The forced-virtual Comic-Con@Home experiment may have been a bust one month ago, but Warner Bros. and DC Comics proved this weekend that online fan events can bring some excitement to the masses five months into the global coronavirus pandemic with DC Fandome’s “Hall of Heroes” event.
Over a span of eight hours Saturday, the studios brought together the casts and filmmakers of several upcoming tentpoles, including Wonder Woman 1984, The Suicide Squad, Black Adam and The Batman, with the groups engaging in lively chats and premiering buzzed-about new footage.
There was some breaking news, too, with Zack Snyder announcing that the long-awaited, almost mythical-in-status Zack Snyder’s The Justice League director’s cut will come in the form of four one-hour chapters on HBO Max in 2021. Dwayne Johnson revealed what characters will be joining him and the previously announced Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) as part of Black Adam’s Justice Society: Hawkman, Doctor Fate and Cyclone. We learned that the title of the Shazam! sequel will be Shazam! Fury of the Gods, and in what could be one of the most meta casting moves ever, the film might be bringing Sinbad onto the team.
The day’s festivities kicked off with Wonder Woman 1984, the once-again retro follow-up to 2017’s groundbreaking super-hit Wonder Woman; the films’s release date has been shifted twice since the coronavirus outbreak, moving from June 5 to Aug. 14, to its current date of Oct. 2. “We’re gonna stick it out, I can’t wait to put it in the cinema,” said director Patty Jenkins, who was joined by stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal. (While the day’s videos streamed “live,” all of the interviews were clearly pre-taped via web chats and edited into spiffy clips packages.)
Jenkins and cast jovially answered fan questions (including one from tennis star Venus Williams) before one of the day’s most emotional and feel-good sequences: the arrival of the original onscreen Diana Prince, Lynda Carter, who played the heroine on TV’s Wonder Woman from 1975-1979. Carter gushed over the first film, and Gadot’s performance particularly, recalling an exchange she had with her daughter after the movie came out. “She said, ‘Mom, I finally understand why everyone idolizes you. I finally understand. I finally get what Wonder Woman means to everyone.”
“You are truly a real-life Wonder Woman,” a clearly touched Gadot replied to Carter, whom she calls “Mama Bear.”
Lynda Carter tells us what her daughter said when she saw Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman:
— DiscussingFilm (@DiscussingFilm) August 22, 2020
Lynda Carter is EVERYTHING.
Can she adopt me? Can she hold me? Can she tell me 2020 is going to be alright? #DCFanDome
— Roxy Striar (@roxystriar) August 22, 2020
Jenkins closed the panel with a reveal of the second official trailer for the film, which opens with a young Diana darting through coliseum grounds alongside other Amazons. It then moves to 1984, where a nefarious entrepreneur (Pascal) inspires the bookish archaeologist Barbara Ann Minerva (Wiig) to embrace her dark side, and Diana is stunned to find Steve Trevor (Pine) alive in the ‘80s, where he’ll subsequently embrace fanny packs and parachute pants for laughs. The trailer climaxes with a high-flying fight between Diana and Barbara’s alter-ego, Cheetah, who we get a first look at in creature form. The action moves a little too quickly to tell if Cheetah’s feline CGI look can mark an improvement on the much-lampooned Cats of late-2019, but that shouldn’t be too hard.
In an ultra-short presentation that went by in a — wait for it — flash, star Ezra Miller, director Andy Muschetti (both It chapters), producer Barbara Muschetti and screenwriter Christina Hodson (Birds of Prey) showed off new concept art for The Flash which boasted Barry Allen’s new Bruce Wayne-designed duds. The long-gestating Justice League spin-off, which was originally set to be helmed by Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), then Spider-Man: Homecoming screenwriters John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, has not started production yet but is slated for release in 2022, and has generated some recent excitement with the announcement that the film will feature Batmen Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck. This plays into the idea conveyed Saturday that the film will toy with the concept of a multiverse.
“All of these stories and characters can start to collide,” said Hodson. “The cinematic multiverse is going to be born out of this movie.” For Miller, whose long hair and beard Variety likened to Jesus Christ Superstar, the panel marked his first public appearance since a disturbing video surfaced in April showing what looks to be him choking a young woman in Iceland during an apparent dispute outside a bar.
There were two components of the James Gunn-run panel for The Suicide Squad that stuck out most. One is just how much the writer-director loved the filmmaking experience. “By far the most fun I’ve ever had on a movie,” said Gunn, who double- and triple-downed on that sentiment throughout the presentation. (Don’t tell the Guardians of the Galaxy crew.) The panel included a newly revealed behind-the-scenes featurette that teased the follow-up to DC’s ill-received 2016 ensemble Suicide Squad as a “gritty 1970s war movie” that incorporates Gunn’s comedic sensibilities, according to producer Peter Safran.
The other thing is just how massive the cast is. There were no less than 1,800 — sorry, 18 — cast members who joined Gunn for the presentation, including Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena (in a suit, as always), Viola Davis, Pete Davidson, Nathan Fillion, Jai Courtney, Alice Braga, Flula Borg and longtime Gunn favorite (and perennial punching bag) Michael Rooker. There were so many cast members on the panel that a couple others, including A Wrinkle in Time breakout Storm Reid, were relegated to dialing in to ask them a question. “Don’t get too attached,” though, one actor teased in the preview, likely foreshadowing a high death rate in the film. “It’s the greatest cast I’ve ever worked with,” said Gunn. “I’m so grateful to all of you guys, except Rooker.” Ouch, to Rooker, but also the Guardians again.
In the day’s shortest film panel, ironically for Zack Snyder’s four-hour director’s cut of The Justice League, the filmmaker talked about his experience interacting with DC fans who for years lobbied Warner Bros. to #ReleasetheSnyderCut (the disappointing final product was finished by Joss Whedon after Snyder stepped down following the tragedy of his daughter’s death by suicide). “It was cool to have this conversation with the fans, I could feel this energy,” said the director, who produces alongside his wife Deborah Snyder and is using the project as a fundraising effort for suicide prevention. “It changed us, and made us feel incredibly grateful,” he said of first hearing that Warner Bros. was greenlighting a project many long dismissed as a fantasy. Snyder wrapped up the presentation by unveiling a first look at the cut, a warmly received montage of its many characters fittingly set to Leonard Cohen’s version of the church hymn “Hallelujah.”
From Justice League to Justice Society — and speaking of long-gestating fantasy projects — Black Adam has been in the works since at least 2014, when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was originally cast to play the 5,000-year-old villain who will likely be reimagined as an antihero. The Rock appropriately referred to the film as a “passion project” while hosting the panel (mostly) solo, at one point patching in costar Centineo (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before), who asked Johnson a question about his “squat game” that was more likely an inside joke. Johnson narrated two videos featuring concept art that dug into the mythology of Black Adam, the latter involving Justice Society’s character reveals. He then ended the presentation with a warning from his alter-ego to DC’s other supes: “Things will never be the same. The hierarchy of power in the DC Universe is about to change.” That will have to wait, though, until late-2021, when Black Adam finally, hopefully releases (the film has not yet begun shooting).
While The Rock held down the Black Adam offerings, fellow bruiser Jason Momoa was conspicuously absent from the Aquaman panel (he also missed an earlier Justice League team-up). Instead it was director James Wan and costar Patrick Wilson, who mostly reflected on their experiences filming the 2018 franchise starter, but also teased its planned 2022 sequel Aquaman 2. “I think the second one is a little bit more serious, a little bit more relevant to the world we’re living in today,” said Wan. “I’m excited for some new worlds, hopefully,” said Wilson, who will reprise his role as Orm. “I can absolutely guarantee you new worlds in this next one,” answered Wan.
The Shazam! panel followed Aquaman’s mold: a lot of remembrances from the first film, very little to spill about the upcoming sequel. Star Zachary Levi was joined by castmates Asher Angel, Meagan Good, Jack Dylan Grazer, Faithe Herman and Adam Brody as well as director David F. Sandberg. And did we mention Sinbad? A strange internet theory has long posited that Sinbad once played a genie named Shazaam in a 1990s comedy, though no proof of the project exists. The A Different World and Sinbad Show comedian joined the panel to the feigned “surprise” of Levi. “Sinbad, are you in Shazam 2?,” Levi asked. “You tell me, John Krasinski, am I? Because everybody thought I was in ‘Shazam 1’ before it even existed. Google it,” replied Sinbad. The phenomenon takes an interesting twist: The question is no longer whether Shazaam exists, but whether or not Sinbad will be in Shazam! 2: Fury of the Gods.
Finally, Robert Pattinson — now unavoidably known as R.Batz — introduced the night’s big closer, The Batman, acknowledging the fact the film had to shut down two months into production due to the coronavirus. “I’m very anxious to get back to work,” said Pattinson, whose appearance in the ‘dome would be short-lived.
It was director Matt Reeves’s show from there, as the filmmaker told host Aisha Tyler about the film’s thrust (it’s “a detective story” that is “incredibly personal), time setting (Bruce Wayne’s second year as Batman), inspirations (The French Connection, Taxi Driver and other “‘70s street, grounded stories”) and cast. He threw particularly high praise at Paul Dano, who he said “plays a version of The Riddler that no one’s seen before,” and shared similar sentiments on Zoë Kravitz, who plays Catwoman.
But in what was easily the juiciest video reveal of the day, Reeves showed the first teaser for the film, which opens on a crime scene with a victim whose face has been duct-taped (you really can use it on anything) and a note egging on The Batman. You wouldn’t know Reeves and company only had two months of shooting in the can from the wide-ranging preview, which hits the hardest in the final moments as the caped crusader pummels a gang leader with merciless shots to the face. This Batman has got some grit.
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