This is Chris Lopez's third report from San Diego Comic-Con 2017. - editor
As I shared yesterday, I got into Hall H after all that waiting in line. From 10AM-7:30PM, there were panel discussions, trailers, and extended clips from the most popular television series of the year. However, it’s rarely the case that someone in Hall H is there to see every panel. Some endured the lines just to guarantee a good spot in the hall for one or two panels among the seven scheduled. Since you can’t leave the hall for longer than one panel without having to reenter the ever growing Hall H line, it’s better stake out a spot and stay put.
This is what I had to do, since the panel I was most (and honestly only) interested in was for The Defenders at the end of the day. Queued up before that panel were panels on The Big Bang Theory, Fear the Walking Dead, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Twin Peaks, and Preacher.
It was easier to follow the panels on the shows that are only on their 1st or 2nd season, but I was pretty much lost during the shows that are on their 11th season, like The Big Bang Theory. I was an outsider most of the day, but this position quickly became a unique vantage point. As a “non-fan” it was fascinating to hear the crew and cast reflect on their work as artists in general and witness the camaraderie these projects have cultivated.
While many of us may hold these actors, writers, and directors in high regard, they recognized all of the filmmakers they admired and were star-struck by themselves. The creators of The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, Dave Erickson and Robert Kirkman, constantly praised the work and guidance of the recently deceased George Romero. “He demonstrated how to make poignant social commentaries through horror and zombie films, raising the cultural significance of these stories to a new level. We owe him so much,” Erickson said. The cast members of Twin Peaks also spent a considerable amount of time commending the work of David Lynch, with Naomi Watts claiming, “He’s the only one in the business who still gets me star-struck, because he’s, well, David Lynch.” Seeing Watts and other industry leaders like Lost creator, Damon Lindelof, geek out over their favorite stories and praise their favorite filmmakers, humanized these Hollywood titans, making them more relatable and making me more eager to catch up on their shows.
My night in Hall H concluded with two comic book adaptation panels: Preacher and The Defenders. I’m not as familiar with the former’s source material and am just getting into the show. They screened a new preview of the upcoming season and the director, Seth Rogan, and the lead cast spent time reflecting on the uniqueness of Preacher. The cast went on to unpack how the idiosyncrasies and grittiness of the show portrays that spiritual/existential journey in a way different kinds of people can relate to. These comments were substantiated by the many fans who came up during the Q&A session, sharing how much the show meant to them and how it had established community with other fans.
At this point, Hall H might have been filled up to capacity. After the Game of Thrones panel, people left by the droves. But when it came time for The Defenders panel, the flood gates opened and the room was buzzing with anticipation. Everyone was excited for a new panel, but no one, including the panel moderator, was ready for what was to come.
First, awarding winning, Marvel Television executive producer Jeph Loeb came onto the stage to greet the audience. He was absolutely floored to have a Marvel Television panel in Hall H. “I’ve spent all my Comic-Con years sitting with audience during these panels, but this. . . WOW!” he exclaimed. But before he could utter another word, San Diego Comic-Con board members approached Loeb with the Inkpot Award, which recognizes the outstanding work of a professional in the fields of comics, filmmaking, and other related media.
And before the hyper-emotional Loeb could utter another word, he was interrupted by Joe Berenthal, who plays The Punisher in various Marvel television series. After thanking the fans for the resounding applause that followed his entrance, Berenthal playfully “convinced” Loeb to screen a sneak peek into the upcoming Marvel Netflix series, The Punisher. This trailer delivers the high octane psychological intensity and blood soaked violence of the character that captivated audiences in Daredevil season 2. Following this unannounced screening, out came almost the entire cast of The Defenders (Simone Missick was the only one not present). Each cast member spent time explaining the state of their character at the beginning of the show given the events of their previous stand-alone series. But when it came time for Charlie Cox (Daredevil) to share, he stopped mid-sentence to say to Loeb, “Instead of just talking about this, why don’t we just show them something?” Expecting a new trailer or footage of a scene, the audience cheered, but then Loeb, giddily responded, “How about we show them the first episode.” And with that, the lights started to dim and the room shook with gleeful excitement.
If this first episode gives any indication of what the rest of the season will be, The Defenders will set the standard for superhero television extremely high. Visually, this show achieved the comic book aesthetic in ways I have not seen before in adaptations with color grading stylized uniquely to each character’s scene and cleverly shot compositions that constantly evoke the bordered panels of comic books. Yet the episode’s aesthetics didn’t distract me from the flow of the narrative, with writing that brings out the best of each character’s story (it even made feel something for Iron Fist!?). The Defenders promises a compelling street hero story that won’t sacrifice character development to the ever popular “universe building.” The whole series will be released on Netflix August 18th.