SFX at Comic-Con: Day One

Comic-Con is such a big deal in San Diego (and in SF and fantasy circles) that it's easy to forget that not everyone in the US is going to be chasing a ticket for the annual shindig. So it came as a bit of a surprise when, at my stop-off in Minneapolis, I had to explain to the immigration official in detail what Comic-Con was and why I was going. Perhaps it's got something to do with it being the biggest event of its kind in America (and probably the world). And that the weather's not bad either.

Comic-Con doesn't properly open its doors until later today (Thursday) but we've just had a peek of what's on offer during the three hours of preview night. The main hall of the San Diego Convention Centre is probably long enough for a jet to take off (assuming, of course, that the roof was removed) and for the next four days it'll be filled with enough stands, stalls and displays (the whole industry's here, from the big film companies to tiny comic book outfits) to cause a tremor in the force. If you're thinking "heaven" you're not alone - last year the event was attended by 123,000 people, and this year could be even bigger.

But the evening didn't end when the doors closed on the centre - I got to see Ray Winstone naked. Now, before you start wondering about what SFX journos get up to when they fly to foreign lands, I will add that it was a digital version of Mr Winstone from Robert Zemeckis's Beowulf movie, who was wandering around in the altogether after giving a nasty demon a right good kicking. The film employs the motion capture technique Zemeckis used for The Polar Express and Monster House (but ramps it up to 11 and beyond), to the likes of Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich and plonk their digital selves into a completely digital world. As well as revealing a rather buff Winstone, the reel we were treated to showed off some very impressive visuals (Angelina as an amphibious monster?) and gave the 3D effects (we're told this is going to have the biggest ever release for a three-dimensional movie) a proper run out. It could well be enough to attract people back to a book that's plagued many an English syllabus - something co-screenwriter Roger "Killing Zoe" Avary (who appeared alongside his co-writer Neil Gaiman) admitted was on his mind when he decided to take on the oldest story in the English language. We'll hopefully have more on Beowulf tomorrow, as Comic-Con gets into full swing. But the biggest news will (fingers crossed) be related to Star Trek XI and that fellow with the hat and whip. Staty tuned to SFX's reports from the front and maybe we'll find out whether those Zachary Quinto casting rumours are true...