Every year at Comic-Con, it seems there's one movie that comes out of left field, wows the fans in Hall H and rides out of the convention on a wave of buzz. Last year it was "Mad Max: Fury Road."
This year it looks to be "Deadpool."
The film wasn't included in the confirmed list of movies at 20th Century Fox's panel Saturday afternoon, but fans had hoped the foul-mouthed, wise-cracking, fouth-wall-breaking superhero known as the "Merc with the mouth" would pop up at some point - and they weren't disappointed.
Not only did star Ryan Reynolds appear on stage along with the film's director, Tim Miller, and several co-stars, but Fox debuted a couple of minutes of footage that essentially played like a red-band trailer, showing off the film's blend of action and very R-rated comedy.
The footage introduced Reynolds as Wade Wilson, who, after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis, undergoes an experimental treatment that leaves him hideously disfigured but with enhanced superpowers. The reel then quickly shifted to full-tilt, sometimes hyperviolent action, showing Deadpool beating various baddies senseless and, at one point, shooting three people through the head with one shot in mid-air - all the while delivering offhand quips, nearly all of which are too crude to be quoted here. (One of the least NSFW lines, delivered by co-star T.J. Miller to Reynolds' scarred Wilson: "You look like an avocado that had sex with an older avocado.")
As an indication of how irreverent this superhero property is, at one point during the footage Marvel Comics icon Stan Lee made a cameo - in a strip club.
While overheated hype is the coin of the realm at Comic-Con, it's no exaggeration to say that the footage brought the house down, with audiences on their feet and chanting, "One more time! One more time!"
Reynolds acknowledged how long a road it's been to get the film made. (Deadpool's mouth was infamously sewn shut for his big-screen debut in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," a decision fans widely deemed disappointing at best and boneheaded at worst.)
"It's only been 11 years in the waiting," Reynolds said sarcastically. "You guys made the studio do this. ... It's an absolute miracle that they let us make 'Deadpool' - let alone a rated-R 'Deadpool.' "
While "Deadpool" may have generated the biggest instant spike of excitement, there was plenty more superhero action in Fox's packed panel.
Virtually the entire cast of next year's "X-Men: Apocalypse" took the stage, along with director Bryan Singer , and unveiled a selection of early footage that was particularly impressive given that the film has only been shooting for five weeks, with an epic and ominous feel centered around the new baddie, Apocalypse, played by Oscar Isaac. The footage was enthusiastically received by the crowd. "That went over well," Singer said with obvious pleasure.
The mutant supervillain in the new film is "like a cult leader," Isaac told the crowd. "He has so many powers, but the biggest one may be the power of persuasion. He sees what people need and want and he exploits it."
The upcoming "Fantastic Four" reboot, opening Aug. 7, also got a turn in the spotlight, with stars Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell all on hand, along with director Josh Trank and producer Simon Kinberg.
But while Fox may have helped helped "Fantastic Four" - which has been battling a wave of negative buzz for months - by debuting a final trailer that's heavier on action than any that have come before, the film perhaps inevitably wound up feeling a bit overshadowed by the studio's other superhero offerings.
Fox concluded its panel, which also included looks at "The Maze Runner" sequel and "Victor Frankenstein," by bringing all of the casts of its three superhero movies onto the stage, along with Stan Lee himself and another surprise guest: Channing Tatum, who will be playing Gambit in another spinoff film from the X-Men universe. The combined casts crowded together for one giant group photo in what Fox clearly intended as its own display of super strength after Warner Bros.' DC hero-packed panel that morning.
"Now that's how you end a Comic-Con panel," Lee said.
It was hard to argue with him.