Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
“Some of the presentations have been a little lengthy,” Fox Co-Chairman Tom Rothman told the audience Thursday at CinemaCon 2012 in Las Vegas, “but not us.” And he wasn’t kidding: He and fellow Co-Chairman Jim Gianopulos ran through the studio’s upcoming slate in less than the allotted time, with just one special guest brought out at the very end.
The bulk of the presentation focused on Fox’s summer movies, beginning with an extended look at Ridley Scott’s sci-fi epic Prometheus (June 8), which has been heavily previewed over the past few months. The reel began with a full look at a scene featuring the title spacecraft landing on another planet, led by the captain played by Idris Elba. We then saw the crew exploring the planet’s caverns, followed by quick glimpses of explosions, attacks and some mysterious creatures. The preview ended with the ominous phrase, “Big things have small beginnings.”
Next up was Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22), with narration from star Benjamin Walker as the 16th president: “I shall always think of myself first and foremost as a hunter.” The bulk of the narration featured Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg address over footage of him fighting off hordes of vampires and escaping from a train explosion, placing that famous speech in a completely new context.
For Ice Age: Continental Drift (July 13), the fourth film in the popular animated series, the Fox executives showed one extended sequence, featuring the movie’s prehistoric-animal characters adrift on an iceberg and encountering a deceptively nonthreatening giant crab.
That was followed by the comedy Neighborhood Watch (July 27), starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill as suburbanites who stumble upon an alien invasion (tagline: “Bros vs. UFOs”). The majority of the preview featured typical comedy antics from the three stars, with Vaughn hogging most of the screen time. It was surprising to hear the generally receptive CinemaCon audience of theater owners, who are inherently invested in movies’ success, barely laugh during the preview, and things didn’t get much funnier with the arrival of the aliens. The final big comedic moment involved the characters taking wacky pictures with an alien corpse.
The final summer movie was Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (Aug. 3), the third movie in the popular family-film series about an awkward middle-schooler. The most noticeable thing about the short preview was that, at 14, star Zachary Gordon is quickly getting too old to play a wimpy “kid,” and may need to move on to being a wimpy teenager.
Rothman and Gianopulos then provided a look at two dramas coming from Fox in the fall, both “inspired by actual events.” First was the inspirational Won’t Back Down (Sept. 28), starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis as two mothers who try to take charge of their children’s school in the face of an indifferent bureaucracy. Of Men and Mavericks (Oct. 26), directed by Curtis Hanson, stars Jonny Weston as surfing legend Jay Moriarty and Gerard Butler as his tough-but-lovable mentor.
Moving on from inspiration to ass-kicking, Rothman and Gianopolis then premiered footage from Taken 2 (Oct. 5), which reteams Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace and writer/producer Luc Besson. As the trailer pointed out, “This time they’re coming for him,” with the bad guys from the first movie taking revenge on Neeson. Grace looks like she may get to do some fighting of her own, as one scene has her packing heat at the direction of her father.
For the holidays, Fox is releasing the family comedy Parental Guidance (Dec. 25), starring Billy Crystal and Bette Midler as grandparents who have their hands full taking care of their grandkids, especially because their daughter (Marisa Tomei) won’t leave them alone.
The presentation wrapped up with its most extensive preview, as director Ang Lee arrived to showcase some footage from Life of Pi (Dec. 21), based on the acclaimed novel by Yann Martel. Rothman said the movie “reminds me of Cast Away,” and that the 3D is “used to envelop you in its emotional whole.” The world-premiere preview clip, with unfinished footage (which Lee emphasized multiple times), looked pretty murky in 3D, showing Indian teenager Pi on a ship with his family as it’s capsized by a storm, and Pi finding himself stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. “The 3D you just witnessed is not a gimmick,” Lee asserted, and he showed some early concept art from the movie before closing the presentation with another clip, looking much brighter in 3D and showing Pi and the tiger caught in a barrage of flying fish.