the realities of our life now with drone warfare. This was unknown 28 years ago."
He added, "The issues of the manipulation of young people because of their skills as soldiers, their conceptual freedom, was something that was really complex and interesting to me."
The next serious moment came up when an audience asked about the publicly aired views of Ender's Game author Orson Scott card, who has come out against gay marriage and homosexuality in general. The studio itself (Summit/Lionsgate) issued a statement last week distancing itself from Card's views, and Orci backed that up, saying, "[We] support Lionsgate-Summit's statement in defense of LGBT rights as a part of all human rights. A lot of people worked on this movie, and a lot more people are working to get this movie out in the market, and I would hate to see all the efforts of these people thwarted for the opinions of less than a percentage of the people behind this movie. ... So, rather than shy away from any of the controversy, we are happy to actually embrace it and use the spotlight to say we support LGBT rights and human rights."
Then the goofiness began. When an audience member came up and asked Ford what Han Solo and Indiana Jones would say if they met each other, he was met with a priceless expression of befuddlement on Ford's face that had the crowd in stitches until the legendary actor finally blurted, "'Hi ... how are you?'"
But it didn't end there. Asked if he dreamed about playing a character like Indy when he was a kid, Ford gave the questioner another long, withering stare before responding, "I used to dream about being Indiana Jones when I was younger, too. Not so much anymore."
Finally, queried as to whether Han Solo would be a good soldier in Hyrum Graff's army, Ford stretched the silence out to the max -- making the crowd laugh even harder -- before answering, "I don't think Han Solo would be a good soldier in anyone's army. I think he's what we call now ... an independent contractor."
And that was that. After the more somber subjects brought up earlier, Ford played off his stoic, reclusive nature to slyly create some great comedic moments and bring the Hall H activities to a buoyant close.
Ender's Game is out Nov. 1, 2014.