PUBLICIST: Sci-fi fans get bugged if films don't produce what they want

The burning question of the day: "What kind of new bugs can we expect?"

The burning question of the day: "What kind of new bugs can we expect?"

No Orkin man convention, this. It was the LA Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention. And even if, as one circuit veteran told me, it was "minor league" compared to the much larger Comic-Con in San Diego, it was still a must-see for fans of the fantasy/sci-fi genre. Amidst comic books, videos, posters, action figures, and an Elvis look-alike, a crowd had gathered at the back of the room for a panel discussion with the filmmakers of Starship Troopers 2. The 1997 original, while unsuccessful in theaters, became a home-video hit, inspiring the sequel being released exclusively on DVD. But while the first film had an $100 million budget, ST2 was made for only $6 million. "The lower budget demanded a more character-driven story," explained the producer. In other words, fewer cool effects. Fewer bugs. This didn't fly with the intense Trooper fan next to me. "We don't want 'character-driven,'" he cried to me. "We want friggin' giant bugs, dude." And I think he was including me in the "we." I was obliged to sympathize. "Totally, dude. Give us bugs, man." Meanwhile, dozens of Val Kilmer fans across the way were happier with their lot, as the actor amiably signed autographs and posed for photos. While other equally famous thespians may have sat brooding, wondering where their career got off-track, the Batman Forever star seemed to enjoy himself. Probably because he grasps what "serious" actors refuse to admit: We live in a comic-book world, folks, so one might as well just embrace it. Film producers scour these shows to find the next hot property or schmooze with the leading writers. You don't see Hollywood fighting over the works of the Bard, but a studio with the rights to popular comic- book properties is sitting pretty. Strolling through the aisles of Spider-Man swag and X-rated videos (because comic book enthusiasts don't subsist on sci-fi alone), I came across a man visibly distraught over the incorrect placement of the wings of a Star Wars fighter jet. He was expressing his displeasure to the vendor, who was failing, in his mind, to lend the matter the serious attention it deserved. Clinging to Harry Potter Legos and a vintage copy of Confessions of a Lesbian Prostitute, I was, alas, unable to mediate the dispute, still too upset over the bug issue in Starship Troopers to think clearly. Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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