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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Comic-Con overwhelmed by studio blitzkrieg

Twilightpanel

It's now all too obvious that Comic-Con, once a wonderfully oddball, Woodstock-like gathering of the tribes for fanboys and comic-book geeks, has become a giant propaganda megaphone for the big Hollywood studios. The San Diego Convention Center was so packed with Hollywood big-shot filmmakers and stars Thursday that the parking lot behind Hall H (where the studios unveiled footage from their slates of upcoming blockbusters) was jammed with black SUVs, their motors all idling, single-handedly spewing enough exhaust fumes to burn a hole in the San Diego ozone layer.

Comic-Con filmgoers could eyeball stars like Johnny Depp as well as see new footage from such must-see movies as Jim Cameron's "Avatar," Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland," Robert Zemeckis' "A Christmas Carol" and "New Moon," the new installment in the hit "Twilight" series.

But as both my paper and Variety pointed out, the fest was really a thinly disguised effort by Hollywood  to flog its 3-D format, which allows exhibitors and studios to make an extra $2 or $3 on each theater ticket. Doing his best Jeffrey Katzenberg 3-D huckster impression, Zemeckis called 3-D "the future," adding "It's happening. We're there." As Variety somewhat more dryly observed, the real purpose of the noisy hype wasn't just to energize the Comic-Con crowds, but also "to entice them to pony up the extra coin to see the pics in 3-D once they're released in theaters."

It was probably inevitable that the hard-sell studio blitzkrieg would inspire a backlash among older Comic-Con fans,some of whom are clearly horrified to see their once-cozy fest turned into a giant studio promotional extravaganza. No one captured the mood better than Heckler Spray's Stuart Heritage, who wrote a hilarious post decrying the alien studio takeover. He writes:

"The problem with Comic-Con ... is that it'll let anyone in now. It's not just a comic book convention anymore--it's where any old filmmaker can go with a couple of cast members to show 30 seconds of footage of their upcoming movie to a roomful of social inadequates because a 14-year-old executive at their studio told them that it'd be good for the movie's buzz. Take 'New Moon' for example. It's not really Comic-Con fare--purely because it's not based on a Marvel comic and there isn't a single scene where a sexy female scientist lets her hair down in slow motion--and yet yesterday at Comic-Con, 'New Moon' turned up to show itself off and probably pave the way for the giant 2010 'Sex and the City 2' Comic-Con panel featuring Sarah Jessica Parker tilting around in a great big bloody shoe."

In fact, according to this AP dispatch, the "New Moon" panel, which featured Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner, the film's three teen-dreams, was a shriekfest, with high-pitched screams from fangirls drowning out the introductions as well as much of the dialog from the clips from the new film--especially the clips that featured Pattinson and Lautner shedding their T-shirts. As Heritage put it: "The whole thing sounded so awful that we'd be genuinely surprised if footage of the event didn't end up on a terrorist training video by the end of the year."

Ah, isn't it wonderful when the Hollywood carnival comes to town?

For complete Comic-Con 2009 coverage, check out LAT's Hero Complex.

Photo: Kristen Stewart, from left, Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson at the "New Moon" panel. Credit: Getty Images

 
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