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'Superman,' 'Kong' delight comic fans

Comic-Con audiences get sneak preview of films

King Kong
Naomi Watts (the small figure at right) watches a T. rex gaze upon its competition: King Kong.


Peter Jackson
Bryan Singer
Darren Aronofsky
Naomi Watts

SAN DIEGO, California (Hollywood Reporter) -- Superman is back.

Director Bryan Singer on Saturday gave some 6,500 sci-fi, fantasy and comic book fans first look at footage from "Superman Returns," the latest attempt to revive the DC Comics movie franchise.

"It's one of the largest films Warner Bros. has ever made," Singer told the crowd at the 36th annual Comic-Con International, taking place at the San Diego Convention Center. (DC Comics and Warner Bros. are both units of Time Warner, as is CNN.)

The fans gave the early assemblage -- for which Singer flew in from the set in Sydney -- a rousing standing ovation. "This is Comic-Con, and it is 'Superman,' " the director said. "If there was ever a time to make the long flight for a short visit, this was it."

According to producer Chris Lee, Singer hasn't decided whether to post the teaser on the Internet, but the filmmakers will put it up swiftly if a bootleg version is posted. "Superman Returns" is scheduled for release June 30.

The early footage, cut by "Superman" co-writer Dan Harris, emphasized the retro visual style of the film, which Singer shot with new single-chip Genesis digital cameras. It suggested the lead characters' romantic dilemma as Superman/Clark Kent (played by newcomer Brandon Routh) returns to Metropolis after a long absence to find that heartthrob Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) is married to the son (James Marsden) of Daily Planet editor Perry White (Frank Langella).

Kevin Spacey rejoins his "Usual Suspects" director as Superman nemesis Lex Luthor.

"Kevin has a unique ability to play humor and villainy," Singer said.

Comic-Con fans also gave a warm reception to another Warner Bros. Pictures property as an expanded trailer for November's "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" was introduced on tape by director Mike Newell. In the latest filmed installment of the series, Harry faces a new fear: girls. (See story about the latest Potter book's release.)

As expected, Universal's remake of the 1933 horror classic "King Kong" also proved a big hit at the convention.

Peter Jackson, who is halfway through postproduction on a complex FX epic that is due for delivery in November, opted to stay on active duty 6,700 miles away in New Zealand, and sent a charmingly chatty reel to the convention accompanied by the trailer, which has already hit theaters and the Internet.

The crowd roared its approval as he then delivered two minutes of animatics and unfinished footage from Kong's epic battle with two T. rexes who can't wait to eat the screaming, writhing Naomi Watts.

"I tried to make it as brutal as I could," Jackson said. "I've been dying to make this movie my whole life, and I enjoyed every minute of it."

Adrian Brody, one of "Kong's" stars, described the movie as a "timeless tale" and said, "if anyone can improve on the original, it's Peter Jackson."

Brody and Watts provided acoustic drumming as Black performed his ditty "There's nothing as strong as King Kong."

Another Warners feature -- the Wachowski brothers' film production of the cult Alan Moore graphic novel "V for Vendetta" -- could face a marketing challenge. While "Star Wars" fave Natalie Portman is clearly a plus for fans, she plays opposite a man in a mask (Hugo Weaving, the villain in "The Matrix"). The film also unfolds in a future totalitarian London attacked by terrorists, but despite the recent London bombings, the studio still plans to release the movie November 4.

Also looking to gain a foothold with fans was writer-director Darren Aronofsky, who showed a 10-minute clip from his six-year passion project, "The Fountain." The project was temporarily scuttled when Brad Pitt dropped out in 2002 but went before the cameras in Montreal this year with a $35 million budget and stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz as a lovelorn couple who seek the Fountain of Youth for more than 1,000 years.

"We're exploiting the s--- out of Comic-Con," Aronofsky told the crowd. "Spread the word because Warner Bros. doesn't know what in hell to do with this movie." The studio has yet to see his director's cut, he said at a later cocktail party.

Since its founding, Comic-Con has grown exponentially: Last year's 94,000 attendees skyrocketed from 75,000 the year before; this year's attendance was expected to pass 100,000. The major studios like to hawk their science fiction, fantasy, animation, horror and comic book movies to this passionate crowd, who fan out and spread the word, often via the Internet.

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