It's impossible to experience everything at Comic-Con. It's massive and chaotic. Some of the best panels overlap with one another. And for those who can't get press credentials, waiting to see a teaser for your favorite film can involve sleeping overnight on the streets of San Diego while waiting in line.
That's all to say that this is a very personal list. I did not attend every panel or see every trailer, though I did make it to the two major panels: Warner Bros. and Marvel, both of whom presented an impressive slate of upcoming films. Here are my takeaways from my time in San Diego, from the trailers for Wonder Woman and Spider-Man: Homecoming to Will Smith and Sophie Turner lighting up their Suicide Squad and Game of Thrones panels, respectively.
All Things Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman turned 75 this year. That means it's taken three-quarters of a century to get the character to the big screen and over a decade for a big studio to put out any solo female superhero film.
Perhaps that's why the excitement was palpable in the massive Hall H when the Wonder Woman trailer premiered. During that Warner Bros. panel, a fan thanked Gal Gadot for encouraging a boy who said he got made fun of wearing a Wonder Woman t-shirt when she was at Comic-Con last year.
In response to the fan's praise, Gadot emphasized that Wonder Woman is a universal character: “I wanted to portray this character in a way that everyone could relate too. Not only girls, not only boys, but men and women too,” said the actress.
At a later, smaller panel celebrating Wonder Woman's 75th birthday, director Patty Jenkins echoed the sentiment. “Why do white men get to be universal and everyone else has to be a smaller story?” she asked, to cheers.
The Black Panther Cast Revealed
Chadwick Boseman made his first appearance as Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War earlier this year. Now the character's solo outing—Marvel's first film with a black superhero as the lead—is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated superhero movies to date thanks to its newly-revealed cast.
Director Ryan Coogler shared onstage that his longtime collaborator Michael B. Jordan—they worked together on Creed and Fruitvale Station—will play villain Erik Killmonger. He also announced Lupita Nyong'o will play Nakia and Danai Gurira will play Okoye, both warriors in Black Panther's homeland of Wakanda.
The moment also had historical significance. This is probably the first time in history that a black filmmaker and four black movie stars have taken the stage at Hall H to promote a superhero film. “The superhero field is a field where there’s not a lot of representation,” director Ryan Coogler told Entertainment Weekly later that night. “It’s traditionally white male, but the fans look like the world. So, naturally, people are going to yearn to see someone flying around doing these incredible things that looks like them. It’s an incredible opportunity, but that’s what keeps me up at night – for better and for worse.”
Will Smith Reminds Us Why He's a Movie Star
Suicide Squad is being billed as an ensemble film, so it's easy to forget that Will Smith is the most charismatic guy in any room. He lit up the Suicide Squad panel at Comic-Con answering almost every question, beatboxing and sharing anecdotes, including one about Jared Leto's infamous method acting as The Joker:
“This dude walks in and goes I have a message from Mr. J. And he puts a box down in front of Margot being like this is a gift from Mr. J in honor of your relationship. Margot starts to open the box, and there’s a note from the Joker. And I was like, ‘That’s cool. That’s funny. Jared is, like, taking it real serious,' And Margot opened the box and there was a live rat in the box. I was playing Deadshot, but if I had pearls on I would have clutched them.”
Here's another great answer from Smith about how his kids reacted to him being cast in the film: “No matter how cool you think you are, your kids think you suck. So this is like the first time where I’m cool for real. My kids are doing what I say for at least the next couple of months. It’s a really good look.”
Don't let all the other actors in the trailer fool you: Will Smith is a bonafide movie star in the way that only a handful of people in this world are endlessly watchable. Let's hope he gets the screentime he deserves.
A Q&A With Edward Snowden
Technically, this was not an official part of San Diego Comic-Con. But this screening of Snowden, Oliver Stone's upcoming film about the NSA leaker featured a special guest: Edward Snowden himself, who answered questions after the movie via video chat.
When asked about his quality of life in Russia, where Snowden got stuck after the U.S. revoked his passport, Snowden said, "I can confirm I do not live in a box. I have a surprisingly free life."
He also weighed in on the election: "When someone’s defense for their activities is this was legal, ‘I didn’t break any laws,’ that’s a very weak defense. The legality of a thing is entirely distinct from the morality of it,” he said.
Stone compared directing Snowden (who has a cameo in the film that we won't spoil) to directing Donald Trump. “The difference between Donald and Ed, and I love the man in a weird way, is that [Donald Trump] jumped up after every take and said, ‘Wasn’t that great?'” Stone said.
Brie Larson Becomes Captain Marvel
At Disney's massive Comic-Con panel, the emphasis was on shock and awe. The company teased five upcoming movies and a Guardians of the Galaxy theme park ride, dropping new footage every few minutes (and skipping over fan questions). However, after eliciting screams for over an hour, Marvel still had one last surprise up its sleeve: Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson is joining its ranks.
It had been long rumored that Larson would star in Marvel Studio's first female solo superhero film Captain Marvel. That didn't stop fans from losing their cool when she came onstage. As is true with Wonder Woman, the fans at Comic-Con are very ready for more women onscreen. And Larson, who has demonstrated comic range in Trainwreck and dramatic heft in Room just in the last year, is a great fit for the cocky, perfectionist fighter pilot with superhuman abilities.
The Spider-Man: Homecoming Teaser
Do we really need a third Spider-Man franchise in 15 years? Marvel is making an excellent case. Director Jon Watts and star Tom Holland dropped the first footage at Comic-Con, and it turns out the "homecoming" in the film's title might actually be referring to a high school dance. (Miraculously, the footage has not leaked online yet.)
The hilarious teaser ran through a day for Peter Parker in high school. We saw him watching himself fight in the Avengers on YouTube during class, try to overhear as girls debated their favorite Avengers and do coordinated handshakes with his best friend.
Panel host Chris Hardwick compared the footage to a John Hughes film. “It’s a straight up high school movie. It’s about a 15 year old kid. This is the ground level of the Marvel Universe,” Watts said. “We know what it’s like to be a playboy billionaire…a Norse God…and now we’ll know what it’s like to have just gone through puberty.”
Sophie Turner forcing the Game of Thrones cast to take shots
Before the Game of Thrones panel got started, one of the creators, David Benioff, apologized to the audience for their answers: He said Sophie Turner had made the group take shots before they came onstage. Perhaps it was the alcohol, but Turner also gave a delightfully frank answer to a question many have been asking since "The Battle of the Bastards:" Why didn't Sansa tell Jon Snow that Littlefinger was coming with reinforcements?
“Sansa didn’t tell Jon because she wanted all the credit,” Turner said laughing. “And it was a more dramatic moment when they show up, and it makes for better television.”
Indeed, she later said this could cause problems between the two characters, since Sansa may think she's better suited to rule the North. "I’m not sure she thinks Jon is capable of being King of the North. She thinks he doesn’t have the knowledge and experience that she has," she said, adding: "And I concur.”
Sherlock Is Back
As good as Doctor Strange may end up being, there's something particularly delightful about seeing Benedict Cumberbatch back in the role that made him famous. The star took time off from promoting his superhero film in order to join the Sherlock creators and release the first trailer for season four.
It's been three long years since the last full season of Sherlock (though fans did get a Victorian-set Christmas special last year to tide them over). The new season teased Sherlock shooting a gun, getting into a physical fight and looking genuinely puzzled. The panel said it will be the darkest season yet.
“It’s a genuine roller coaster,” Cumberbatch said at the panel. “There are quite a few tears.” Likely, we can expect some sort of surprise death (as well as perhaps a surprise resurrection).
Joss Whedon Keeping It Real
With Disney and Warner Bros. competing to see who could create the biggest spectacle in Hall H—screens that surround the audience, Eddie Redmayne handing out wands to every single fan, stilted Q&As with the fans (or no Q&A at all)—it's refreshing to watch one of the most prolific and influential creators of culture in our time, Joss Whedon, sit down for an hour in that same massive room that holds 7,000 of fans and give honest answers to their questions.
Whedon, who sat on the sat on the stage alone, began the panel by saying, "Thank you guys for coming out to watch my nervous breakdown." The man whose writing credits include The Avengers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Toy Story, The Cabin in the Woods and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog said he had nothing to announce—he's been taking vacation, worrying about being unemployed and writing something "completely different" from what he's done before.
But he did share plenty of knowledge, like how the best advice he ever got from his father is that the best writing is from something you watched. "It's stealing," he said, "but the best writers put a bunch of stuff in a blender."
He also talked about how trailers have ruined everything.
"You used to go to the movies and have no idea what you were going to see," he said. "That was the contract. I'll go see the movie, I'll open the box, I'll see what's inside. We don't do that anymore. We keep making it harder to. I have trouble watching movies after I've seen the trailer, because I've seen the movie. Unfortunately, changing it means we have to find a platform that people will come to with that contract — that contract of 'I don't know yet,' as long as there are some parameters."
South Park May Save This Election
South Park will air its 20th season in September, and yet it feels more relevant than ever. Perhaps that's because it produces the show week-of (kind of like Saturday Night Live) and thus have been able to stay abreast of current events in a way that The Simpsons or other comedic shows cannot. Last season, the creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone took on political correctness with the character P.C. Principal and some self-aware humor about what jokes cross the line.
They also introduced a Canadian Donald Trump character who builds a wall to keep Americans out of Canada. That character suffered a gruesome death, but Mr. Garrison, the stand-in for Trump in America, survives to campaign another day. Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone explained that they didn't expect Trump to be the Republican nominee.
"At the time [last year] we were like this Donald Trump thing is funny, let’s make an episode before that joke is over,” said Stone during the show's Comic-Con panel.
The show has historically taken jabs at Hillary Clinton too. It will be interesting to see how South Park deals with this election when the late night TV shows have struggled with how to mock it.