Marc Bernardin
July 29, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

They call it the Nerd Prom, and from July 14 to July 17, San Diego was indeed a mecca for comic-book geeks. But this year, Comic-Con International was packed with pop-culture devotees of every stripe, thanks to a smorgasbord of previews, including Charlize Theron’s Aeon Flux and the year’s most anticipated movie, King Kong. An appearance by its star, Jack Black, got the most love, while Stealth inspired little interest since no one in it wears a cape or time-travels. Jamie Foxx did, however, get to field the day’s best question: ”After being in a good movie like Ray, what was it like to be in Stealth?” Priceless.

SUPERMAN RETURNS Director Bryan Singer’s four-minute reel featured loving shots of Brandon Routh (convincing in the tights) and lovingly restored audio (from Superman) of Marlon Brando. When Supes broke the sound barrier as he flew to Metropolis, and Brando said, ”I have sent them you. . .my only son,” grown men dabbed their eyes. Not me. I was a rock. GEEK LOVE: Comic-Con’s money shot gets a 9 out of 10.

V FOR VENDETTA How do you sell a movie with a terrorist hero? That’s set in London? The timing is unfortunate, but Joel Silver argued that he’s been working on it for a while. Okay. But who directed this movie? Natalie Portman glossed over director James McTeigue, saying instead that working with (co-producers) the Wachowski brothers was ”amazing”: ”They’ll do one shot and just keep doing it over and over again.” GEEK LOVE: The Matrix-lite trailer isn’t bad, though there’s inherent silliness in a grim antihero wearing a Harlequin mask. 7

THE FOUNTAIN Director Darren Aronofsky showed the first 12 minutes of his freaky, time-tripping sci-fi romance. GEEK LOVE: Hard to make much sense of it without the entire film. (Like trying to comprehend the opening of 12 Monkeys. While sober. And awake.) Still, the Hugh-Jackman-as-a-furry-Spanish-conquistador-storming-a-Mayan-temple bit looks cool. 8

GHOST RIDER Based on the Marvel comic, starring Nicolas Cage, and directed by (shiver) Daredevil?s Mark Steven Johnson, who impressed with his comic lore. A brave fan asked the second-best question of the day: ”Daredevil — what the f—?” GEEK LOVE: Looks better than Ben Affleck’s dud, which isn’t saying much. Casting Peter Fonda as Mephisto is inspired, but Cage’s somnambulant performance is not. 4

TIM BURTON’S CORPSE BRIDE The Charlie and the Chocolate Factory director is back with Johnny Depp (his voice, at any rate) in this stop-motion animated flick about a guy getting hitched to a corpse (Helena Bonham Carter). GEEK LOVE: Tim Burton must be Hollywood’s most powerful director for getting a studio to bankroll a puppet movie with no clear audience. It’s not for children: too many dead bodies. And adults generally view stop-motion as a kiddie medium. Guess it’s all about the Goth teens. 6

UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION Director Len Wiseman and his wife, Kate Beckinsale, arrived with a nigh catatonic Scott Speedman in tow and a five-minute fight-bloodsuck-ménage montage for this sequel to 2003’s vampires-versus-werewolves hit. GEEK LOVE: Looks better than Van Helsing. . .again, that’s not saying much. 5

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