SDCC: First day broke ground with 3-D footage

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

While celebrating its 40th anniversary, the San Diego Comic-Con made history on Thursday with its first-ever presentation of material in 3-D, including four panels and eight films featuring content in the ever-expanding format. Additionally, studios unveiled a wide variety of high-quality content from films of all kinds, showing more of more movies than almost any year to date.

Hall H was the place to be on Thursday, thanks to panels from studios such as Disney, Sony, Summit, 20th Century Fox and Focus Features. SCI FI Wire previously reported extensive coverage of Alice in Wonderland and Tron, now officially named Tron: Legacy, but Disney also conducted a Q&A with Robert Zemeckis, who previewed footage from his epic adaptation of A Christmas Carol. As the first panel of the day, it wouldn't be uncommon for the projectors and presentation quality to suffer from a few technical glitches, but Disney conducted their panel flawlessly, taking full advantage of Comic-Con's first-time use of 3-D technology and making sure that attendees were completely immersed in the footage from these upcoming projects.

Immediately after Disney, Comic-Con assembled a 3-D showcase featuring the animated family adventure Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Joe Dante's new horror movie The Hole and The Final Destination, which revives death itself to bring destruction and terror down on unsuspecting and, of course, comely co-eds. While many tuned out during the Cloudy footage, dismissing it as kid entertainment, the movie actually looks pretty funny; meanwhile, Dante's The Hole promised sophisticated scares, although it wasn't especially clear what was gained in the storytelling from the director's use of 3-D. On the other hand, The Final Destination truly exploited the technology to its fullest and most flagrant, throwing automobiles, rocks and body parts at the audience as the characters were gorily dispatched.

Astro Boy is a character that has been beloved for many years by many generations of genre fans, and Summit and Imagi's upcoming CGI update promises to be action-packed, if designed primarily for family audiences, and ones unfamiliar with the robot boy at that. The trailer, which cast members Kristen Bell and Freddie Highmore introduced in front of the capacity crowd, still featured some unfinished animation, but it showed that the film would be big, broad and action-packed. Meanwhile, the studio's slasher film Sorority Row suggests at best a by-the-numbers slasher film, although Carrie Fisher co-stars as a member of the faculty where the killer is laying waste to young co-eds. Regardless, these presentations ran approximately 12 minutes long—together—and were decidedly the undercard for the studio's current cash cow, New Moon; but then again, Twilight's frenzied fans are certainly more aware of both films as a result.

Fox brought nothing more than Avatar on Thursday, but they didn't need to: James Cameron's film lived up to the hype he has generated not only through interviews and public appearances, but through the 12 year wait time that followed the director's triumph with Titanic. If his sense of imagination weren't enough, however, Comic-Con followed Cameron's panel with Terry Gilliam's, where the oddball filmmaker debuted footage from The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus and discussed the film's relevance both in the context of star Heath Ledger's death and his own professional return to life.

Director Paul W.S. Anderson has made movies whose quality has been vigorously debated among genre fans, including Mortal Kombat, Event Horizon and, more recently, Aliens vs. Predator. His new film, Pandorum, stars Dennis Quaid, Ben Fister, Antje Traue and Cung Le, and promises to be more of the same, controversial, breakneck, futuristic action. After showing a trailer for the film, cast and crew answered a few questions but mostly failed to impress the crowd, which by then was overloaded by visual stimulus. That is, until the panel for Kick-Ass earned the day's second standing ovation thanks to footage of a little girl using more four-letter words than a battleship full of sailors while killing adversaries with guns, knives and her bare hands.

Unfortunately, Hall H had mostly cleared out by the time Park Chan-Wook arrived to conduct a Q&A and screen clips from Thirst, his new vampire film. Further drawing the evening to an anti-climactic close, the question-and-answer session was conducted entirely by moderator Dave McCoy, who focused on his own questions rather than allowing fans and the few remaining attendees to ask about the film or the director's considerable filmography. But after eight panels and 14 films, most folks who stuck it out were happy to end their day on a low-key note.