The lines. The crowds. The crazy stabbing in Hall H! Con-goers had to deal with a lot just to make it to Saturday's delayed Marvel panel for Captain America and Thor, but they were rewarded handsomely for their patience with an epic presentation of gods and superheroes -- followed by the single biggest collective geek-out moment of Comic-Con 2010.
Yes, the Avengers pwned the competition.
The restless denizens of Hall H couldn't have been more ready to consume what Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige cooked up, beginning with a sparse, if effective, presentation of Joe Johnston's Captain America movie with Johnston, Chris Evans, and Hugo Weaving in attendance.
A brief -- and I mean, really brief -- teaser reel set the tone for the highly anticipated 2011 tentpole: A slow scan of Cap's familiar red, white, and blue shield layered over WWII newsreel footage, leading up to a reveal of Chris Evans in his Captain America costume. "Next summer, meet the world's first Avenger," the screen read, before the trailer ended with a first person view of Evans hurling Cap's shield at the camera. When the lights went up, Johnston explained that they've only been in production for a week; the teaser shots of Evans in his costume came from test footage, and they're still working out the kinks. The final suit, Johnston explained, will borrow from Ed Brubaker's version but veer towards something slightly more modern. Still, he promised, the look of Captain America will feel appropriate to its 1940s-era setting.
Despite only having a week's worth of shooting in the can, Johnston shared a full scene with the Comic-Con crowd so freshly filmed that Feige pointed out, "It still has time code on it, guys!
The scene gave fans a glimpse of Captain America's main villain, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), leading his Nazi squad on a raid in Norway in 1942. Bent on locating a special item, Schmidt (who later becomes the baddie Red Skull) and his men blast their way into an ancient-looking tomb, menacing the older man tasked with protecting a certain secret. Schmidt opens a coffin and pulls out a white cube hidden inside -- but it's a fake, and he smashes it on the ground.
"The Tesseract was the jewel of Odin's treasure room," he declares. He moves to a wall with a tree etched across it and locates a box containing what he's after. He opens it, and a blue light emanates from within. "It's not for the eyes of ordinary men," warns the terrified man. "Exactly," Schmidt replies.
What's inside? The fabled Cosmic Cube, a device that can grant persons untold power -- and maybe drive them a little insane.
The scene, even in unfinished form, was impressive enough to satisfy fans even if it was lacking in actual Captain America footage. More importantly, it hinted at the idea that Marvel's upcoming slate of films will refer to one another as Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers make unprecedented cross-over references, building one comprehensive film universe.
Cappy's debut was followed by the Thor panel, which had a lot riding on its Comic-Con 2010 performance. Featuring an unknown star, a lesser-known Marvel superhero, and a director better known for adapting Shakespeare, Thor hadn't had the overwhelming built-in support of an Iron Man or even Captain America... so it's a good thing Marvel brought out the big guns and premiered a rollicking first trailer packed to the gills with story, character, action, romance, and external Marvel universe references. Most importantly? Chris Hemsworth's abs in 3D!
Thor will be released in 3D, but judging from the 3D trailer it'll be less of the gimmicky style and more immersive. Simple compositions were made visually intriguing by the use of the third dimension -- a top-down view of a building, Hemsworth's bare chest framed in a mirror.
The trailer opens in the desert, as we hear Clark Gregg interrogating a mysterious, stone-faced, blonde hunk of man. "Where did you receive your training? Afghanistan? Chechnya?" Shortly thereafter (actual film chronology not apparent) Thor breaks out of the secret government compound where he's being held, leaving a trail of busted agents and doctors in his wake. We flash to the ornate, fantastical world of Asgaard, where Thor wears his traditional Norse-style armor and is banished by Odin to Earth for leading his people into war with his uber-aggro ways. Thor wakes up on Earth, which sucks for him -- except he's found by a hot scientist lady (Natalie Portman) who he'll later kiss with the passion of a thousand lightning bolts! After some presumed character development, the newly mature Thor returns home to battle his evil bro, Loki, who's taken over the gleaming throne of Asgaard. And at the very end, Agent Coulson and a bunch of his men encounter a giant robot in the desert -- and shortly thereafter, discover that it's not "one of Stark's" when it blows their cars up with its eyes.
It's obvious that Thor will follow a few tried-and-true superhero origin story clichés. The reluctant hero with daddy issues; the power of a woman's love, courtesy of a winsome Natalie Portman as the human scientist nerd-girl who steals Thor's heart.
But if director Kenneth Branagh (that's "Ken" to the thousands of Hall H patrons in attendance) delivers a final film consistent with his Comic-Con trailer, fans might be too busy ZOMG-ing at Thor to notice.
Especially since, on top of Joe Johnston's Captain America assurances and the impressive Thor trailer, Marvel trotted out its FULL Avengers cast -- Sam Jackson, Robert Downey, Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Clark Gregg, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, and the newly announced Jeremy Renner (as Hawkeye) and Mark Ruffalo (replacing Ed Norton as The Hulk), along with Avengers director Joss Whedon.
The mere sight of their assembled Avengers onstage was almost too much for the geek contingent to handle -- and yet, during the fan Q&A, Feige promised more when asked by a Punisher fan if he plans to bring the Marvel antihero back to the big screen any time soon: "Frank Castle is under the roof of Marvel Studios... and we hope to bring him into the fray shortly."
Beat that, DC! (Seriously, we'd love for you to try.)