Every year at Comic-Con International in San Diego, people have come to expect that the biggest movie announcements and the biggest "surprise guests" at the event will take place during the panels happening on Saturday. This year was no exception. On July 26, 2014, the two movies that dominated the Comic-Con buzz were "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice." To a lesser extent, "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" (the last movie in "The Hobbit" trilogy) also had a lot of people talking for its all-star panel at Comic-Con.
Warner Bros. Pictures' session kicked off the day with a panel that included what many people had predicted: director Zack Snyder introducing sneak-preview footage of "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice," along with the first public introduction and Comic-Con debut of "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice" co-stars Ben Affleck as Batman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. They joined "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice" co-star Henry Cavill (who reprises his Superman role from "Man of Steel") on stage. As expected, the three stars posed for photos but did not do a Q&A. Affleck has been getting a lot of backlash from people who think he's been miscast as Batman, so it wasn't surprising that the filmmakers did not want to risk any of that backlash to be expressed during a Q&A where fans could ask questions.
The Associated Press had this description of the "Batman vs. Superman" footage shown at Comic-Con: "The moody, dimly lit footage began with a heavily armored Batman pulling off a tarp and turning on the Bat Signal on a rainy rooftop. With glowing eyes, the bulky Batman looked up to the sky to see a steely Superman — his heat vision just beginning to flare up — hovering within the light and looking down at the Dark Knight."
During the Warner Bros. session, "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" had a big panel with director/screenwriter/producer Peter Jackson, screenwriter/co-producer Philippa Boyens and cast members Orlando Bloom, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Andy Serkis, Lee Pace and Graham McTavish. Lilly was doing double duty at Comic-Con, since she was later on Marvel's "Ant-Man" panel. "The Hobbit" cast members Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen could not attend Comic-Con in 2014 because they were working elsewhere, according to an announcement on the panel.
Warner Bros.' Comic-Con panel for "Mad Max: Fury Road" was relatively low-key in comparison. Writer/director George Miller introduced footage from the movie, but the movie's cast members, including its two main stars (Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron), were not on the Comic-Con panel. However, Theron did send a video message that was shown at the event.
Also during the Warner Bros. session, Channing Tatum introduced footage from his sci-fi flick "Jupiter Ascending," whose co-star Mila Kunis was not at Comic-Con due to her late-term pregnancy. Tatum also said that "Jupiter Ascending" sibling directors Andy and Lana Wachowski could not attend since they were busy working on a TV series.
Legendary Pictures' panel featured Chris Hemsworth and Michael Mann promoting "Blackhat," and writer/director Guillermo del Toro talking about his movie "Crimson Peak." Hemsworth was another star doing Comic-Con double duty that day, since he was also on the "Avengers: Age of Ultron" panel.
Marvel Studios' panel included test footage from "Ant-Man," along with the introduction of cast members Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Lilly. The movie, which begins filming in August 2014, has been plagued with major changes, including director Edgar Wright being replaced by Peyton Reed, and actor Patrick Wilson dropping out of the movie the month before the filming was scheduled to begin. It remains to be seen if "Ant-Man" can overcome these problems to become a hit, but Douglas says that Marvel is already planning a sequel to "Ant-Man."
But what most people really came to see for the Marvel panel was the showcase for "Avengers: Age of Ultron." Writer/director Joss Whedon could not attend since he was recovering from knee surgery, but several of the movie's cast members were there: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Josh Brolin, James Spader and Paul Bettany. (Scarlett Johansson wasn't there due to her late-term pregnancy.) Back in 2010, the original "Avengers" cast was introduced at Comic-Con but did not do a Q&A together, so this was the first time that these "Avengers" cast members have done a panel Q&A together at Comic-Con in San Diego.
And, of course, some footage from "Avengers: Age of Ultron" premiered at Comic-Con. According to the Associated Press, the footage "kicked off with the superhero team attempting to pick up Thor's mighty hammer before launching into a barrage of action-packed imagery, including Hulk battling a giant Iron Man robot and a close up of Captain America's split shield."
Elsewhere at Comic-Con on July 26, 2014, "Divergent" stars Shailene Woodley and Theo James signed autographs for fans at the Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment booth. Woodley and James were among the "Divergent" stars who were at Comic-Con in 2013 for a panel and other promotion for the movie. In 2014, there was no Comic-Con panel for the second movie "Divergent" movie "Insurgent," but at least Woodley and James' appearance at Comic-Con was something that fans could appreciate.