Comic-book movies understandably dominate the conversation at Comic-Con, but there are plenty of film panels that don’t have anything to do with capes, tights or superpowers - and this year, one of the most highly anticipated was Saturday’s Hall H presentation for Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming Western, “The Hateful Eight.”
Tarantino was on hand, along with seven of the titular eight - including cast members Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth and Bruce Dern - and showed off seven minutes from the film that showcased its blend of sweeping Western vistas, gunplay and the director’s trademark razor-sharp dialogue.
Set a few years after the Civil War, the movie finds a group of travelers of varying degree of repute - including two bounty hunters, a prisoner, a Confederate general, a sheriff and a cow-puncher - stranded together during a blizzard. Needless to say, things get complicated and it’s only a matter of time before guns are drawn and blood is spilled.
“The excitement for all of us was just be asked by this man to be in his movie,” Dern said of Tarantino. “He has the greatest attention to detail on a set as any director who ever lived.”
For his part, Tarantino - the writer-director of such film-drunk movies as “Pulp Fiction” and “Inglorious Basterds” - wasn’t just interested in selling the movie, which opens at Christmas. He used the occasion to share his fervently held opinions on the value of traditional old-school film projection in an increasingly digital world.
The film was shot using 70mm Panavision lenses - “the lenses that made ‘Ben-Hur,’ ” Tarantino said - and will be rolled out with an old-fashioned, 1950s-era roadshow. “For the actors, it’s like, ‘We’re not on a hard drive. We’re in a movie,’ ” said Roth.
In Tarantino’s mind, the industry’s shift from film to digital has been nothing short of, well, hateful.
“We’ve ceded too much to the barbarians,” he said. “I didn’t work 20 years to see diminishing returns. That’s not the movie industry I signed up for.” Of digital projection, he said, “It’s just watching television in public.”
Perhaps not surprisingly for a director so stepped in cinema history, Tarantino revealed that “The Hateful Eight” will by scored by Ennio Morricone, whose spaghetti Western scores are beloved by film fans. “It’s his first Western in 40 years,” Tarantino said with obvious pride.
“The Hateful Eight” marks Tarantino’s second film in a row in the Western genre after 2012’s “Django Unchained.” But he told the crowd he doesn’t consider himself a Western director - at least not yet.
“I think you have to make three Westerns before you can call yourself a Western director,” he said. “Anything else, you’re just dabbling.”