Like its better-known sibling Comic-Con, WonderCon is ostensibly a comic book convention, but has grown to encompass so much more than the adventures of spandex-wearing superheroes. Films that aren't based on comics and don't involve giant monsters fighting, for example, are showcased in Anaheim.
The Fox presentation in the Anaheim Convention Center's huge arena encompassed quite a bit, ranging from the straight-from-the-funny-books X-Men and Secret Service to geek-friendly franchise sequels and an adaptation of a popular young adult novel. IAR Managing Editor is on hand at WonderCon and he was present for Saturday afternoon's two-hour Fox presentation.
Jay Baruchel (This Is the End), who returns to voice Hiccup in DreamWorks Animation's sequel to How to Train Your Dragon took the stage alongside writer-director Dean DeBlois (Lilo & Stitch).
The duo answered questions from the crowd, discussed dragons in some depth, and rolled out the first five minutes of How to Train Your Dragon 2. Without spoiling anything, these five minutes indicate that DeBlois and company are eager to live up to high expectations set by the 2010 hit. The opening is energetic and even emotional, setting up a new chapter in the island of Berk's history. For anyone who isn't in Anaheim, a new clip hit online just yesterday.
The sequel picks up five years after the first film, with Hiccup now an adult. Dragon-riding has allowed the inhabitants of Berk to explore previously unreachable corners of the map. While out and about in uncharted territory, the young inventor and his dragon BFF Toothless encounter a fearsome rider who is trapping dragons in an attempt to build an army of the beasts. With the help of old friends and new allies, Hiccup must fight on behalf of both humans and dragons alike.
Another sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, is also a prequel. The latest addition to the venerable franchise is a sequel to the 2011 prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes, with director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) taking over for this entry, which seems to take some of its cues from Battle for the Planet of the Apes.
Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings), reprising his motion-capture role as ape revolutionary Caesar, was on hand at WonderCon, along with Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight) and Keri Russell (FX's The Americans), both of whom play human survivors living in the ruins of San Francisco.
This is now a community of about 2,000 apes," Serkis explained last month. "For the first eight years, the apes were looking down from Muir Woods to San Francisco and could see lights and fires, but now it's gone very quiet. Until this day in our film when this small band of humans comes up. That's suddenly a huge, dividing moment in the lives of these apes. There are some particularly strong reactions to the humans and that's the course of the story."
The panel saw the debut of a clip from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, one illustrating the tension between the two species vying for control. In this scene, some humans attempt to inebriate an ape, only to find that their condescension has serious consequences.
Also up for the hyping was The Maze Runner, an adaptation of the first novel in a bestselling young adult novel. The novel's author, James Dashner, was part of the panel, along with director Wes Ball and stars Dylan O'Brien (MTV's Teen Wolf) and Will Poulter (We're the Millers). O'Brien earned a raucous response from the crowd thanks the popularity of Teen Wolf, while Dashner acknowledged the influence of both the TV series Lost and William Golding's classic Lord of the Flies.
O'Brien stars as Thomas, a teenager who wakes up in an elevator with no memory. He soon finds himself the Glade, a walled-in area where youngsters like him are inexplicably deposited every thirty days. The Glade is in the middle of a truly massive maze, and when its inhabitants aren't trying to make their amnesiac community work, they're scrambling to avoid a gruesome fate from the dangerous creatures roaming the seemingly inescapable labyrinth.
20th Century Fox made use of the opportunity to debut the first clip from The Secret Service, the second film that finds director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) adapting a comic by Mark Millar (also Kick-Ass) and Dave Gibbons (Watchmen).
The sampling of The Secret Service felt very much like a British spy movie from the minds who made Kick-Ass, combining smoothness and dry cool wit with a certain energetic audacity. The clip is a showcase for Colin Firth (The King's Speech), as his superspy character recruits a young man (Taron Egerton, Hereafter) in a pub, where the spy lays waste to a bunch of brawlers using nothing more than his umbrella.
Finally, there was an X-Men: Days of Future Past panel with screenwriter and producer Simon Kinberg (X-Men: The Last Stand). The ambitious prequel-sequel has is a time-travel story. The future is a post-apocalyptic nightmare, a place where humans and mutants are openly at war, with the latter hunted down to near-extermination by Sentinels designed for just that purpose. In order to avoid this calamitous future, Professor X and Magneto team up to send Wolverine's consciousness back to 1973 in a desperate bid to unify the mutants of the past and save tomorrow.
Kinberg introduced a clip that was basically an extended version of the action-packed excerpt from the MTV Movie Awards last week. Familiar mutants Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), and Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), joined by fresh recruits Bishop (Omar Sy), Blink (Fan Bingbing), Sunspot (Adan Canto), and Warpath (Booboo Stewart), fight off advanced future Sentinels, each using their powers to stay alive. The longer version shown ends on a truly surprising note, one that makes the stakes of X-Men: Days of Future Past abundantly clear.