Saturday, June 2, 2012

Movie Review: Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope ***
Directed by: Morgan Spurlock.

You have to admire the kind of passion on display in Morgan Spurlock’s new documentary – Comicon Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. You admire it because it’s so rare to see people this passionate about anything. Yes, it’s easy to laugh at grown adults who spend their days obsessing about comic book characters, science fiction or video games – who devote a lot of time to making costumes or drawing their own comics, or collecting toys. But hey, don’t we all need a hobby? Something we love beyond all reason, that is just ours, that makes us feel special? Something that no matter what is going on in our lives that we can turn to to make ourselves feel better? I think we do, and no matter what you say about the people who populate this documentary, they have found that. And contrary to popular belief these self-described “geeks” don’t all live in their parents basement and have never gone on a date – they lead fairly normal lives aside from their obsession.

The movie looks at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con, the biggest such convention in the world. Director Morgan Spurlock gets interviews with many of the Con’s biggest attendees – Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon, Harry Knowles, Stan Lee, Matt Groening, Frank Miller, etc – all shot with a white backdrop, who reflect on how much they love the Convention, and share some of the most bizarre stories and encounters they have had there. These interviews are fun – but they are secondary to the film’s charm. The most fun comes from following some of the attendees who view Comic-Con as some sort of Mecca.

Some come just for a chance to meet their heroes – or to buy the latest Galactus action figure (and if you don’t know who Galactus is, that’s probably a good sign that this movie isn’t for you). Still others come for business. The movie follows two people who are going to be doing portfolio reviews – where they show their drawings to professionals in an attempt to get their foot in the door – one find he has actual talent, the other finds that drawing professionally is a lot more difficult than having passion for it. One geeky couple comes every year –they actually met at Comic-Con, and the he wants to ask her to marry him at the Kevin Smith panel – but finds it difficult to get away from her long enough to pick up his specially designed, Lord of the Rings inspired engagement ring he had one of the jewellers at the Con make for her. Another woman, and her friends, has spent months making costumes based on their favorite video game to participate in the Masquerade – and have done an amazing job of it. The most bittersweet of the stories is about a comic dealer who has been coming ever since Comic-Con was small enough to be held in a large room, and had 500 guests, and now finds himself, and the rest of the comic’s dealer, shunted off the side. The reality is while it is still called Comic-Con, comics really are secondary – major corporations and studios have taken over, and see this as a chance to promote their latest geek product, and the people who built the Comic-Con are no longer really required. With the economy in trouble, people don’t have money to spend on comics. And while millions pay to see comic book movies every year, very few actually want to read the comics that inspired them. This dealer may well have to sell his most prized comics – valuing in total around $1 million in order to survive.
The film was directed by Morgan Spurlock, who has quickly become one of the most recognizable, yet divisive figures in documentary film. After his well-regarded debut, Supersize Me, he has sputtered more than a little bit – his Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? was awful, and last year’s The Greatest Movie Ever Sold was not much better. Spurlock, wisely, keeps himself off camera this time – and in fact, you never even hear his voice. Unlike his other films, he knows he is not the story here – and lets those who are, tell their own stories. It works. Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope is not a great documentary, but it is fun and affectionate one. Given the subject matter, what else could you expect. 

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