Maybe I’ve become cynical when it comes to documentaries and reality shows, but while waiting to see Morgan Spurlock’s ‘Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope,’ I was half expecting to see geekdom at its extreme. What I got instead was an insightful look at the heart of Comic-Con from the eyes of those who flock there.
There’s a reason why Spurlock calls this documentary ‘A Fan’s Hope’ as he follows several attendees while they pursue their dreams and desires at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con. There is Eric who’s in the military and is an aspiring illustrator hoping to impress comic book publishers which will eventually lead him to a job offer. Holly is an ambitious costume and creature designer who makes her creations out of her garage and hopes to win a big prize at the con. Chuck is a long time comic book dealer who owns Mile High Comics in Denver and is hoping that he sells enough comics to pay off his debts. Skip is a bartender at a sci-fi/horror/fantasy themed bar looking to be discovered as a comic book illustrator. Then there’s James, who with his girlfriend found love at the last Comic-Con and is hoping she is ready for the next big step.
Overall, the documentary was entertaining in that most people view those who go to Comic-Con as just there to attend the panels, participate in cosplay and see the what new “IT” thing is being offered, and very rarely do you think of those people as individuals who are going there to fulfill a dream. What struck me the most was the story of Chuck whose livelihood depends on selling comic books. At a convention that started off as a place where comic book lovers could gather together, it has now become a place where comics are no longer the main attraction… or even the second or third attraction. The sales demise of hard copy comics is a real dilemma shown by Chuck’s reluctance to sell a valuable #1 issue of a ‘Red Raven’ comic book just to make ends meet for his business. The sense of melancholy and irony of the comic book industry and its almost second hand place in Comic Con was very apparent. Even with all this, Chuck tried to stay optimistic and did deliver one of the best insights in the movie. While talking to his protégée about how Nicholas Cage sold all his comic books because his girlfriend told him to, he said, “if your woman is telling you to sell all your comic books, that’s God’s way of telling you you need to find another woman.” (I can already hear the rowdy “Hallelujahs” and “Amens” from comic book fanboys right about now.)
With only 88 minutes of run time, there is only so much you can show and with 6 stories to tell, it seems like you only get a smattering of their tale. I would have much rather seen more story with fewer people just to feel like I formed a stronger connection to them.
Interspersed with the stories are segments featuring other celebrities and Comic-Con goers who explain what the various aspects of Comic-Con they enjoy are. This helps with the pacing of the film in that a segment is never lingered on too long before an interstitial piece is shown to break up the monotony. Kevin Smith did an excellent job of being the voice of the film and his casual style seemed very fitting throughout the film. What was also very entertaining was seeing all the celebrities who participated in this part of the documentary.
Unlike Spurlock’s other documentaries (‘Super Size Me’), there’s no hard hitting investigative conclusion to be made with ‘A Fan’s Hope.’ As I’ve never been to Comic-Con, this film has only resolved my intentions to go at least once in my lifetime (that is, if I can ever get tickets before it sells out!). ‘Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope’ is an enjoyable film that is obviously a love story about the mecca that thousands of geeks and nerds flock to each year. It’s a film for those who love going to Comic-Con and for those who have never been and is definitely worth seeing by all.