Fear and Loathing at San Diego Comic-Con

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I type this from the WIRED Cafe, where they have wifi and free food and also deafening house music.

Spend any time at all at Comic-con and it’s hard not to go all Hunter Thompson. There’s just so many damn people. Nerd culture has gorged and gorged, and then bloated, then collapsed under the weight of its own flesh. The excess flesh has turned septic and begun to necrotize, and that is the stench in the air in San Diego. This isn’t nerd Woodstock, it’s nerd Altamont.

I was up bright and early to pick over the carcass. First off, the New Moon press conference. (Don’t ask, I don’t want to talk about it.) The three stars were there, dazed and giggling and incoherent in the spotlights. They seemed nice and incredibly uncomfortable, as who wouldn’t be.

From there I decamped for a panel on Escapist Fantasy novels, which was a delight. Then I made for the belly of the beast, the infamous Hall H, the amphitheatre where the massive franchises contend for the mindshare of billions of fanboys and fangirls. Disney was running a panel on their upcoming 3D releases: A Christmas Carol, Alice in Wonderland and Tron: Legacy (thank crom they’ve dropped the Tr2n thing).

The line is literally a mile long. People who flew in can probably see their houses from where they’re standing. I am bedevilling publicists, since I’m not registered as press. Eventually the security daemons decide to let me through. But I am denied a promotional Tron coin.

Robert Zemeckis talks about A Christmas Carol, a Beowulf-type semi-animated juggernaut. Jim Carrey plays eight roles. Not for me, though every once in a while they fling Scrooge into the air, and the 3D effects create involuntary wonderment.

Tim Burton shows up to promote Alice, bringing about 30 seconds of footage, which they show three times in a row. Burton has done what he does, so the visuals are all gorgeous, especially the moony, plump Tweedledum and Tweedledee. (Apparently he has confabulated Wonderland and Looking Glass into a single story.) At the last moment Johnny Depp suddenly walks onstage, unbilled, and the audience emits the loudest squee in history.

Final act: Tron. Pure fanboy pleasure. The original director, Steven Lisberger, was present, as well as the cast (including Jeff Bridges) and the director of the new one (forgetting his name). They showed a bunch of still images, and a new sequence in which Flynn’s son goes looking for his missing father (that’s Bridges) in the broken shell of his old arcade. Anyway, the presentation was all charm. They seem bent on blending 80s-era kitsch graphics with new high-end CGI, which strikes me as a win. About this at least I remain optimistic.