Comic-Con Kicks-Off its 50th Year with Big Guns Tom Cruise, Arnold Schwarzenegger

July 19, 2019 - 11:44 am

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego Comic-Con 2019 will begin in earnest today with appearances by film critic Leonard Maltin, actors Felicia Day and Tom Lennon, comic book writer Frank Miller and more during the pop culture convention's first day.

Tom Cruise made an unexpected flyby at the Con Thursday to debut the first trailer for "Top Gun: Maverick."

The audience in the 8,000 seat room went wild as he closed out what had been billed only as a panel for "Terminator: Dark Fate."

Cruise says all the flying in the trailer is real and that "Top Gun: Maverick" is a love letter to aviation. They worked with the Navy for the film, which is currently in production.

"Top Gun: Maverick" is expected to hit theaters next June. Val Kilmer, Jon Hamm and Miles Teller co-star.

Cruise said Comic-Con was the perfect place to premiere the trailer. He shot the original some 34 years ago in San Diego.

A group of local officials and convention representatives including San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, City Councilwoman Georgette Gomez and Comic-Con International Chief Communications and Strategy Officer David Glanzer will open the 50th annual convention at 8 a.m.

Leave the kids at home, "Terminator: Dark Fate" is getting an R-rating.

Director Tim Miller told the audience at San Diego Comic-Con that it wasn't always going to be the plan, but the fans demanded it. The panel that kicked off the fan convention Thursday morning may also have gotten the same rating with the number of expletives thrown around by Miller.

Arnold Schwarzenegger even won $20 because Miller said one particular word more than 5 times.

"It was 10," Schwarzenegger said. "I counted."

Would you expect any less from the director of "Deadpool"?

Miller and Schwarzenegger were joined by Linda Hamilton, who is reprising her role as Sarah Connor, franchise newcomer Mackenzie Davis and other cast members on the Hall H stage.

This latest film fully ignores the events of the last Terminator movie, "Terminator: Genisys," with Emilia Clarke which bombed with audiences and critics in 2015. Instead "Dark Fate" picks up where James Cameron left off with "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" in 1991.

Producer David Ellison even told Miller that he didn't do Terminator as well as he'd wished the first time around with "Genisys" and wanted to try again.

Part of the strategy to "get it right" involved bringing Cameron back to produce.

Cameron chimed in via a live broadcast from the set of the "Avatar" sequels. He said he would have liked to have been in San Diego to kick off the 50th Comic-Con , but that he had to keep working.

"Everybody's always whining about how long it's taking 'Avatar' to get done," Cameron said.

His requirements for a new "Terminator" film started and stopped with wanting to make sure Schwarzenegger came back. It wasn't a problem, since Schwarzenegger himself said he's addicted to these films.

"'Terminator' was the movie that really launched my action movie career," Schwarzenegger said.

Then there was the Sarah Connor question. For Cameron and many fans, Hamilton is the one true Sarah. He sent her a "long rambling email with a lot of reasons why she should do it and a lot of reasons why she shouldn't."

The main point in the "pro column," Cameron said, is that people love her as this character.

"The character is the same but time changes everything," Hamilton said. "I felt there was a world of richness I could explore and then rock it as a woman of a certain age."

Although the 62-year-old actress is in full fighting shape in the footage and trailers, Hamilton said she didn't worry too much about getting back to her "T2" self.

"One day I woke up and realized I can no longer worry about being what I was because I am so much more than what I was," she said. "The richness of my life experience is only going to enrich the character I play."

But her 32-year-old co-star Davis still conceded that Hamilton would definitely win in a fight. Hamilton agreed.

"Mackenzie is stronger and younger, but I'm meaner," Hamilton said with a smile.

Edward Furlong is also returning to play John Connor again.

The audience greeted the action-packed footage with enthusiasm, which reached a crescendo when Sarah Connor debuted on screen.

"Terminator: Dark Fate" opens in theaters Nov. 1 and Comic-Con runs through Sunday.

Maltin will participate in a panel discussion with daughter Jessie Maltin entitled "You're Wrong, Leonard Maltin," allowing movie fans to discuss Maltin's review of a film and argue in favor of or against it. The panel is scheduled for 1 p.m. in Room 6BCF.

At 2 p.m., the convention will hold a celebration of Marvel Comics co-creator and writer Stan Lee, who died at age 95 last November. The discussion, held in Room 5AB, will feature film producer Tom DeSanto, business partner Gil Champion and more discussing Lee's impact on pop culture, memories of him and how he inspired comic book fans around the world.

At 3:30 p.m., Day, Lennon and others will participate in "The Great Debate," moderated by actress and comedian Aisha Tyler. The discussion will feature arguments over pop culture issues and allow audience members to indicate who they feel is the winner. The debate will be held in Ballroom 20.

Miller, writer of "The Dark Knight," among other things, will discuss his body of work with Hollywood Reporter journalist Borys Kit at 6:45 p.m. in Room 6A. Miller will also divulge information about his upcoming literary and film projects.

Panels will run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Additional panels include a discussion with "Spongebob Squarepants" voice actors, live podcast recordings, art and writing workshops and more. Events will also be held Thursday and throughout the weekend at Petco Park, the Theatre Box, the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, the Manchester Grand Hyatt and the Balboa Theatre.

Throughout the day, the San Diego Blood Bank will continue its 43rd annual Robert A. Heinlein blood drive at the convention. Donors will receive a limited-edition "Avengers: Endgame" T-shirt and goody bag regardless of whether they have a badge to attend the convention or not.

Harbor Drive will be closed to all non-foot traffic from First Avenue to Park Boulevard from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. to accommodate the convention's large crowds. Local transit agencies like the Metropolitan Transit System and the North County Transit District will offer increased service to and from the convention center to make up for the closures.

The annual five-day convention brings in more than $147 million in economic activity to San Diego County. An estimated 130,000 people are expected to attend the festival this year.