Right across the freeway from Disneyland, the Anaheim Convention Center is home to all manner of nerdy madness this weekend thanks to WonderCon, which is basically like Comic-Con's scrappy younger sibling. The Orange County convention is a dream, a nigh-unlimited smorgasbord of delicious treats for fans of comic books, movies, literature, animation, television, costumes, and anything that fits under the umbrella of "geek stuff."
Of course, IAR is all over WonderCon this year. Managing Editor Jami Philbrick was on hand for today's presentations in the massive WonderCon arena, starting with the big show from Warner Bros.
First up was Edge of Tomorrow, the studio's science fiction actioner starring Tom Cruise (Oblivion) and Emily Blunt (Looper). Based on the Japanese novel All You Need is Kill written by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and illustrated by Yoshitoshi Abe, it's a futuristic war epic in which humanity battles against invading aliens known simply as "Mimics." Cruise plays Lt. Col. Bill Cage, a public relations officer. When Cage is dropped into combat for the first time, the untrained soldier is killed almost immediately, but inexplicably respawns at the beginning of his mission. Reliving his own death again and again, Cage is able to make more progress each cycle, his strange temporal pickle holding the key to victory over the Mimics.
In addition to unveiling a new trailer, the studio played to the sensibilities of the WonderCon crowd by bringing out Bill Paxton (Weird Science), who plays a supporting role in the high concept scifi story. Paxton, who spoke exclusively to IAR about his role in Edge of Tomorrow back at Comic-Con, invited comparisons between this character and Private Hudson, the panicked space-marine he famously played in Aliens.
Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) based much of the film's wartime aesthetic on WWII, specifically the Allied invasion of Normandy, and Paxton pointed out that Edge of Tomorrow opens on June 6th, the seventieth anniversary of D-Day.
Next up was New Line's Into the Storm, a disaster movie in which the small town of Silverton is ravaged by multiple mega-tornadoes, leading townspeople take shelter while storm chasers venture straight into these devastating cyclones.
Castmembers including Richard Armitage (The Hobbit Trilogy), Jeremy Sumpter (Peter Pan), and Arlen Escarpeta (Midnight Son) all took the stage along with director Steven Quale (Final Destination 5). A clip sampled the windy carnage that Quale dreamed up for Into the Storm, showing off the found-footage approach. This "first person narrative approach with handheld cameras," Quale said, was a result of the production's research of violent storm videos on Youtube.
Quale, a longtime James Cameron acolyte who served as visual effects supervisor on Avatar, also revealed that Cameron had crucial input on the ending of Into the Storm, which hits theaters nationwide on August 8th.
Earning by far the most enthusiastic response of the studio's presentation, however, was Godzilla, Warner Bros.' and Legendary's big-budget remake of Ishirô Honda's 1954 Japanese masterpiece. This second attempt at an Americanized Godzilla boasts an eclectic cast that includes Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass), Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene), Bryan Cranston (AMC's Breaking Bad), Ken Watanabe (Inception), Juliette Binoche (Chocolat), and David Strathairn (Lincoln).
Of course, the real star of Godzilla is Godzilla, the one-hundred story-tall radioactive reptile famous for laying waste to Tokyo. Director Gareth Edwards (Monsters) said on stage in the arena that Gojira himself represented a major design challenge. “I thought it was going to be the easiest thing in the world, designing Godzilla, but everyone has an opinion," he explained. "Designing Godzilla was the hardest thing in the world, because everyone has an opinion.”
Edwards introduced an extended clip from the film. Like so much of the promotional material, this clip played up that Godzilla itself is a disaster movie, one that evokes fears of more plausible calamity to make the title character a more tangible monster. The clip found innocent people fleeing in terror as a tsunami slammed through a tropical city. What brought the house down, though, were glimpses of Godzilla throwing down in a fight against another kaiju at an airport.
The footage provided a full-body reveal of the mysterious redesigned Godzilla. A new TV spot hyping Godzilla's May 16th release concludes with a roar and an image that ought to tide over any fans who couldn't make it to Southern California for WonderCon today: