Relativity Media’s panel was a bit of a mixed bag, as they trotted out two wildly different films that were met with equally mixed reactions. Things kicked off with Steven Soderbergh making a rare Comic-Con appearance to hype his upcoming action thriller Haywire, a presentation followed by James McTeigue premiering the trailer for The Raven, a murder mystery that recasts Edgar Allen Poe as a reluctant detective during the final five days of his life. Not much was known about either of these projects before today’s event, but by the end of the hour it was clear that we’ve got a few good reasons to be very excited for our moviegoing future (and a few reasons to stay at home and hunker down with a good book).
Here’s a rundown of what we liked and what we liked quite a bit less from the Relativity Media panel. For those of you on a tight schedule, Haywire looks incredible, and The Raven looks like a James McTeigue movie. Now for the nitty-gritty:
Things We Liked:
— Insanely brutal action
Soderbergh was flipping through the channels one night and came upon an MMA fight between Gina Carano and some really unfortunate woman who now has a lot of gaps in her smile. Soderbergh — blown away by what he saw — was inspired to take the ferocity from the octagon and inject it into the kind of full-blown spy film that’s usually de-fanged by fragile stars who can sell a movie but not a punch. Haywire was entirely built around Carano’s unique talents, and it definitely shows. It’s too early to say if Carano was able to keep up with her co-stars when the action settles, but we saw an extended fight scene she shares with Michael Fassbender and it was unequivocally the best bit of footage of the con, so far.
— Magneto gets his ass kicked
Carano is on a European mission during which she and a fellow spy (Michael Fassbender) are pretending to be married as their cover. But somewhere along the way Carano has learned that her contractor has betrayed her, and that Fassbender is going to execute the hit before the night is through. The clip picked up with the faux-couple slinking down a hotel hallway, smirking at one another and losing bits of clothing (Carano slips off her high-heeled shoes) as if preparing for a wild bit of romance. But as soon as they enter their room Fassbender clocks Carano on the back of her skull and the mayhem begins. The fisticuffs are incredibly believable, like nothing you’ve seen in a Hollywood film in years and years (it’s like an old-school James Bond drag-out on steroids, where the feminine mystique can also demolish your face). This is breathless, hard-hitting stuff, with no stunt doubles to absorb the damage. Haywire is going to hurt so good.
— John Cusack is obsessed with the stuff that made Poe tick.
John Cusack’s interpretation of Edgar Allen Poe in The Raven seems unusually attuned to the author’s inner-workings. According to the actor, Poe “Had very idealized relationships with women — he yearned for them and they abandoned him.” That kind of tidbit seems to have informed Cusack’s performance, which should hopefully deepen the movie beyond the standard gothic fare.
Things We Didn’t Like:
— A cross between Zodiac and Se7en without David Fincher
The trailer for The Raven covers a lot of ground and works overtime to make viewers feel comfortable with a movie about a long-dead literary figure, but in transposing the beats of David Fincher’s darkest classics to the 19th century, everything just comes up a bit silly. There’s a gloss on the footage that felt out of place, a look that always returned our thoughts to the idea that Lloyd Dobler / Rob Gordon / that guy from 2012 who probably had a name is wearing a top hat and brooding a lot.
— Where’s the blood?
If Haywire is so refreshingly intense (and it really is), it might totally be de-fanged by the constraints of a PG-13 rating. I’m not sure if that’s going to be the ultimate reality for this film, but after watching the most intense fight to come out of Hollywood since the Baldwin / Basinger divorce, why was there not a single drop of blood to be found? This material doesn’t need the gore to connect — it’s about hitting hard, not staining the carpets — but it can’t afford to feel clean and sanitized. If Soderbergh is using a take in which Fassbender really got clocked in the face with a large vase, let’s see what that really looks like. We never get a chance to see stuff this hardcore (at least not in English), so please don’t hedge your bets.