Geoff Boucher of The Los Angeles Times moderated the Marvel Film Panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego panel on Saturday. After almost three days of programming and wandering the Convention floor, he said for fans, "It's all been leading up to this." The following hour featured surprise guests, footage from the upcoming films, and the first full assembly of the screen Avengers.
It began with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige walking out onto stage. "I was here three or four years ago, talking about the line-up," he began. "I could sense in the crowd that it was possible, but there was still skepticism that it was possible." He then asked the Hall H crowd if connecting the films were a good idea. He got an enthusiastic response.
Following that, the lights dimmed and a teaser trailer for "Captain America: the First Avenger" screened in the hall. Utilizing footage and audio from World War II, the whole thing builds to the first reveal of actor Chris Evans in Cap's colors. First, his silhouette appears, followed by a quick close-up of the mask. The screen faded to a title card, but one last image flashed onto screen: Cap throwing his shield.
After the teaser, Evans, Hugo Weaving (Red Skull) and director Joe Johnston came out to talk about the film. Johnston referred to "Raiders of the Lost Ark" when Boucher asked about the tone of the film. "I happened to work on that film," the director added, vouching for his ability to deliver a period adventure. Evans called the first few days of working, "a thrill."
According to Weaving, he is using the voice of German director Werner Herzog and other German artists as his inspiration to create the Red Skull's voice. Boucher attempted to coax Weaving into giving the crowd a sample of the voice. Even with the crowd cheering for a few words in the voice, the actor smiled and shook his head in the negative. Feige teased, "You may have a chance to hear it."
Boucher asked Evans if playing the Human Torch affected his choice to take the role, as actors doing double duty could be a concern for fans. "Hopefully, if the movie's done right ... people won't have much of a problem with that," he responded.
Johnston told the audience that he is a fan of the Ed Brubaker version of the character.
According to Feige, the glimpse presented of Evans in the teaser is from a costume test. He says the suit will be "unequivocally" Captain America for the period. He also explained it has been a challenge to balance the classic look of the character with materials and the feel needed for Johnston's film.
"I love origin pieces, I think they're great," said Evans about getting to start the Avengers cycle with Cap's origin.
For Johnston, casting Evans was about balancing the character on both sides of the serum. He believes is it important for the actor to be physically impressive as Cap, but also charming as Steve. "If we don't love Steve Rogers before he takes the serum, we won't love him after," Johnston explained. "Chris is very aware of that."
Weaving is no stranger to prosthetics. Though he has only had one day of shooting with the mask on, he called it a "fantastic" creation.
Leading up to a surprise Feige mentioned they have only been shooting for eight days. "I like to come here with something to show you' he said, feigned that he had no Cap footage to share. After he and Johnston played at negotiating, they offered the audience a look at the film.
The scene reveals a pre-Red Skull Weaving finding his way into a secret chamber somewhere in Normay. Though guarded by dedicated men and even a decoy, Weaving finds his way to a wall engraved with an image of Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life. At the head of the serpent, he finds a trap door and box inside containing a mysterious glowing object. "You have never seen this?" he asks of the room's guardian.
"It is not for the eyes of ordinary men," responds the guarding.
"Exactly," hisses Weaving.
The lights returned in Hall H with the "Captain America" group off the stage. Boucher introduced "Thor" director Kenneth Branagh. Smiling broadly, the British actor/director best known for his Shakespeare adaptations cheerfully announced, "It's very exciting to be part of the Marvel Universe." He went on to illuminate for the crowd his particular attraction to "Thor" as a concept. "I love the name. He's a figure of brute strength. The stories were epic," Branagh explained. He recalled telling Feige in one of their early meetings, "It would be great to represent the style of the comic if we could do a great story."
Branagh then invited the cast -- Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Kat Dennings (Darcy), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), and Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth -- onto the stage. Boucher asked Hemsworth about the hammer. "It's part of the costume and part of the character," he replied. A fighting style has been worked out utilizing it. The actor went on to talk about Anthony Hopkins, who could not make it out to Comic-Con. Hemsworth called him "a brilliant actor" who inspired the set.
For Portman, "Thor" was an "exciting opportunity" to "find new colors" in the role of Jane Foster. She considers "Thor" a second opportunity at working in a big effects film and relished the opportunity to properly learn "blue screen acting." She was particular interested to work on "Thor" because Branagh would be commanding those blue screens.
Kat Dennings described her character, Darcy, as "Jane Foster's little helper gnome who doesn't know how to do anything." The character is new for the film. A role that expanded once Dennings was cast.
For Hiddleston, he said the greatest challenge in playing Loki was that "he is the agent of chaos and also the damaged younger brother. He could've been the guy, but he isn't the guy." Hiddleston suggested part of Loki's problem is the neglect he received as a child from Odin. The texture made the role all the more interesting for him. "It was terrific to combine the mischief and anarchy he creates with the damage," the actor explained. He went on to call the character "a great liar."
The crowd cheered as Gregg was called "the glue of the Marvel universe." He said the refrence to New Mexico in "Iron Man 2" was suggested to him by director Jon Favreau as they were shooting. Gregg asked what was in New Mexico. Favreau responded. "Oh, no one talked to you, yet? Thor's in New Mexico."
Branagh said he considers blending the two worlds of "Thor", Asgard and New Mexico, as a challenge. Before Feige could offer more information, Branagh offered to show some footage of the film in 3D.
Opening with Agent Coulson attempting to interrogate Thor, the collection of scenes -- presented basically as a trailer -- reveal Asgard in all its CGI glory. There, the characters speak in a more theatrical manner. Over the course of quick cuts and a voice over from Hopkin's Odin, we learn Thor is being cast out because he has invited war after Odin's long work to ensure peace. The God of Thunder wakes up on Earth, much to his dismay. He is picked up by Jane Foster and her team who are trying to uncover some great secret. In a brief moment, Thor explains to Jane that he is from a place where magic and science are one and the same. The trailer returns its focus to Asgard, where Odin has apparently perished and Loki has ascended to the throne. Back on Earth, Thor attempts to reclaim his hammer, but is not yet worthy to wield Mjolnir. This is followed by quick cuts of action and character getting ready to fight. Sif, Heimdall, and others are seen. Things slow down again as a Hopkins voice over tells us Thor is now master of his own destiny. The screen fades to black, but then allows for one more scene. Coulson and his men find The Destroyer. "Is it one of Stark's?" asks an agent. "I don't know, he never tells me anything," replies Coulson. The Destroyer revs up to blast the agents. Coulson and the others duck as The Destroyer fires, ending the trailer.
As the lights turned back on in Hall H, Branagh said he is trying to create something mammoth and special. The crowd reaction to the footage would indicate he is on the right track.
Opening the panel up to audience Q&A, Branagh was asked what becomes of Donald Blake. "There will be some Donald Blake touches," replied the director.
Asked if Portman would appear in a sequel or "The Avengers," she revealed she will not be in the team-up film, but will be in future "Thor" sequels, "should they happen."
A fan then yelled at the panel, very loudly, "Edward Norton!" Feige quipped, "He's not here today." Trying to be diplomatic, Feige quoted Norton's final statement on the matter and teased, "But the panel isn't over yet." The crowd did not respond favorably.
Branagh explained to a fan that Shakespeare is an influence on "Thor" as it is always an influence on him, back to his first film, "Henry V."
A fan asked Hemsworth what sort of homework he had to do for the role. The actor recalled he received a number of books from Branagh, which included "Thor" comics and self-help books. He also discussed the character with the director to get a good feel for the role.
Feige revealed Frank Castle is now under the control of Marvel Studios and he hopes to "bring him into the fray soon."
Boucher then announced the footage would run again, with Branagh instructing his cast to watch with the audience. The group departed the stage as the footage began to run again.
Following the repeat screening, Boucher attempted to end the session, but Feige announced there would be one more thing. After a short teaser for "The Avengers," Samuel L. Jackson appeared on stage to introduce the cast of the film - Clark Gregg, Scarlett Johansen, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, and Robert Downey Jr.
"Don't anybody stab anybody until I finish talking," joked Downey, referring to an incident, which happened earlier in Hall H. After calling "Inception" the most ambitious movie he's ever seen, he reconsidered and called "The Avengers" the most ambitions movie he will ever see. He then introduced Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and, making it official, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner.
Finally, Downey welcomed director Joss Whedon onto the stage to the delight of the audience. "I've had a dream all my life, and it was not this good," said Whedon. "This cast is more than I could ever dream of working with, and I am going to blow it," he then joked. "I am very nervous and I need your love and I need your support."
After the crowd offered him some of that support in the form of cheers and applause, Whedon closed the panel by yelling "See you soon!"