On a mission to save a franchise

Times Staff Writer

With the dust settled and Hollywood hindsight in sharp focus, there were clear winners at Comic-Con International, which ended last week in San Diego.

The makers of “Watchmen” are absolutely living up to the hype, while the wide-eyed “Twilight” team is just now realizing how huge the fan expectation is for its vampire romance. “The Spirit,” meanwhile, quieted some of the anxieties of comic-book purists who have wondered why exactly Will Eisner’s gentle noir needs a “Sin City” treatment, and the stylish “Max Payne,” the upcoming video-game adaptation starring Mark Wahlberg, was a flat-out hit with surprised fans.

The biggest news, though, is that “Terminator Salvation” might actually live up to the second half of its title. The movie came to San Diego with a lot to prove. The killer-robot franchise looked pretty thin the last time it was on-screen in 2003, and new director McG has his share of skeptics. Star Christian Bale (or is it “Bail”?) didn’t show up in San Diego -- he was caught up in an ugly family scrap in London.

Even with all that, the new “Terminator” got a huge ovation with its sinister and unsettling look and a story that combines elements of “Blade Runner” and “The Road Warrior.” After the panel, I saw McG backstage and congratulated him on his smooth stage manner. He winced.


“I’m just trying to keep my lips shut these days, really; I want to let my films speak for themselves,” he said. “I want to take me out of it. I need to do less talking. I don’t want to be ‘McG the cheerleader.’ I’m just trying to grow as a filmmaker and let the films be judged.”

It’s a mature and savvy attitude for Joseph McGinty Nichol, who turns 40 this month. If he seems younger it’s because his nickname and public enthusiasm have sometimes made him a target for people who have tagged him as more flash than substance.

You can sense that the “Charlie’s Angels” director is on a more serious mission. The director and his team were in New Mexico shooting until 3 a.m. the night before San Diego. “And Sam [Worthington, one of the stars] cut . . . his hand. We only snoozed for about two hours, but, hey, we wouldn’t have traded it for the world,” he said. “This is what we want to do, bring this movie here and then bring it to the world.”

It’s elementary, dear Watson


Guy Ritchie came to Comic-Con to promote his crackling London crime film “RocknRolla” (which, he told me, reflects “the changing meaning in just the past five years of what it means to be British”), but I really wanted to hear about his Sherlock Holmes project, which will star Robert Downey Jr. as Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic sleuth.

“I came to the character through the books when I was young, and what the film will reflect is the intelligence on the page and also the action,” Ritchie said. “There are quite a lot of intense action sequences in the stories; sometimes that hasn’t been reflected in the movies. It’s been a relatively long time since there’s been a film version that people embraced. I want to make a very contemporary film as far as the tone and texture.”

Ritchie said Holmes would be a man of adventure in a nefarious world, not an armchair thinker in a prim parlor. “There’s a darkness,” he said, “to the movie we want to make.”

Possible recruit to ‘The A-Team’


Remember Ice Cube’s scowl in “Boyz N the Hood”? It turned the rapper into a Hollywood success story, and I always assumed he was channeling the gang members he met on the streets of Compton. But now, after talking with him Friday, I’m wondering if he got it as a kid watching “The A-Team” on NBC.

“I was a big, big Mr. T fan,” the rapper said. He went on to talk about the man with the mohawk in almost reverential terms. (“I even,” he said, “watched his Saturday morning show, but that was cheesy.”) Cube wants to pay homage to his hero by playing “B.A.” Baracus in the John Singleton remake of “The A-Team” if it moves forward as planned. (Bruce Willis and Woody Harrelson are also part of the discussed cast.)

“I really want it to happen, and it’s the thing we’ve been talking about lately, the thing on the other side of the [Screen Actors Guild] strike or no strike. I think it could be great.”

But, Cube, what about the gold chains?


“I don’t know about that,” Cube said, chuckling. “But, you know, maybe at the end, after they get all the money, I could walk out and look at the other guys and say, ‘What do you think, y’all like this look?’ We could play it for fun.”


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