Merry Christmas! The year is quickly coming to a close, and today's "Movie Monday" film celebrates that July event unlike any other. Acclaimed documentarian Morgan Spurlock tackles San Diego Comic-Con with his nerd film, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope.
It's no secret that I love San Diego Comic Con. The incredible sights, the booming sounds, the exorbitant prices, the raucous parties, and the interesting smells -- I love every minute of it. It was even my pick for most memorable event of 2012. (Check out our 2012 Year in Review podcast, up later this week!)
It should be no surprise then that I found Morgan Spurlock's SDCC-centric documentary so damn entertaining. My opinion, however, isn't based completely on my nerdy biases. On the contrary, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope is a film most would find enjoyable - both inside and outside the SDCC fan culture.
A Fan's Hope is well-structured and tightly knit, granting real insight into the different facets of the people attending Southern California's mega-event. Even for con veterans like us here at OTF, it's easy to forget that the the backstory for each attendee is unique -- sure, there's a shared excitement, but all for different things for different reasons. I've gone as a standard attendee just trying to catch everything I can, and I've gone as a member of the press, with appointments upon appointments to keep. Each situation creates its own kind of myopia of the event.
Spurlock, however, did his best to remind us that SDCC is a con for all, breaking that provincial view. He follows six subjects throughout the 2010 event, each with his/her own given super-persona: "The Geek," a bartender/artist trying to push his portfolio; "The Solider," a USAF soldier and father also looking for a positive portfolio review; "The Designer," a cosplayer extraordinaire with a particular penchant for Mass Effect; "The Collector," an action figure aficionado on the hunt for the next SDCC exclusive; "The Survivor," a decades-long con veteran and comics retailer peddling his comic wares to keep his store afloat; and "The Lovers," a pair of nerd lovers who met at SDCC the year before with designs on tying the knot.
Interspersed throughout these stories are recognizable actors, directors, writers, and average fans telling their own tales of SDCC. Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, Grant Morrison, Robert Kirkman, Eli Roth, Edgar Wright, and many more seemingly shed their impressive titles for the film and just recount about what it means to be a fan at Comic-Con.
It truly is a great little insight into the mind of the con goer, and an entertaining one at at that. It attempts to address the questions that the "outsiders" tend to have about those of us that attend conventions: "Why do you do this?" Or as my father famously states, "Cartoons again? It's for babies!"
As interesting as these stories are to see, there are still a few disappointments. For a film about Comic-Con, there was a surprising lack of info about the convention itself - instead focusing on the people that attend. The film starts with a small introduction of its humble 1970s beginnings, but there was little serious commentary on the transition to the pop culture explosion it is today. There are certainly a lot of strong opinions on the media properties cannibalizing the "comic" out of "Comic-Con," and it would have been nice to see that debate and what it means for the convention's ultimate growth.
Still, Spurlock creates a film that celebrates the event we love, with a little bit of added drama behind the artists' successes and failures as they try to get their portfolio reviewed, the cosplayer's amazing Mass Effect masquerade entry, and the couple's elaborate proposal. And for that reason, it's a film that should be watched by anyone with even the slightest hint of interest at the San Diegan nerd onslaught.
Verdict: Highly recommended. The film celebrates the culture we love with the people that we nerds can relate with and idolize. While the film does fail to provide anything deeper than a superficial analysis of the convention itself, the insight to the different types of people that go the convention is a fascinating reminder that SDCC is for everyone -- and that's why we love it.
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope is available now for download via iTunes, Amazon Instant, Hulu, and a wide variety of other on demand partners (including most cable providers.) DVD and Blu-Ray are also available.