Among the main attractions of WonderCon Anaheim are the movie panels, which are almost as much fun as hanging out with shameless exhibitionists clad in spandex. The latest edition of the giant Southern California nerd-fest, which wrapped yesterday, highlighted anticipated films “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and “Godzilla.”
However, the real thrill of the panels comes in the form of those little gems you discover when you least expect it. This year, the biggest surprise was director Matthew Vaughn’s upcoming comic book adaptation “The Secret Service.” Twentieth Century Fox unveiled some rough but intriguing footage of this stylized spy flick, despite the fact that Vaughn was reluctant to tip his hand so early, according to moderator Ralph Garman. The film is due for release in 2015.
Based on a comic book by Vaughn’s previous collaborators, “Kick-Ass” writer Matt Millar and artist Dave Gibbons, “The Secret Service” is about a rogue British intelligence agency designed to accomplish what the CIA and MI6 cannot. The movie stars Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Caine. It is also rumored to feature cameos by the likes of Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, David Beckham and Elton John.
The footage unveiled Saturday featured Firth in proper English gentleman mode, sharing a pint of Guinness at a pub with a young British street punk played by Taron Egerton. Firth’s seemingly harmless secret agent is attempting to recruit the incredulous lad when the meeting is interrupted by a gang of thugs. The actor calmly strolls to the establishment’s double doors, slides the lock shut, then proceeds to kick his would-be assailants’ butts, making particularly ingenious use of his umbrella. Of course, Firth never breaks a sweat. His dry British wit is his deadliest weapon.
The scene was followed by a montage of clips that were equally tantalizing, suggesting “The Secret Service” is Vaughn at his best with the hilariously violent edge of “Kick-Ass,” the action movie panache of “X-Men: First Class” and the gritty British quirks of the director’s debut film, “Layer Cake.”
“The Secret Service” appears to make excellent use of Firth’s quintessential Britishness, for which he was celebrated in “The King’s Speech” and “Pride and Prejudice.” And then there is the unlikely presence of Jackson, apparently on a quest to pop up in every comic book movie known to man.
As Hollywood persists in stripping the pages of every graphic novel it can get its hands on, from Marvel’s invincible franchise machine to DC’s ever growing repertoire, “The Secret Service” looks to be a smaller, refreshingly original entry in a genre built on endless possibilities. You should be hearing a lot more about in the future.