Despite some recent woes, the studio delivered a massive bounty in Hall H at Comic-Con.
Warner Bros. Pictures has not a good time of it in the last year and a half, with one high-profile release after another either underperforming or bombing outright. Even Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, while doing very strong business, failed to hit $1 billion at the box office, a feat accomplished rival Marvel four times now. But while that might make some studios shirk away from a big Comic-Con presentation (and indeed, Sony, Universal, Fox, Lionsgate and Paramount are all no-shows, with the exception of the latter's splashy Star Trek Beyond premiere), WB plowed ahead with a 2 1/2-hour blowout filling the main screen and more on the sides of Hall H with tons of footage and digital imagery, along with a slew of stars and talent onstage.
Truthfully, if you've seen the footage released almost immediately afterward by the studio -- a smart move initiated because of leaks from Hall H last year, but also making being in the Hall a little less special -- you've seen the best part of the morning. Conan O'Brien was a fine and funny moderator, but he didn't deliver any breaking news. And nor did anyone else who trooped onstage, whether it was the DC directors or the cast of Fantastic Beasts, who spent a strangely long time talking about costumes.
So here is a brief rundown of what we saw and what we thought:
DC: Lining up the directors onstage to say a word or two and basically wave to the audience seemed a bit awkward, and some of them, such as Zack Snyder and Ben Affleck, seemed uncomfortable. DC Films really doesn't have a Kevin Feige to act as ringmaster -- maybe Geoff Johns could step up?
Wonder Woman: Our coverage elsewhere of the trailer and brief discussion sums it up. Again, nice to see the talent onstage, but the program kept things moving and the beef was the trailer.
Justice League: Same thing here ... the cast came out and waved, there were no questions, and we got to see the admittedly excellent-looking footage, including the possible best-of-the-day first meeting between Bruce Wayne (Affleck) and Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) -- although it smacks a little of the same meeting between Tony Stark and Peter Parker in Captain America: Civil War.
Suicide Squad: A new trailer with some exciting footage was shown, and the cast came out for some banter. Will Smith enthused over Jared Leto's performance, saying that the Oscar-winning actor's commitment to becoming the Joker upped everybody's game. He also recounted the story about Leto sending Margot Robbie a rat in a box as a present from "Mr. J" while Robbie herself and Ayer discussed her doing almost all her own stunts.
The LEGO Batman Movie: It looks like it might be funny as hell, especially one scene where Robin (voiced by Michael Cera) rips off his tights and throws them at Batman (Will Arnett) that had the crowd in stitches. Arnett and director Chris McKay came out for a brief chat.
Kong: Skull Island: This could be a real sleeper and a unique new take on the well-worn Kong mythos. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, coming off his indie debut The Kings of Summer, promised an approach to the Kong story that we have not seen before, saying on the panel that they were avoiding the "beauty and the beast" storyline that has been the backbone of every Kong movie until now (well, not King Kong vs Godzilla). This is certainly the biggest Kong we've ever seen, and the trailer promises even more monsters to come. There's also a '70s vibe to the setting and the cinematography that gave this footage a distinctive feel. We're intrigued.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword: The tale of the first King of England has been told many times before, but never quite like this. Director Guy Ritchie has pushed his very modern sensibilities onto the legend, with star Charlie Hunnam saying on the Hall H stage that his Arthur is not exactly royal material: "We've seen the version of King Arthur where he's the noble guy who goes on the noble quest to become the noble king." Hunnam added that his Arthur is a hustler doing all right for himself, so when he gets the call to protect his country, "He's like, 'You know what? You can keep it.' But it's a destiny he can't deny."
And finally we came to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The J.K. Rowling-scripted film is set in the same universe as her Harry Potter saga, albeit much earlier (1920s New York) and is directed by David Yates, who helmed the last four Potter pictures. The film is also graced with a terrific cast, many of whom -- Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudof and Ezra Miller (yes, Ezra again!) -- were on hand for the trailer debut and the brief discussion that followed.
Yates said simply, "Everybody brought their A game because we knew we had to follow a legacy that means so much to so many people." As an added treat, Redmayne -- with the help of staffers -- went through all of Hall H and handed out thousands of wands, which he then got the audience to wave in the air and chant "Lumos Maxima" to summon up the trailer.
And that was Warner Bros: two and a half hours of top-shelf genre entertainment, with the DC stuff pulling the most interest but Fantastic Beasts holding its own nicely as well. The big slam dunk was the Wonder Woman trailer, probably followed by Justice League and Beasts, while the one misfire in the bunch was likely King Arthur. But for another year, Warner Bros. went big at Comic-Con and pulled it off in style.