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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is Comic-Con these days anything other than a PR blitz for Hollywood?

San Diego Comic-Con

Science fiction, fantasy, and general geek conventions have always been, to me, about the fans: meeting new fans, talking to other fans about the things we love, celebrating with fans… in other words, very much a peer-to-peer sort of experience. I’ve never been to San Diego Comic-Con, but from what I hear about it these days, it doesn’t sound much like what conventions have always been to me. This is from Boston.com a few days ago:

LOS ANGELES—Comic-Con International, the four-day pop-culture celebration that takes over the San Diego Convention Center each summer, runs Thursday to Sunday. Here’s a look at some of the hottest films, TV shows and video games expected at the sold-out 43rd annual convention:

MOVIES:

— “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 2”: The first “Twilight” film made a Beatlemania-style splash at Comic-Con four years ago, with thousands of fans camping out since the weekend for a chance to see future heartthrobs Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart in person. The now-megastars are expected again in San Diego, along with fellow cast members Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Ashley Greene and Mackenzie Foy.

— “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”: “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson — who is a god at Comic-Con — takes J.R.R. Tolkien fans back to Middle Earth with his take on “The Hobbit.” Stars Sir Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis and Richard Armitage are expected.

— “Django Unchained”: Quentin Tarantino presents footage from his anticipated Western starring Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington and Christoph Waltz.

— “Elysium”: “District 9” writer-director Neill Blomkamp returns to the big screen — and to Comic-Con — with “Elysium.” The film stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, who are both expected in San Diego.

— “The Expendables 2 – Real American Heroes”: The world’s toughest movie cast — Sylvester Stallone, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren, Jean Claude Van Damme, and Arnold Schwarzenegger — are set to present the “Expendables” sequel.

— Other anticipated films include: Tim Burton’s animated “Frankenweenie”; Sam Raimi’s “Oz the Great and Powerful”; Walt Disney Animation’s “Wreck-It Ralph”; Marvel’s “Iron Man 3”; the 3-D stop-motion animation thriller “ParaNorman” and Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim.”

And that’s just the film list!

A glance at today’s schedule for Comic-Con shows a few items that sound like what a convention should be to me. There’s a panel called “No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics,” which is exactly the sort of thing fandom and conventions used to be about: exploring the fringes, enjoying our outsiderness. But almost everything else at Comic-Con seems to be about fans being talked at: by big-name actors and directors and comic artists and writers, by the Hollywood PR machine. Fans are a captive audience for being sold something by Hollywood, such as the new trailers and sneak previews of movies that are always a big deal at Comic-Con. What there doesn’t seem to be is space — literal or metaphoric — for fans to talk to one another about all this stuff, except in an accidental way, in passing. There doesn’t seem to be a formal way to fans to talk to fans about being fans or about the various films and TV shows and comic except under a celebrity glare, which naturally will limit the conversation.

Two years ago, I asked this QOTD: “Has Hollywood ruined Comic Con?” I’m not sure anyone is even asking that anymore — it seems to be a given that Comic-Con is now just a giant marketing opportunity for Hollywood… one that fans gobble up.

Is Comic-Con these days anything other than a PR blitz for Hollywood? If you’ve been to Comic-Con — or if you’re there now! — I’d love to hear your feedback. If you haven’t been, I’d love to hear your perception of Comic-Con, and how it compares with other conventions you’ve been to, and whether attending Comic-Con is a prospect that appeals to you.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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