San Diego Comic-Con once again offered a stacked lineup of panels for some of pop culture’s biggest movies and most passionate fanbases inside Hall H last Saturday. The audience of 6,500 fans cheered loudly many times throughout the day, but at 5:30pm PST, a surge of electricity shot through the crowd. All of the energy that should have faded after a day or more of camping just to get in and seven hours of panels was completely restored. It was time for the main event— the Marvel Studios presentation.
Marvel Studios returned to Hall H after taking a year off in 2015. As studio boss Kevin Feige told host Chris Hardwick and the crowd, Marvel has a high bar for Hall H and will not come to Comic-Con unless it has plenty of things to show. Marvel Studios had more than enough this year, but it was not about the characters that have been mainstays of SDCC and the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the better part of a decade. There was no Iron Man. There was no Captain America. There were familiar faces, but this year’s Marvel Studios presentation was all about what’s new in the MCU.
— Marvel Studios (@MarvelStudios) July 24, 2016
The presentation felt like the beginning of a new era for Marvel Studios, complete with new branding. Marvel Studios has a new logo that emphasizes the history of Marvel Comics characters coming to life in the MCU. It also separates movies made by Marvel from those that are about Marvel characters, but made by other studios. The logo will play in front of all MCU films going forward and includes fanfare scored by Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino (Up). It’s a beautiful piece of branding that also made for an awesome hat, worn by Feige before each fan in the crowd got his or her own later in the presentation.
The film presentations kicked off with Black Panther. Audiences all over the world met the title character, as played by the remarkably talented Chadwick Boseman, in Captain America: Civil War earlier this year. Director Ryan Coogler (Creed) was the first to join Feige on stage. Coogler told the story of his first Comic-Con in 2009, sitting in the back of the very same hall, among the thousands of fans to whom he was now speaking. Coogler introduced his cast, starting with Boseman before adding Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, and Danai Gurira.
Nyong’o, who won a Best Actress Oscar for her brilliant work in 12 Years a Slave, will play Nakia. In Black Panther’s fictional home nation of Wakanda, the king (Boseman’s T’Challa) is aided and guarded by a group of powerful women— the Dora Milaje. Nakia is a member of the Dora Milaje, meaning Nyong’o will see plenty of action in the film. Nakia has an interesting future in the comics, turning into the villain Malice after her Dora Milaje status makes a romance between her and T’Challa forbidden. My guess is Marvel will pass on the idea of a woman going bad because she can’t be with a man, but there’s more than one way to turn a character heel if the studio wants to go in that direction.
Michael B. Jordan, who’s starred in Coogler’s Fruitvale Station and Creed, will play Erik Killmonger, the villain of the film. Killmonger is one of Black Panther’s more notable villains and was actually involved in Nakia turning into Malice, so there’s more fuel for that speculation. Killmonger can often be found trying to overthrow T’Challa as the leader of Wakanda. Historically, Killmonger also has ties to Ulysses Klaue, the character played by Andy Serkis in last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Killmonger will likely be the lead villain, but Klaue could still appear.
Gurira, best known for playing the katana-wielding badass Michonne on The Walking Dead, has been cast as Okoye, the leader of the Dora Milaje. This means we will probably see her fighting side-by-side with Nyong’o throughout the film, which is pretty awesome. Gurira certainly knows how to play a fierce warrior and she will be a force to be reckoned with in Black Panther. Best of luck to Killmonger and anyone else who challenges Okoye.
After laying out what looks like a very bright future for one of the MCU’s newest stars, Feige shifted the focus toward the most familiar face in the Marvel Studios presentation. Thor has been putting the hammer down on the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Phase One. His third film, Thor: Ragnarok, just started production on July 4, so there was no teaser to play. There was, however, a hilarious “Team Thor” mockumentary to answer one very important questin— what was Thor doing while Captain America and Iron Man were battling in Captain America: Civil War?
— DaleyPearson (@Daley_Pearson) July 25, 2016
Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) directed the sidesplitting short in which Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has moved into a small apartment in Australia with a new roommate, Darryl Jacobson (Daley Pearson). Thor spends his days dictating emails for Darryl to send to both Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, which receive zero replies. That’s probably because Thor reminds Tony about Ultron and pokes fun at Steve over a time in which Thor supposedly convinced Cap to slaughter some bad guys. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) has been hearing from Tony quite often, but declines every invitation to join the fight.
When he’s not bothering poor Darryl, Thor retreats to his room. The God of Thunder’s humble bedroom includes a small drawer made into a bed for Mjölnir and a bulletin board with notes on an important investigation. Thor is still very busy with the Infinity Stones investigation to which he assigned himself at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron. His main suspect is a big purple guy who has a magic glove and does not like to stand up (Thanos). The video has yet to be released outside of Hall H, but I have to believe it’s coming, perhaps as soon as the Captain America: Civil War Blu-ray. It’s just too funny and too good not to be watched many, many times.
The comedic stylings of Waititi, Hemsworth, Ruffalo, and Pearson were then set aside for a promotional video featuring a few behind-the-scenes shots and concept art. The shots from the Thor: Ragnarok set included Thor with a very short haircut and a number of cool, odd-looking creatures and people from various alien civilizations. The concept art was a dream come true for any fan of Thor comics, especially those who’ve read Walt Simonson’s legendary run with the character. The art featured Thor facing down Garm, the monstrous hel-hound that guards the entrance to Hel, which is the dominion of the dead ruled by the upcoming film’s villain, Hela (Cate Blanchett).
When Hela was announced as the villain of the film a couple months ago, some worried that another significant Thor adversary associated with the Ragnarok storylines from the comics would be a no show. Those worries can be laid to rest, as the concept art showed that Surtur, the fire demon of Muspelheim, will appear in Thor: Ragnarok. More than that, Surtur is going to battle the Hulk with the artwork showing the Green Goliath leaping right into the demon’s fiery face.
Speaking of the Hulk, we will also be seeing shades of the “Planet Hulk” storyline in Ragnarok. One piece of art showed the Hulk in full gladiator armor taking on Thor in an arena that could be run by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), an Elder of the Universe who was shown in a separate piece of concept art. It’s doubtful Thor and Hulk will spend much time at odds in the film, but one way or another, audiences will be treated to a rematch from Marvel’s The Avengers.
— Ryan Penagos (@AgentM) July 23, 2016
Thor: Ragnarok looks and sounds like the big sweeping epic that fans have been clamoring for since Thor hit theaters in 2011. There was so much of the best in Thor mythology crammed into that concept art that I’m sure the film is going to be bursting with it. It looks completely bonkers in the best kind of way.
In the aftermath of our Asgardian update, the lights went out in Hall H and mist started pouring in from the rafters. Lasers shot across the room, another piece of masterful Michael Giacchino music shook the walls, and as the mist cleared, our new Master of the Mystic Arts, Benedict Cumberbatch appeared. It was time for the Doctor Strange panel.
Cumberbatch, a Comic-Con veteran thanks to Sherlock, The Hobbit, and Star Trek Into Darkness, couldn’t get a word out over the deafening roar of the crowd that welcomed him as their new Stephen Strange. He could only wave and take a polite bow before finally getting out a quick, “Hello, San Diego.” Feige then brought out Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson (Sinister) who called back to the earliest days of Doctor Strange in Marvel Comics, crediting Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Derrickson then introduced the rest of his cast— Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, and Benedict Wong.
With the release of the movie less than four months away, Derrickson delighted the Hall H audience with two generous servings of Doctor Strange footage. The first was a clip showing how Stephen Strange and The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) met. Strange is brought to The Ancient One by Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) as the former seeks a cure for the nerve damage to his hands from a terrible car crash. Strange wants to get back to his life as a world-renowned neurosurgeon. He is excited to think he’s heard The Ancient One talking about cellular regeneration, but that’s not the kind of healing she’s talking about.
When Strange dismisses the power of belief, The Ancient One quite literally knocks him out of his body (as seen in the first teaser back in April). Showing Strange his ethereal self is only the first step before The Ancient One propels him across time and space and through several of the bright, colorful, psychedelic dimensions that made those Lee and Ditko comics stand out in the 1960s. All Strange can muster when he finally returns to the one reality he actually knows are two words, “Teach me.”
That would have been enough, but a new trailer was also unveiled. Most of that trailer was released online immediately after it played in Hall H. There was some additional, exclusive footage, however, that showed more of the relationship between Strange and Wong (Benedict Wong). The actor Wong described his character as a “drill sergeant” and a Master of the Mystic Arts in his own right. When Wong first met with Feige, he told the studio president that he would not be interested in the role if the character Wong was still “a manservant who makes tea.” Fortunately for everyone, Marvel Studios wasn’t interested in preserving those elements of the character’s comic book history.
The panel footage from Doctor Strange was mesmerizing. This is brand new territory for the MCU and, just as it did with Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014, Marvel Studios is going all in.
The Doctor Strange panel ended just as it began, in darkness. The crowd was already cheering for their next surprise and told what it was via “thwipping” sounds and a few familiar notes from the theme song of a classic cartoon. For the first time ever, Marvel’s most popular character was part of a Marvel Studios Hall H presentation, thanks to Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Production is currently underway in Atlanta, Georgia, but star Tom Holland and director Jon Watts took a break long enough for a quick trip to San Diego. They were joined by Holland’s fellow castmates, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Jacob Batalon, and Zendaya. Watts described his film as “a straight-up high school movie” that would show the “ground level of the Marvel Universe.”
Spider-Man: Homecoming is only a month into production, but Watts still had a reel of footage to validate his description of the movie. The footage opened with images of our favorite MCU heroes via their actors’ real-life yearbook photos. It then welcomed the viewer to Midtown High where Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his friends are really and truly high school kids. Parker distracts himself with YouTube videos of Spidey’s exploits in Captain America: Civil War, but can still answer his teacher’s science questions more accurately than his classmate played by Revolori (who later told Entertainment Weekly that he is playing famous Midtown High bully Flash Thompson). Later on, it’s time for “Women’s Studies,” which is just Parker and his pal staring at the girls they’re crushing on. They hope to stop themselves before it gets creepy, but as Zendaya’s Michelle tells them, it’s “too late.”
The movie just looks and feels more like high school than any of the previous Spider-Man movies. The experience is so much more true to life. The footage concluded with a couple quick shots of Spider-Man running on the back of a semi-truck and crawling up a wall before a final stinger at the end showed the film’s big bad, the Vulture. This was a CGI version of the character so we could see the suit and it looks a lot like the concept art above. There just wasn’t any Michael Keaton, but he hasn’t even started filming yet. The Hall H audience loved the footage and Marvel Studios is proving that all Spider-Man ever really needed was to come home to the people who know him best.
Four years ago, Guardians of the Galaxy was officially announced in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con. A year later, the first-ever footage from the film, after only 12 days of shooting, was premiered in the same room. A year after that, a sequel to the film was announced weeks before the first film would even come out. Falsely written about as Marvel’s biggest risk (that was and will forever be Iron Man), Guardians of the Galaxy was still a gamble given that many in the dedicated Hall H crowd were saying “Who?” when it was announced. Now, the Guardians are household names and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was the main event panel of the main event presentation.
Feige didn’t waste time bringing out a very fired up James Gunn. The director emphatically declared his love for Comic-Con and the Hall H campers who’d waited in line so long to get the first look at his new film. The sweet sentiments filling the room quickly soured, though, when the Ravagers stormed through the crowd and took over the stage. Led by the gruesome Taserface (Chris Sullivan), the Ravagers took the seats that had been reserved for the Guardians cast and refused to leave until Gunn made them.
With the Ravagers out of the way, but still on the sides of the stage, Gunn introduced his cast. The first man out was Star-Lord himself, Chris Pratt, followed by Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Elizabeth Debicki, and Kurt Russell. Saldana, Gillan, and Bautista are reprising their respective roles as Gamora, Nebula, and Drax while Klementieff and Debicki will play the respective new characters, Mantis and Ayesha. Mantis will be a member of the Guardians while Ayesha is the high priestess of a group Gunn identified as the Sovereign people. No one was saying which character Kurt Russell was playing… yet.
Gunn then rolled the first look any audience has had at GotG Vol. 2, which wrapped production a little over a month ago. In the clip, Yondu’s (Michael Rooker) Ravagers have turned on him, Rocket, and Baby Groot. We don’t know why Rocket and Baby Groot are there with Yondu, but in any event, the Ravagers are set to turn Rocket and Yondu over to the Kree while keeping the “too cute to kill” Baby Groot as a tortured pet. Yondu has an escape plan, which requires a new prototype fin for the top of his head. Baby Groot can roam freely enough to get it, but he doesn’t understand things quite as well in his smaller form, so he brings back the wrong, hilarious item time and again before getting it right.
With a new, more comic-book-accurate fin atop his dome, Yondu can whistle their way to freedom with his arrow. One-by-one-by-several, the Ravagers start dropping as Yondu and his new pals make their escape to the tune of “Come a Little Bit Closer,” by Jay and the Americans. Baby Groot exacts some revenge for himself on one Ravager in the cutest, most badass attack I’ve ever seen. Baby Groot is a star and global audiences will fall in love with the pint-sized version of their favorite Guardian from 2014 all over again. He’s impossibly precious.
Seeing the reaction to his scene as the perfect point of entry, Rooker finally joined the cast on stage, but in character and in full Yondu makeup! He really wanted to show off his new fin.
The Hall H crowd was now in a world where Yondu and Kurt Russell could occupy the same stage. As weird and as cool as that was, there was still the lingering question of which character Russell was playing. Many had assumed that Russell would be Star-Lord’s father in the film and they were right. Another reel of footage was played that introduced Russell as Star-Lord’s dad, Ego. A living planet, Ego created a body for himself including, as Ego clarified for a curious Drax, the piece of male anatomy needed for procreation.
The footage also showed the Guardians on what looked like a job-for-hire that takes place early in the film. They were also shown in front of Ayesha with Star-Lord trying but failing to prevent Rocket from offending the Sovereign people. In that meeting, Nebula appears to be a prisoner of the Sovereign, so this could be where she is first reunited with the Guardians and becomes a reluctant member of the team. Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” played over the footage, which also included a shot of Sylvester Stallone standing in front of Yondu in what could be a Nova Corps uniform, but we did not get a complete look at the costume.
There was more with the Guardians trading verbal jabs at each other, but I’ll leave the rest of the puns to the trailers and the final film. The main point here is that the Guardians are picking up where they left off with another cool, cosmic story with characters we love. It will be tough to match the achievements of the first film, but based on what was shown in Hall H, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has a shot.
As an added Guardians bonus, a behind-the-scenes video was shown to announce Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT, a new ride coming coming to Disney’s California Adventure in 2017. The attraction will give the rider a chance to help the Guardians escape The Collector’s museum. More information on the ride can be found at the bottom of this article.
Moderator Chris Hardwick called for a group photo at the end of the presentation. He and Feige thought it would be a good idea to not only have all of the GotG Vol. 2 cast in the photo, but all of the actors who were there for the Marvel Studios presentation. That list included one more person who had not previously been on stage. Kevin Feige formally introduced Brie Larson as Captain Marvel and invited her out in front of Hall H for the epic photo op.
The crowd exploded upon hearing the newly-minted Oscar winner from Room will be Carol Danvers in the MCU. Reports that Larson was the favorite to land the role have been out for several weeks. She was my top pick for the role and with her already in Hall H earlier on Saturday for Warner Bros.’ Kong: Skull Island, I could not help but think she would be back on stage later that day and thankfully she was. Larson will obviously star in Captain Marvel, but could appear before that in other Phase Three films like Avengers: Infinity War Part 1.
What was it like to see a brand new MCU superhero introduced for the very first time? See and hear the video below.
The Marvel Studios presentation began, continued, and ended with a bang. It was one of the most memorable Hall H presentations from a studio that helped put the big room inside the San Diego Convention Center on the map. The greatest victory, though, was that most of the cheers were for brand or relatively new faces in the MCU. Yes, Thor: Ragnarok looks great and was received very well, but Marvel’s presentation did not rely on that familiar face.
Marvel Studios continues to make characters typically known only (or mostly) to dedicated comic book readers into household names. Even though Marvel has already made enough superhero stars to propel its shared universe franchises for more than a decade, the studio continues to introduce and emphasize new characters. This year, Marvel Studios wowed Comic-Con with a relatively new franchise in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and soon-to-be franchises Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel. These are the characters that will thrill audiences not just in Phase Three, but Phase Four and beyond.
Once again, with the SDCC lights on bright, Marvel Studios has risen to the occasion to get us excited about the next adventures of the characters we love and the adventures of the characters we will love next.
For more on the Marvel Studios presentation, you can listen to the latest Modern Myth Media podcast in which I react to all the superhero movie panels inside Hall H at Comic-Con on Saturday. The Marvel Studios segment begins at 26:20.
Mark your calendars with the release dates for all of the films in this year’s Marvel Studios presentation:
- Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017
- Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017
- Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017
- Black Panther – February 16, 2018
- Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019
And here, as promised, is the full announcement for Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT along with additional concept art.
Debuting in summer 2017, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! will take Disney California Adventure park guests through the fortress-like museum of the mysterious Collector, who is keeping his newest acquisitions, the Guardians of the Galaxy, as prisoners. Guests will board a gantry lift which launches them into a daring adventure as they join Rocket Raccoon in an attempt to set free his fellow Guardians. The new attraction will transform the structure currently housing The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ into an epic new adventure, enhancing the breathtaking free fall sensation with new visual and audio effects to create a variety of ride experiences. Guests will experience multiple, random and unique ride profiles in which the rise and fall of the gantry lift rocks to the beat of music inspired by the film’s popular soundtrack.