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The Biggest Winners And Losers Of Comic-Con 2014

The Avengers and Game of Thrones impressed, but fans of Fantastic Four and American Horror Story: Coven were left in the dust.

Winner: Christopher Nolan and Matthew McConaughey

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Paramount Pictures

When Nolan and McConaughey made an unannounced appearance inside the massive 6,000-person Hall H on Thursday — a Comic-Con debut for both men — to promote their fall sci-fi drama Interstellar, it turned out to be one of the only genuine surprises of the entire week, especially on the movie front. On paper, Interstellar appears to be perhaps more cerebral than your typical Hall H-friendly fare, but the crowd ate up the first look at the film's new trailer (which Nolan said would be released to the public… at some point soon). Nolan could not be a more low-key presence, but it was clear he didn't need bombast to win over the Comic-Con throng. —Adam B. Vary

Winner: Game of Thrones, for breaking real news about Season 5

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Of the 21 things that needed to happen at Comic-Con, the TV one I was most exited to see come true was Game of Thrones announcing Season 5 casting — in particular, the trio of ladies who will play Dorne’s Sand Snakes. Although, judging from the insane roar inside Hall H when this casting video debuted, no one’s wildest dreams included Jonathan Pryce as the High Sparrow. As if the wait for new episodes in 2015 wasn’t already tough enough… — Jarett Wieselman

Loser: Legendary’s new King Kong movie Skull Island

Here's the flip-side of what can happen when you unveil a Comic-Con surprise: At the end of Legendary Pictures' brief 45-minute panel, company chief Thomas Tull showed off a sizzle reel of a man intoning dark portents of a primeval landscape as the camera moved across a jungle island during a driving rainstorm. Some fans began to cheer, thinking it was a surprise look at Jurassic World. Nope. Instead, the clip ended with King Kong beating his chest, and a logo proclaiming "Legendary's Skull Island." No one cheered. People seemed confused. One man yelled, "REALLY?!"

The above image, by the way, is from 2005's King Kong, but although Skull Island doesn't have a confirmed director, screenwriter, or cast yet, it does have a release date: Nov. 4, 2016. So there are at least two more Comic-Cons for this movie to make a better impression. —ABV

Winner: Director George Miller and Mad Max: Fury Road

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Pretty much every year, there is at least one movie that arrives under the radar and ends up blowing everyone away. This year, it was director George Miller's reimagining of his seminal Mad Max trilogy. Warner Bros. went all out to build up Miller as a "visionary" director, but it was ultimately the extended look at his movie that did the job. WB released a cut-down version of that footage online (you can view that above), but trust that what screened at Comic-Con — involving a lengthy chase through a gargantuan dust storm — was even more impressive, and weird, and breathtaking. —ABV

Winner: Tremendous TV trailers

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Aside from seeing your favorite TV stars in the flesh, the biggest reason we wait in such insanely long lines is to be the first to experience brand new footage from the upcoming season, and three television shows didn’t disappoint with their cinematic trailers. The Walking Dead, Arrow, and The Originals served up explosive (both literally and metaphorically) sneak peeks that sent shockwaves through the crowd and made our collective thirst for new episodes unquenchable. — JW

Winner: Zachary Levi

Zachary Levi

From parties to panels, no one could hold a candle to Zachary Levi’s Nerd Machine. In its fourth year, not only did the Chuck alum throw the Con’s most popular after hours dance party at Petco Park, but he did a phenomenal job of counterprograming Comic-Con itself by bringing in major talent (Nathan Fillion, Stephen Amell, Dylan O’Brien, and the casts of Supernatural, Orphan Black, and The Walking Dead) to help raise over $260,000 for Operation Smile. — JW

Winner: The cast of The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Writer-director Joss Whedon was unfortunately laid up in London after knee surgery, but almost the entire cast of The Avengers: Age of Ultron (minus the apparently "very pregnant" Scarlett Johansson) was on hand to show off a lengthy sizzle reel from their movie that electrified Hall H and brought the crowd into an immediate standing ovation. —ABV

Loser: Everyone on the 20th Century Fox movie panel

Kevin Winter / Getty Images
Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Over an interminable two hours, 20th Century Fox previewed five movies during its Comic-Con panel: The Maze Runner, The Book of Life, Hitman: Agent 47, Let's Be Cops, and Kingsman: The Secret Service. It was weirdly way too much and not enough, with each film racing through its panel and cursory footage screening, with no real sense of why half of movies were even at Comic-Con. (Let's Be Cops? Really?) Nothing popped, not even the compelling and incredibly violent footage from Kingsman, especially since stars Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson barely had time to field any questions. An attempt at casting a role for the movie's epilogue from the Hall H crowd also fell completely flat.

Part of the problem: Everyone was basically waiting for the new cast of Fantastic Four to show up. They never did. Wah wah. —ABV

Winner: Everything about Hannibal's "Pannibal"


Some panels boast amazing moderators, tout incredible panelists, or screen killer footage, while others have incredibly passionate fans who show up in dazzling cosplay. Then there was NBC’s “pannibal” for Hannibal, which boasted all of the above. Not only did host Jonathan Ross rock the mic right, but executive producer Bryan Fuller and his sterling cast more than made up for the absence of stars Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen with hilarious anecdotes, juicy new season secrets, and one tremendous blooper reel. And don’t even get me started on the wide array of jaw-dropping costumes sported by the thousands of fannibals that made Ballroom 20 a standing-room-only affair. — JW

Winner: Zack Snyder and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Kevin Winter / Getty Images
Warner Bros. / Via Twitter: @ZackSnyder

All week, one of the most common topics of conversation among Comic-Con cognoscenti (i.e., overtired movie journalists) was what, if anything, Warner Bros. would be showing off from its upcoming attempt to Marvel-ize its catalogue of DC Comics characters for the big screen. And WB didn't waste any time, launching their panel with director Zack Snyder, actors Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, and Gal Gadot, and a brief first look at Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It was just enough to satisfy the crowd (and the overtired movie journalists), and to sate everyone further, Snyder also tweeted a first look at Gadot as Wonder Woman — until next year's Comic-Con, when everyone will absolutely demand to meet the Justice League. —ABV

Loser: Audience Q&As

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

The most interesting part of every Comic-Con panel is invariably the audience Q&A, because it's also the only unscripted part. Alas, there were too many movie panels this year that passed over the audience Q&A completely, like Marvel Studios and Legendary. This was most evident during the otherwise successful Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice "panel," which basically consisted of Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, and Gal Gadot walking on stage, waving, taking a selfie with moderator Chris Hardwick, and then walking off the stage. Affleck seemed especially pained by the whole thing — the man has won two Oscars and endured a tsunami of fan hatred for simply being Batman, and the first chance he has to interact with fans is snatched away from him. —ABV

Winners: Celebrity moderators (specifically Yvette Nicole Brown, Stephen Colbert, and Aisha Tyler)

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Yvette Nicole Brown

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Stephen Colbert

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Aisha Tyler

If there’s one lesson to be taken away from Comic-Con, it’s that everybody geeks out over something, even famous people. The proof was on stage at the panels for ABC’s Once Upon A Time, Warner Brothers’ The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, and Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, moderated by Yvette Nicole Brown, Stephen Colbert, and Aisha Tyler, respectively. Each displayed a boundless enthusiasm for and an impressive knowledge of the project in question — Colbert even came on stage wearing his costume from his brief cameo in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug — earning them the love and respect of every fan in attendance. —JW

Winner: Natalie Dormer at Entertainment Weekly's Women Who Kick Ass Panel

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The Game of Thrones and Hunger Games actress didn't mince words when it comes to Hollywood beauty standards: “You’re watching us and you don’t realize how much makeup and how much lighting is involved when we look good. We have a lot of help where we are." She also argued that there are stronger roles for women in television right now than in movies: "Katniss Everdeen is as popular as she is because she's an anomaly." —Doree Shafrir

Loser: Comic-Con TV panel programmers

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Jarett Wieselman / BuzzFeed
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Let it be known that the men and women who program hundreds of annual Comic-Con panels deserve a round of applause for the insane coordination it takes to make those four days a reality. That said, there were several instances where major television shows were scheduled opposite one another, creating the ultimate TV Sophie’s Choice. The most egregious occurred with Friday’s conflicting Arrow, Sleepy Hollow, and Orphan Black panels. And don’t even get me started on the thousands of fans turned away from Saturday’s American Horror Story: Coven panel because it took place in the minuscule Room 6DE instead of Ballroom 20. —JW

Winner: Guillermo del Toro (and anyone wishing for Hellboy 3)

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There was maybe no one more excited to be at Comic-Con than del Toro, and it's a good thing, because the man was pretty much everywhere: at panels for the animated feature The Book of Life (he's a producer), the gothic horror film Crimson Peak (he's the co-writer and director), and the vampire horror series The Strain (he's an executive producer) — and even on the Comic-Con floor. At one point, during his Crimson Peak panel, he even polled the audience about whether they'd want to see a Hellboy 3, so the executives at Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures in the audience would hear their enthusiasm. The audience exploded in cheers. —ABV

Winner & Loser: Playboy and A&E’s Bates Motel Party

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Easily one of the weekend’s hottest tickets, the party attracted A-listers and random revelers in equal measure. But that influx of invites resulted in slews of celebrities being turned away from the party, after the fire marshal prevented anyone else from entering the establishment. — JW

Winner: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — no, really!

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The first season for Marvel's first foray into "in universe" television was shaky, to say the least, but you would never know it from the enthusiastic reception the show received at its Comic-Con panel. The showrunners broke some (relatively minor) casting news, fielded some particularly adorable audience questions, and debuted a blooper reel (watch it above) that played like gangbusters for the assembled fans. —ABV

Loser: William Shatner at the Legends Of TV Land Panel

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There's nothing cute about making fun of a 92-year-old woman about her age, but especially when that woman is Betty White — and especially when the person doing the mocking is 83-year-old William Shatner. His unfunny bits included taking out a 4.5 billion-year-old asteroid and saying to White, "Maybe you can remember." Wah wahhhh. —DS

Winner: Oculus Rift

Sandy Huffaker / Reuters

It seemed like everywhere you turned at Comic-Con, there were booths touting an "experience" using the Kickstarted virtual reality headset — for everything from Legendary's Pacific Rim to New Line's Into the Storm to Fox's Sleepy Hollow — and there were long lines for each one of them. —ABV

Loser: The IGN/Sin City Party

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Even though Jessica Alba plays a stripper in the movie, having a bunch of near-naked women gyrating on a stage at the Hard Rock Hotel while hundreds of indifferent partygoers talked among themselves was an awkward tableau. — DS

Winner: The Giver author Lois Lowry

Charley Gallay / Getty Images

The panel for the long-awaited adaptation of Lois Lowry's 1993 YA classic The Giver was an unusually low key event for Hall H. That is, save for Lowry, who proved to be a feisty, lively presence: She expressed disappointment that the scene of the story's main character washing a nude elderly woman was cut from the movie, because she wanted to play the woman. She said of star Brenton Thwaites, "He can touch me all he wants." She revealed that she gave Meryl Streep direction on how to say a line in the movie. Basically, our lives would all be better if we had a drink with this woman. —ABV

Winners: Awesome lady cosplayers

Jarett Wieselman / BuzzFeed / Via
Adam B. Vary / BuzzFeed / Via Twitter: @adambvary

Sorry, dudes of Comic-Con, but the women this year brought a fierce cosplay game, whether it was one of the many Maleficents — by far the biggest "new" costume of the Con — the many Game of Thrones-adorned ladies, or this woman at the far right above, in a steampunk motor scooter that was just the coolest thing ever. —ABV

Loser: Anyone who wanted to learn anything about Jurassic World, Terminator: Genesis, or Fantastic Four, or know who Doctor Strange is


Part of the fun of Comic-Con is the element of surprise, but it's become so common to the Comic-Con experience that fans have come to expect major first looks and reveals, even if the studios coming to San Diego don't feel prepared yet to debut some of their upcoming projects on their best footing. That risk-aversion may be smart PR — better no impression than a bad one, eh Skull Island? — but it led to this year's Comic-Con feeling decidedly meh for much of its run. So many opportunities to make a big splash and work the fans into a lather — like first looks at Universal's Jurassic World, Paramount's Terminator: Salvation, or Fox's Fantastic Four, all of which premiere before next year's Comic-Con — never materialized. As for fans hoping to meet Marvel Studios' Doctor Strange, whoever that may be, well, they will just have to wait until Comic-Con 2015. Maybe. —ABV