It was a busy night last night at SDCC, particularly in the famous Hall H. One of the highlights of this year’s event was always going to be the Star Wars panel, and JJ Abrams and company did not disappoint. After initial words from Kathleen Kennedy, Abrams and writer Lawrence Kasdan, the cast of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was brought out on stage, first the young cast members and then the “big three” from the original trilogy, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and finally Harrison Ford, making his first public appearance since his one-man plane crash back in March. Ford appeared to have a few new scars, but otherwise intact, and the cast sang the praises of the new film and the experience of working on Star Wars again. Abrams showed a reel of behind-the-scenes footage and then, in a surprising move, led all Hall H attendees outdoors for an evening of Star Wars music with the San Diego symphony.
An almost impossible act to follow, one might say, and that is exactly what Kevin Smith has been saying on his various podcasts leading up to this year’s SDCC. Scheduling his panel right after the big Star Wars announcement was always going to be problematic, and last night that played out just as anyone could have predicted. A near-empty Hall H greeted the “King of Comicon” (as he was introduced last year), but Smith took it all with grace and discussed his new film, Yoga Hosers, with the fans that remained. Yoga Hosers is the second film in Smith’s “True North Trilogy” of demented horror films set in Canada, the first being last year’s Tusk, and the third will be Moose Jaws (literally “Jaws… except with a Moose”). Yoga Hosers itself Smith describes as a “children’s movie” and was written for his daughter, Harley Quinn and her friend Lily Rose Depp (whose father, Johnny, also appears in the film as his recurring Quebecois cop character Guy Lapointe). Harley and Lily Rose play two convenience store clerks (seems familiar) who become embroiled in a supernatural battle with demons and those who hunt them. Replete with in-jokes and references to Smith’s other films as well as to long-running jokes on his podcast network (actively producing content since 2007, it has a life of its own), the film also features “more special effects shots than the original Jurassic Park”. It represents quite a step up in complexity and an expansion of genre for Smith, but celebrates his return to directing films on his own terms, rather than being bound to a studio to crank out romantic comedies such as Zack and Miri Make a Porno, which, though sometimes amusing, had little emotional resonance for the filmmaker. For all their weirdness, the True North Trilogy are exactly the kind of movies Smith wants to make, and are the purest expression of his auteur sensibilities since at least Dogma.
Meanwhile, as the sun set over SDCC, fireworks greeted the symphony playing those familiar strains of John Williams’ Star Wars score as fans shook their complimentary lightsabers on cue. If they couldn’t be shown a new trailer for the upcoming film (it’s impressive how much energy they generated while revealing almost nothing about the film itself), this was certainly a charming and low-tech way to woo fan’s hearts. By all reports, it worked.