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D23: Disney Live Action Theatrical Panel Recap – STAR WARS, Marvel, and More

Beginning at 10PM on Friday night, hundreds and hundreds of eager fans began lining up for Saturday morning’s “Worlds, Galaxies, and Universes: Live Action at the Walt Disney Studios” panel. That may sound like complete insanity to some of you, but these are the lengths to which some fans will go to get the latest updates on Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Disney‘s other live action offerings. While lesser fans might have been bleary eyed and spiritually battered, the crowd seemed to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to take on the day with thunderous applause and raucous hooting and hollering. Considering we had updates on everything from Doctor Strange to The Jungle Book to Star Wars: Rogue One to Beauty and the Beast and beyond, it was well worth the wait.



Doctor Strange

“Everybody’s big, everybody’s good-looking, everybody’s named Chris,” Disney chairman Alan Horn joked before handing over the stage to Marvel. Right on cue, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige took the stage and wasted no time in talking about one of the most anticipated and most mysterious films on Marvel’s upcoming slate, Doctor Strange. Though Benedict Cumberbatch couldn’t be there due to obligations performing Hamlet in London’s West End, he did record a special video message for the assembled fans in which he promised Doctor Strange would have “girls, cars, explosions, and a bit of astral projecting into multiple dimensions” and accidentally flashed the Vulcan salute (“Oops, wrong movie”)

The film does not start shooting in London until this fall, but Feige didn’t want to leave us empty-handed, so he showed off an array of concept art. The presentation passed by in a flash, but it definitely seems like we’ll be seeing the classic Doctor Strange origin story. Stephen Strange begins as an arrogant albeit brilliant neurosurgeon who lives in the lap of luxury. When a tragic car wreck ruins his hands and, as a result, his ability to perform surgery, he goes on something of a walkabout, venturing to a far-off Asian city in search of mystical healing. The concept art showed off a town square full of what looked like a combat-trained monastic order, as well as a brief frame where a local mystic was punching his hand through someone’s physical form. Perhaps it is a visualization of the multiple planes of existence we’ll clearly be exploring.

Speaking of other dimensions, we saw quite a few portals to other realms that crackled with orange, magical energy. We also saw what appeared to be a tear in spacetime or a portal to another plane ripped open on our own, revealing a castle-like structure. We also see a totally weird, psychedelic dimension which evokes the freakout stories of Steve Ditko and Steve Englehart. Far and away, the coolest thing in the trailer were images of cars flying up in the air, as though gravity was a mere plaything. Other shots showed the city streets of New York City bending upwards to the sky like a rising tide or something straight out of Inception. Likewise, we also saw what looked like a tornado being made out of cars as automobiles, three to four abreast, flew up into the sky with a level of precision control heretofore unseen in the MCU.

The actual concept art of Doctor Strange looks very much like Benedict Cumberbatch with classic Van Dyke-style facial hair and grey running through his temples. In terms of his costume, it looks to be blue-ish cloth with an amulet hanging low around his neck–possibly the Eye of Agamotto. Though we didn’t quite see the massive comic book cowl, the red cape did make an appearance, and yes it is appropriately massive. In the final moments of the concept reel, we actually saw Strange unleashing some sort of mystical energy blasts from his hands in an all together too brief animatic. Sure, it probably won’t happen until the third act, but damn if it didn’t look cool as hell.

For a full breakdown, check out what Nerdist Alliance member EmergencyAwesome had to say:


Captain America: Civil War

Following up Doctor Strange was our first-ever look at Civil War footage. The third Captain America film is currently shooting in Berlin, Germany, but Anthony Mackie (“The Falcon”) and Chris Evans (“Captain America”) flew back just for D23. The footage they introduced had several surprising reveals about what we can expect from the film:

The footage opens on The Falcon standing on a rooftop, deploying Redwing to scan the crowded city square for a target. This time around, though, Redwing isn’t a trained bird; it is a powerful drone that Falcon can remotely control. As it zips through the bazaar below, Captain America and Black Widow triangulate its position and leap into action, running after their mark. Captain America hurtles through the market, only to come face to face with Brock Rumlow, a.k.a. Crossbones. A fierce fight takes place and Crossbones places a sticky bomb on Cap’s shield, prompting the Avenger to hurl it into the air to avoid collateral damage. After beating Crossbones to a pulp and removing his mask, a tense encounter takes place. “This is for dropping a building on my face,” Crossbones tells Cap. “You know, he remembered you. Your pal, your buddy, your Bucky.”

Based on the reaction to two little words in the Civil War footage, they may as well retitle the film now:

Image via Tumblr

Image via Tumblr


Gotta love fandom. Plenty of epic moments followed, but the immediate voiceover really sets the stakes for the issue at the core of the film: “The world owes you a great unpayable debt. But while a great many see you as a hero, there are those who prefer the word ‘vigilante’,” a mysterious voice–possibly Martin Freeman or Thunderbolt Ross–says. “People who are afraid.”

“We try to save as many as we can, but sometimes that doesn’t mean everyone,” Cap replies. Then, we see the rest of the scene that began in the post-credits of Ant-Man in which Falcon and Cap track down Bucky, who is chained up in a weird looking garage. Bucky, for the first time, remembers Cap.


There are some other excellent moments in the footage including:

  • The Vision wearing a dapper suit and wistfully playing chess
  • Martin Freeman standing in some sort of control center, watching a bank of monitors. My theory is that he may be a Norman Osborn type, working with Thunderbolt Ross to track down superheroes.
  • A government holding cell with a special D23 easter egg on the cell’s label. Someone inside is thrashing around. Maybe Bucky?
  • A massive fight between Team Iron Man and Team Cap, including a throwdown between Hawkeye and Black Widow. “We’re still friends right?” Black Widow asks. “Depends on how hard you hit me,” Hawkeye replies.
  • Scott Lang meeting Steve Rogers for the first time and absolutely fanboying out. “I recognize you,” he says, looking at Scarlet Witch. “But you…” he trails off, gesturing to Cap. “You know a lot of super people, so thinks for thanking of me,” he stammers. “I mean thanks for thinking of me.” It’s adorable and awesome and, hands down, the best scene in the trailer.

You can read our in-depth breakdown of the Marvel panel right here.

Chris Pine stars as Bernie Webber and Holliday Grainger as Miriam  in the heroic action-thriller THE FINEST HOURS, based on the extraordinary true story of the most daring rescue mission in the history of the Coast Guard.

The Finest Hours

A nautical drama inspired by real life events, The Finest Hours follows four Coast Guard members who have to take a tiny vessel out to sea during a powerful winter storm to rescue more than 30 sailors who are stranded aboard a scuttled oil tanker that is rapidly sinking off the coat of Cape Cod. The trailer we saw offered a lot of green screen, some questionable New England accents, thrilling scenes of gigantic waves crashing down on boats made to look like ants, and some seriously stressful moments of rushing water threatening to drag these men into the briny deep.

Star Chris Pine, who plays Bernie Webber, came out to address the D23 crowd. When asked what he thought immediately after reading the script, Pine said,”Coming from science fiction world, it was so nice to read something that continually got ever more dramatic and realizing it actually happened”

The film, which stars Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Eric Bana, and Holliday Grainger, hits theaters on January 29, 2016.

THE JUNGLE BOOK – WILD WORLD — Man-cub Mowgli (voice of Neel Sethi), who's been raised by a family of wolves, embarks on a journey of self-discovery, guided by a panther-turned-mentor Bagheera. Directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”), based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and featuring state-of the-art technology that immerses audiences in the lush world like never before, Disney’s “The Jungle Book” hits theaters in stunning 3D and IMAX 3D on April 15, 2016. ©2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Jungle Book

Apart from Captain America: Civil War, Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book was the most impressive bit of footage we saw. In addition to bringing out several cast members, director Jon Favreau revealed the first poster for the film and debuted an early, work-in-progress footage presentation. For this new retelling, Favreau and company sought to blend the sensibility of the 1967 animated film with the gravitas and heft of Rudyard Kipling’s original book. The level of technical achievement, too, is something to be lauded. Young star Neel Sethi, a rookie actor who plays Mowgli, filmed all of his scenes twice — once in a motion capture suit and once out of the suit.

The film, which was called the most technologically advanced film Disney has ever made, looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous. The CGI is uncanny in how lifelike it looks, and the performances from the likes of Sir Ben Kingsley (“Bagheera”), Christopher Walken (“King Louie”), Bill Murray (“Baloo”), Lupita Nyong’o (“Raksha”), and newcomer Neel Sethi (“Mowgli”) were pitch perfect. And yes, “Bare Necessities” is in there. Bill Murray’s Baloo is humming it under his breath and later whistles the rollicking tune, which dissolves into the film’s sprightly, bouncing orchestral theme. When the footage presentation came to an end, it was met with rapturous applause by the audience who clearly wanted more–myself included. If this is what a work in progress looks like, then I, for one, cannot wait to see what Favreau has in store come next year.


Through the Looking Glass

Because the first one grossed a billion dollars worldwide, we are getting a sequel to Alice in Wonderland. This time around, Alice is summoned back to Wonderland because there’s something terribly wrong with The Mad Hatter. He seems to be rapidly aging and can only be saved by confronting Time himself. Who is playing time? None other than Sacha Baron Cohen, who looks and talks like a Time Lord had a baby with his character from Talladega Nights.

Star Mia Wasikowska came out to greet the crowd briefly. “There’s quite a bit of time travel in this film,” Wasikowska revealed. The film, directed by James Bobin, releases on May 27, 2016.

Image converted using ifftoany

Pete’s Dragon

Now, here’s an unexpected reboot for you. The 1977 classic blended live action and animation to tell the story of a lighthouse keeper (Mickey Rooney) whose daughter (Helen Reddy) winds up befriending a runaway orphan (Sean Marshall) and his trusty pal, a gigantic green dragon. Now, Pete’s Dragon is getting an update for the 21st century with Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford. Fresh off the success of Jurassic World, Bryce Dallas Howard plays Grace, a forest ranger who encounters a mysterious child in the woods (Oakes Fegley). The child in question, the titular Pete, is a feral child who has been surviving on his own for nearly 6 years. And, naturally, he is friends with a dragon who lives in the woods, although we didn’t get to see much of the titular dragon in the brief footage presentation we saw.

Directed by David Lowery, Pete’s Dragon is set to hit theaters on August 12, 2016.

The Queen of Katwe

While we didn’t learn too much about this new film, we did learn that The Queen of Katwe tells the story of Phiona Mutesi, a teenaged Ugandan girl from the slums who becomes a world chess champion. Lupita Nyong’o, quickly becoming one of Disney’s secret weapons, will play Mutesi, and David Oyelowo will play Robert Katende, the missionary/mentor who helped Phiona on her journey to international chess superstardom.


Beauty and the Beast

Eliciting some of the biggest cheers of the entire panel was the tale as old as time, Beauty and the Beast didn’t have all that much to show us apart from a few behind-the-scenes videos from Emma Watson, Luke Evans, and Josh Gad. Watson said that playing Belle was “a complete dream come true”, and it was revealed that Alan Menken was returning to score the film. Additionally, Menken has recorded two new songs specially for this live action version. If you can’t wait until it debuts in March 2017, I suggest reaching out to Rachel Heine to start a support group.

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 15:  Actor Johnny Depp,  dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow, of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES (L) and President of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production Sean Bailey took part today in "Worlds, Galaxies, and Universes: Live Action at The Walt Disney Studios" presentation at Disney's D23 EXPO 2015 in Anaheim, Calif.  (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney) *** Local Caption *** Johnny Depp; Sean Bailey

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Orlando Bloom is returning to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, alongside Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, Javier Bardem, and Kaya Scodelario. Other than that, we didn’t really learn too much about the fifth entry in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Johnny Depp also came on stage in character as Captain Jack Sparrow and hurled grapes into the audience. So, yeah, that happened.

Star Wars: Rogue One L to R: Actors Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Felicity Jones, Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen Photo Credit: Jonathan Olley ©Lucasfilm 2016

Star Wars: Rogue One

While we didn’t get any footage from Rogue One, the first entry in the new Star Wars standalone film series, we were treated to our first ever cast photo (featured above), as well as a confirmed cast list. Joining Felicity Jones in Star Wars: Rogue One will be Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, and Riz Ahmed.

No word yet on which one of these actors will be playing the many Bothans that died to bring us this information.

You can read our complete recap of the Rogue One news right here.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

As we draw ever closer to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams and company are being awfully tight-lipped about what we can expect and keeping new footage firmly under wraps. When asked about working with John Williams, Abrams was quick to gush. “I went to John Williams’ house one day and he played me on his piano music that he is going to conduct, and it was like hearing music from the gods,” the director said.

Though the cast–Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Lupita Nyong’o, and Harrison Ford–came out alongside Abrams to say hello to the assembled crowd, they didn’t leave us empty-handed. Boyega unveiled a special edition one-sheet poster created by legendary artist Drew Struzan, which you can see below:

That lightsaber though! Here’s hoping that Rey is Force sensitive too because the more Jedi, the better. For our complete dissection of the poster, click here.

Bob Iger, however, did drop the megaton bomb of an announcement that Disney will be opening a 14-acre Star Wars Land in both Disneyland in Anaheim, CA and Walt Disney Hollywood Studios in Orlando, FL at Disney World. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go practice my audition to be a part of Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes.

Star Wars: Episode IX

Good news for fans of genetically altered dinosaurs and white guys wearing glasses because Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow will officially be directing Star Wars: Episode IX. You can read our complete breakdown here.

What did you think of yesterday’s announcements? Let me know in the comments below.



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