The Highs and Lows of Comic-Con 2016

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Gal Gadot and Chris Pine from Wonder Woman. (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Warning: There are potential spoilers for projects like Wonder Woman, Batman: The Killing Joke, and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 below. Proceed at your own risk.

The 2016 edition of San Diego Comic-Con came to a close on Sunday, ending four days of pop-culture overload. But before we stash our costumes and kick up our feet, we thought we’d take stock of everything that happened at the bayside bonanza. Without further ado, here are the highs — and lows — of the confab.

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The Star Trek Beyond crew at the premiere. (Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

High: The history-making premiere of Star Trek Beyond
Normally it would be a pain when a movie begins an hour past its scheduled start time. That wasn’t the case with Paramount’s seaside Wednesday-night premiere of Star Trek Beyond, a memorable spectacle that not only marked the first-ever outdoor IMAX screening but also included a hilarious prescreening Q&A hosted by Conan O’Brien, a light show, fireworks, live accompaniment by the San Diego Symphony, and touching tributes to late co-stars Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin.

Related: Comic-Con 2016: See All the Best Photos From the Movie Panels

Low: Batman: The Killing Joke Controversy
The long-awaited animated adaptation of the seminal, controversial graphic novel arrived at Comic-Con for a late-night world premiere on Friday. While the filmmakers were true to the source material, they’d talked about needing to extend the story to make it long enough to fill a feature-length film. They also wanted to give the character of Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) a story arc, something she didn’t have in the book, in the form of a prologue exploring her early crimefighting experiences with Batman. However, that new material seemed to polarize fans, with some reacting negatively to a sex scene between Batgirl and Batman and what they saw as a sexist depiction of Gordon, prompting a testy, awkward exchange with filmmakers during the postscreening Q&A.

Related: Comic-Con 2016 on the Red Carpet: The ‘Star Trek Beyond’ Cast Celebrates the New Mission

High: A big Blair Witch reveal
There are few genuine surprises at Comic-Con these days, but Lionsgate pulled off a whopper Friday night. The studio invited some lucky fans and select press to a screening of a little-known horror movie called The Woods, only to reveal just as it was about to begin that the film was really called Blair Witch. A sequel to the 1999 indie sensation and its ill-conceived 2000 follow-up Book of Shadows, the film — directed by You’re Next’s Adam Wingard — earned a generally strong reception and has horror fans suddenly excited for its September release.

Low: So little Star Wars
Beyond the usual barrage of Force-strong cosplay, there wasn’t much to be seen or heard from the world’s most popular cinematic empire. It makes sense, since Disney and Lucasfilm just held their own three-day Celebration in London last week. At Comic-Con, however, if you are desperate for the slightest whiff of Star Wars news, there was a new character revealed for Rogue One called Two Tubes — though something tells us he’s a minor one.

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Joseph Gorden-Levitt at the Snowden panel. (Photo: Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

High: Snowden
Comic-Con isn’t typically a venue where Oscar buzz is born. But it could be the start of something for the thrilling Oliver Stone–directed biopic Snowden, particularly for its lead, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who talked to us about going all-in on the NSA whistleblower’s voice. Edward Snowden himself Skyped in to a postscreening Q&A and approved of Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal.

Low: A light year for movies
We’ve been hearing whispers for years that the major studios are considering peeling away from Comic-Con, which in the past felt like an industry requisite. Well, 2016 might be the year it finally showed signs of slowing down. Fox announced it wasn’t bringing anything X-Men-related (and attended only with DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls); Paramount showed up for just the Star Trek premiere; Sony had just a low-profile Sausage Party panel and screening; and Universal didn’t have any presence at all.

High: Valerian
Luc Besson landed in San Diego with Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, his first sci-fi effort since 1997’s beloved The Fifth Element. And while it’s tough to cut through the space fray in a genre dominated by Star Wars and Star Treks, footage from Besson’s film starring Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne drew major props for its eye-popping effects, hot young stars, and A-grade gadgetry and costumes.

Related: Comic-Con: Luc Besson’s ‘Valerian’ Pops in Hall H

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Zack Synder, Ben Affleck, and Gal Gadot present the ‘Justice League’ teaser. (Photo: Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

High: DC Superheroes
After the deadly serious Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice underwhelmed, DC and Warner Bros. recalibrated its cinematic universe, and Comic-Con became a proving ground for the future viability of Batman, Superman (spoiler: he’s alive!), Wonder Woman, and the rest of their super friends. Judging by the reaction in the room on Saturday, when the DC brain trust trotted out stars and trailers for Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, and Justice League, the DCU is back on track. The trio of films mixed scintillating action and a surprising newfound sense of humor that began to wash away the bad taste of BvS. Following the triumphant live-action showcase, Warner Bros. unleashed Will Arnett for The Lego Batman Movie, a spinoff of The Lego Movie that might have been the single funniest film presentation of the Con.

Low: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
After kicking off in high gear, the Warner Bros. panel ground to a halt with the presentation for King Arthur. There was tepid reaction in Hall H for the trailer to Guy Ritchie’s bro-tastic, manic take on the classic legend, shifting tonally from amped-up action to bawdy humor to battle scenes that could have been outtakes from Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. The bright spot was a very game Charlie Hunnam, the film’s titular hero and the only member of the team to appear at the presentation.

High-Low: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
A Harry Potter prequel of sorts, Beasts got off to a whizzbang start with star Eddie Redmayne (who plays monster-chasing wizard Newt Scamander) channeling his inner Oprah Winfrey and handing out magic wands to everyone in the auditorium with an assist from some Warner Bros.-employed Muggles. However, the goodwill didn’t extend to the latest trailer, whose forced whimsy elicited polite, if not enthusiastic, applause.

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The Marvel crew takes a selfie with host Chris Hardwicke. (Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

High: Marvel Cinematic Universe
With DC setting a high bar earlier on Saturday, its rival pulled out all the stops during an evening presentation. Beginning with the introduction of the impressive Black Panther team — Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, new addition Danai Gurira from The Walking Dead, and director Ryan Coogler — Marvel then teased Thor: Ragnarok with a gut-busting Office-style docu-short chronicling Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his downtime in Australia while waiting for a call from Tony Stark or Steve Rogers about joining them for Captain America: Civil War. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) also turns up. The studio showed off some promising early footage from Spider-Man: Homecoming and a trippy new Doctor Strange trailer, before Comic-Con favorite James Gunn took things next-level for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, showing off a scene from the film and then a trailer — both dominated by an adorable Baby Groot. The panel ended with all the casts coming out for a massive selfie, joined by Brie Larson, making her first official appearance as Captain Marvel.

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