Luke Y Thompson is covering the Con for DHD with an emphasis on Hollywood:

Holy crap, DISTRICT 9 looks all kinds of awesome.

But before I get to that, I’m gonna do just like Sony did. You’re here to see Peter Jackson talk about DISTRICT 9? Fine…but first, here’s another movie called LEGION!

Retroactively, I’d like to thank Fox for not piggybacking any other movies onto the AVATAR panel. They probably knew fans would be righteously furious…or maybe James Cameron pulled rank and said “I’m the king of the world! And king of this panel, dammit!” Probably something like that but more polite.

So anyway, LEGION. Directed by a former FX guy named Scott Stewart. He shows a clip in which an ice cream truck is driving through the desert. The driver gets out, and his arms start to stretch. Then his jaw gets super long. Now all of a sudden he looks like a human spider, and I don’t mean Tobey Maguire.

Images of the desert follow. And angels. This looks like THE PROPHECY. But maybe a rip-off is a better idea than a remake.

Paul Bettany as arcangel Michael. He cuts off his wings, as security collars that had bound them fall to the ground. Busts into a police arsenal and takes a bunch of guns.

Then we cut to a desert diner called Paradise Falls (ooh, forshadowing!) Dennis Quaid and Charles S. Dutton are there. The emergency broadcast signal comes on the TV. An old woman swears at a pregnant waitress, then gets spidery like the ice cream guy and walks up the wall. Quaid shoots her.

Then there’s more angels, and Bettany talking about the end of the world, and Kevin Durand (The Blob in WOLVERINE) as Arcangel Gabriel, and wing-fu, upside-down crucifixions, boils, and crazy stuff cut faster and faster, till we see the release date: January 22.

January? Damn. Not a good sign.

Panel: Stewart, Doug Jones, Bettany, Tyrese, and Adrianne Palecki.

Doug Jones plays the freaky ice cream guy. He took the role in large part because, in a rare treat for him, he didn’t have to wear a mask.

Strewart says he made the movie just because he wanted to see a flick about angels with machine guns.

Tyrese: “The most exciting thing for me was getting a chance to see Paul Bettany’s muscles. I think all of Albuquerqe ran out of baby oil.” He refers to the movie’s theme of a chosen unborn child who’ll save the world as “baby mama drama.”

Bettany says he always wanted to be in an action movie but never has (glad he admits Da Vinci Code isn’t one).

Jones says that the difference between this kind of role versus Hellboy is like the difference between walking out of the house in a sweater or a Speedo…”but then you get to the pool and you figure out you’re okay.”

Stewart and Bettany will next be working together on the comic adaptation PRIEST. A teaser poster is shown – Bettany’s face with a cross etched into it.

The panel ends…but then Tyrese comes back, hogs the mic, and plugs his comic book.

And now…Peter Jackson! First partial standing ovation of Comic-Con (even Cameron didn’t get that!)

First, no real news on THE HOBBIT. They’re about 8 weeks away from submitting a script, and can’t cast or budget till then.

That out of the way, on to DISTRICT 9.

You’ve seen the signs everywhere, starting last year at Comic-Con – “Humans only.” You may know that it’s  a fake documentary about aliens who land on Earth with nowhere else to go, and are confined to a shantytown in Johannesburg, South Africa. But considering how soon it’s coming out, it’s remarkable, and possibly counterproductive, how little has come out about character or story.

The 7-minute reel we saw put that to rest. Newcomer Sharlto Copely, a school friend of director Neill Blomkamp, plays a government census guy who manages alien affairs and sometimes has to evict them. The aliens are human-shaped bugs, basically, and are clearly being mistreated by the government. While evicting some of them, Copely’s character sets off a biological booby-trap that contaminates him with alien DNA, turning his hand into an insect claw.

This is convenient for the government, as they have some of the alien weaponry, but cannot use it as it is DNA-activated. And now they have a man with alien DNA, but he soon resents the way he’s being used, and starts fighting back on the side of the aliens.

Oh, and there are mechs. This is the year of the mech, it seems, since The Matrix trilogy made them feasible. AVATAR, IRON MAN 2, and this, a large battle suit that looks like a Neon Genesis Evangelion toy (Jackson was once attached to a possible Evangelion movie). Mayhem ensues. Several bloody kill-gags are reminiscent of Jackson’s older movies. In one standout scene, a soldier fires a rocket launcher at the alien mothership, and the mech-suit, catches the rocket out of the air. This was supposedly low-budget, but you’d never know…Blomkamp has been a CG animator since he was 12.

I cannot wait. This reel was maybe the best thing I’ve seen all Con.

Blomkamp and Jackson originally met when they were supposed to do the film adaptation of the HALO video games – PJ was impressed with Neill’s reel. They spent nearly 6 months developing it, and then studio politics killed it. Jackson says they never got to submit a script or budget. Rights to the movie have reverted back to Microsoft, who felt burned by the studios (Universal and Fox) and are figuring out there next move. PJ says the idea still excites him, but Neill right now prefers developing his own ideas.

The design of the aliens comes from the notion that they’re like an insect hive that have lost their queen. They’re drones who have lost their drive, so it made sense to have them be insects.

Jackson concludes by hinting that he may do a low-budget horror movie again soon, as he has some free time while Guillermo del Toro makes THE HOBBIT.

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.