‘Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope’ Movie Review
Over the weekend I was able to see the premier of Morgan Spurlock’s latest film, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope in Washington, DC. Spurlock himself was attending the last two showings of the evening, but tickets were sold out for both of them.
As a fan of all things ‘cosplay, sci-fi and video games’ and a regular convention attendee, I was very excited to know that a well known filmmaker such as Morgan Spurlock would choose to create a documentary about Comic-Con. Unfortunately, the film didn’t exceed my expectations, but nor did it fail to meet them.
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope highlights the journey of five individuals over the four days that make up the pop culture convention, Comic-Con (2010). One is the owner of a company specializing in selling comic books, two are budding comic artists hoping to break into the business, another is a young woman that creates intricate costumes with her team of friends, and the last is a young man hoping to propose to his girlfriend while attending the con. Smaller stories are weaved into the film as well, such as that of a dedicated toy collector. Inserted between the movie are mini-segments and interviews with multiple celebrities such as Stan Lee and Joss Whedon, both of whom are producers of the film.
For people that have attended Comic-Con (and even if you haven’t) Spurlock’s Comic-Con will present nothing new to you. As fans, we understand the dedication and the immense hype surrounding this huge pop culture event. What Spurlock really does with this film is attempt to introduce a mainstream audience to Comic-Con, while also giving long-time fans and attendees something to appreciate. This film feels like ‘An Ode to Comic-Con’ more than anything else. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t feature any behind-the-scenes secrets or sneak peeks either. While I would have been more interested in the industry side of the convention, Spurlock chooses to focus on what would be obvious to anyone who’s ever been to a ‘geek’ con. I’m surprised Spurlock chose not to go more in depth with the comic-book seller, because while it gave us a peek of the industry, it didn’t explain much other than ‘since Comic-Con isn’t about comics anymore, it’s getting harder for him to make money.’ But there was one very important thing missing from the whole film – enthusiasm. Yes, Kevin Smith makes sure to wave his hands in front of the camera and crack some witty jokes, but overall, Spurlock really makes Comic-Con look boring. He chose not to actually document the heart of the con, but to stay on the outside, ‘looking in’. By getting the point-of-view from essentially, five really anxious people, Spurlock failed to tell us what the it actually felt like to be in the midst of the action. What makes Spurlock such a great documentary filmmaker is how he tends to place himself center-stage, and tell the story himself. That is why Super-Size Me was such a big hit.
The actual shots taken of the con are high quality and look appealing. However, Spurlock makes Comic-Con look just a little too nice. Now, of course we want to show Comic-Con in a good light, but Spurlock should know better than to misrepresent the true atmosphere of a major convention such as this. As any regular convention-goer will tell you, pop culture cons mean waiting in ridiculously long lines, dealing with huge crowds and as Kevin Smith points out at the end of the film – major stink. I, myself have never been to a ‘stinky’ con, but when I’ve talked to people that have, they never forget to put an emphasis on stink and sweat. Spurlock’s version of Comic-Con is just a tad bit more light-hearted than the real thing. At Morgan Spurlock’s Comic-Con, the atmosphere is nice, clean and spacious. The San Diego sun is bright, and sugar coats the path to the convention. It’ a wonderful place where geeks can come together to be themselves, and discuss what it’s like to still live in their parents’ basement. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you – Morgan Spurlock’ Comic-Con…Hmm, that sounds like a wonderful tourism video. I wonder how much Comic-Con paid Spurlock to make it.
The mini interviews throughout the movie are probably the best part of the whole film. Hearing celebrities talk about why they think Comic-Con is important is refreshing and will probably make geeks’ hearts everywhere skip a beat. If you want to hear Kevin Smith, Seth Green and Eli Roth tell you that it’s okay to be a dedicated fan of pop culture and attend conventions like Comic-Con, this film’s for you.
My biggest complaint is the lack of women showcased in the film. Four out the five ‘main’ individuals highlighted were men, and I don’t know why Spurlock couldn’t have made sure to create a good balance between genders. Men and women both attend Comic-Con, and women were virtually not present throughout the whole movie. Only a few of the celebrities interviewed were women, and when you’ve got Kevin Smith going on about ‘hot chicks at the convention’ at the end of the film, it makes you wonder why Spurlock couldn’t have interviewed some of those supposedly ‘hot chicks’. I know there’s a lack of influential women in ‘geek culture’ (compared to men) but that doesn’t mean there are none.
In relation to ‘a galaxy far, far away’, Star Wars fans will appreciate the 2 minutes Spurlock spends highlighting Lucasfilm’s main booth at the convention (it was Star Wars: The Clone Wars themed) and the photo call for women cosplaying in Princess Leia’s legendary metal bikini.
Overall, I feel as though Morgan Spurlock didn’t quite have an objective for Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. With the way it was written, it can feel at times more like a commercial or tourism piece than a documentary about the actual convention. It’s not as though Spurlock didn’t deliver on his promise. The advertised synopsis is in no way misleading, and when it comes to this film, what you see is what you get. It’s just that you would think that with someone as high profile as Stan Lee producing, Spurlock could have easily exceeded expectations.
In conclusion, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fans Hope is a decent film that feels more like an introduction to Comic-Con than anything else. However, Spurlock fails to immerse the viewer in the experience of the convention, and is unsuccessful in gaining enthusiasm for ‘geek’ culture from a mainstream audience that would otherwise not be interested. Because of this, Spurlock also falls flat of gaining a following from the people that would support this film the most – the geeks themselves.
And though I didn’t get to meet Morgan Spurlock, I did manage to get a picture of the back of his head.