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Comic-Con 2007: Simpsons, Cylons, and an army of Milla Jovoviches

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Lucy_lThe last full day of Comic-Con (Sunday is “Family Day,” which apparently means “Hollywood Leaves the Town in Its Dust Day”) was abundant with panels, clips and general geekery goodness, so let’s just get to (but some) of the highlights, courtesy yours truly and my fellow reporter extraordinaire Nicole Sperling:

Fresh from the $30 million opening-day gross of The Simpsons Movie, several MVPs from both the movie and the show — including creator Matt Groening, current showrunner Al Jean, and voice-of-Lisa Yeardley Smith — stepped into the cavernous Hall H for the day’s first panel, and, it turned out, the first time The Simpsons had ever commanded the Big Room. What was perhaps most remarkable, however, was that even though a good half the room had already seen the feature film — and the producers screened a brief deleted scene from it (a sausage truck driver discovering his passenger, Homer, had decimated his entire stock) — almost all of the questions were focused on the show. And we did learn a great deal about the upcoming season (number 19!): Jon Stewart and Dan Rather will guest voice in an episode about how Ralph Wiggum manages to become the front-runner in the 2008 presidential election (thanks, of course, to Homer); Sideshow Bob (Kelsey Grammer) and his brother Cecil (David Hyde Pierce) will return in an episode featuring fellow Frasier vet John Mahoney as their father; and country artist Lurleen Lumpkin (Beverly D’Angelo) will pop back into her former manager’s life (that would also be Homer). The panel concluded with a clip from the upcoming annual “Treehouse of Horror” episode, featuring Marge taking her revenge on Fox’s highly obnoxious on-screen promos for its shows by pinning Jack Bauer to her fridge, microwaving Dr. House, and pureeing Peter Griffin into a gelatinous (non-human) blob. That, and a singalong of the “Spider-Pig” song from the movie. But of course.

addCredit(“Lucy Lawless: Michael Tran/FilmMagic.com”)

Next up: Focus Features and Rogue Pictures. Man-of-the-week Neil Gaiman got the ball rolling by announcing that he and Night Before Christmas director Henry Selick would screen footage of Coraline,a stop-motion film based on a Gaiman short-story. It features the voicetalent of Dakota Fanning, John Hodgman (you know, PC from theMac-and-PC ads) and Teri Hatcher, and it will be hitting theaters inlate summer, early fall. Reno 911 dudes Ben Garant and TomLennon followed, revealing Christopher Walken’s favorite on-set prankduring the filming of their comedy Balls of Fury — seems theiconic actor would bring a cake into the make-up room and pout aroundthe set until his co-workers started singing “Happy Birthday,” whetherit was actually his birthday or not. Good to know. The studio thentrotted out Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman for the horror film The Strangers, and director Neil Marshall for his horror flick Doomsday. Tyler certainly knows the crowd: She treated her Lord of the Rings fans by speaking a bit of elvish.

Upstairs in the main ballroom, the women of Battlestar Galatica— Mary McDonnell (President Roslin), Katee Sackhoff (Kara “Starbuck”Thrace) and Tricia Helfer (Cylon Number Six) — held court withshowrunners Ron Moore and David Eick in a panel moderated by Entertainment Weekly‘sown senior editor Marc Bernardin. Who, it must be said, did a frakkin’good job, even after Lucy Lawless (pictured) jokingly flipped him offfor accidentally calling her character, Cylon D’Anna Biers, a man.That’s right, D’Anna (who’d been “boxed” — that’s Cylon for “24/7solitary confinement” — last season) will return for a two-to-threeepisode arc in which, Lawless said with relish, she’ll “make sometrouble.” The rest of the panel was light on substantive revelations,though it is quite clear that the women on the show like to havethemselves a good time. We did catch a glimpse of the November’sflashback movie Battlestar Galatica: Razor, which will focusprimarily on the late Battlestar Pegasus’ journey and give us a glimpseat the first Cylon war. Which means, yep, the original Cylon Centuriansand Raiders from the original 1980s series will be making an appearance!

Meanwhile, down in Hall H, Disney delighted fans with a healthy taste of the upcoming The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.While much of his behind-the-scenes department heads sat on stage,director Andrew Adamson appeared live via satellite from Prague, wherehe introduced the handsomely chiseled Ben Barnes, who will play Caspianin this film and the next three in the Narnia saga. They showedunfinished footage, brought out splendidly intricate costumes andshowed off an animatronic saytr named Tyrus. Producer Mark Johnson alsotold the crowd that the studio intends to make all seven Narnia novelsinto feature films, bringing one to the screen every May starting in2008.

Then Pixar proved once again to be the master of all things animation. Director Andrew Stanton presented Pixar’s next feature WALL•E,set 700 years in the future when a little trash compactor robot namedWALL•E is left on planet Earth after all its inhabitants relocate tospace because they’ve left the planet too dirty to live on. What makesWALL•E so unique? He doesn’t speak English. Pixar recruited Star Warssound master Ben Burtt to create a unique robot language for the movie,which Burke illustrated on stage with a keyboard. The result, as usualfor Pixar, was awe-inspiring. Stanton screened a five-minute clip withno words save Burtt’s sounds and a score by Thomas Newman (American Beauty, Finding Nemo), and it was as emotional as any of Pixar’s past fare — if not more so.

The final two Hall H panels of the day, Marvel Studios and Sony/ScreenGems, were case studies on how to win over a Comic-Con crowd, and hownot to. We’ve already told you how massively well the Iron Manfootage went over during Thursday’s Paramount Pictures panel. This timedirector Jon Favreau brought his cast to the party; Robert Downey Jr.,Gwyneth Paltrow, and Terrence Howard were all clearly jazzed by thefootage (which they’d never seen), and the crowd responded to theirenthusiasm in kind. By contrast, the gang from The Incredible Hulk, Marvel’s reboot of the Hulkfranchise, was quite low-key, especially star Edward Norton, who’s alsowriting the screenplay and clearly knows his comic books butnonetheless seemed nervous and tentative. To be fair, the film’s onlytwo weeks into production; all producer Gale Anne Hurd could show uswas a working image of the Hulk’s appearance, which is pretty muchexactly as you’d expect it to be. But perhaps next time Norton shouldspend a bit less time lecturing the audience on his dislike for theterm “origin story.”

At least Marvel didn’t try to march out 100 Bruce Banners on stage.To promote its newest entry in the video-game-zombie series, Resident Evil: Apocalypse,Sony unleashed an army of Milla Jovoviches dressed-up in red dressesand dark-blonde wigs, and boy did that stunt bomb with the Hall Hcrowd. (The real Jovovich, who was quite pregnant, was far moreanimated than any of her fembot replicants, thank goodness.) Thetrailer and clip from the upcoming vampires-in-Alaska movie 30 Days of Night was just as violent as the debut of the RE:A trailer, but 30 Daysproducer Sam Raimi’s presence and the film’s graphic novel origin gavethe panel an imprint of fanboy legitimacy that the previous panel kindalacked. And all 30 Days needed was a single Josh Hartnett to get the women (and some men) in the audience to be all with the whooping and cat-calls.

But even Hartnett’s hotness was blown away by the sheer magnetic power that is Superbad co-lead Michael Cera. “Moderated” by producer Judd “I Rule Hollywood Comedy” Apatow, the Superbadpanel rapidly deteriorated into a barely contained chaos that traveledthe gamut from women repeatedly throwing themselves at Cera tospeculation stemming from a Robert Downey Jr. bathroom sighting abouthow Iron Man would take a leak. (Apatow suggested a CD-tray-likedevice, and the bleary-eyed, easily distracted panel seemed to agreethat was the best option.) Apatow finally ended the insanity with twoclips from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, a parody of music biopics like Walk the Line and Ray out this December starring John C. Reilly (as Cox) and The Office‘sJenna Fischer (as Cox’s backup singer Darlene). It was not exactly abang, but not exactly a whimper either — more like a lightly amusingperiod on what had become a thrilling and exhausting run-on sentence ofgeekdom.

Look for our Comic-Con wrap-up feature in the next issue of EW.Until next year, live long and prosper, Frodo lives, and nerds rule!