Morgan Spurlock burst on to the scene with Super Size Me (2004), but his profile has faded somewhat since then, despite working pretty regularly. Most of his feature efforts, including Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fans Hope (2011) have gone straight to DVD, here in Australia at least.
That is a shame though, because I think Spurlock is one of the more interesting documentary makers going round, both in terms of his choice of subjects and the way he brings them to the screen. Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fans Hope sheds a little light on the cultural phenomenon that is Comic-Con. It does so by telling the individual tales of a number of attendees. From those wishing to get their artwork noticed, grizzled vets who have been attending since the early days, a dude that wants to propose to his girlfriend at the event and a bunch more. Sprinkled throughout this are interviews with some Comic-Con geeks that have gone onto massive things, led by Joss Whedon and Kevin Smith. It is an interesting structure and for the most part works well. Though occasionally some of the subjects do seem to go missing for longer then would have been ideal. The film is excellent at really making you feel like you are right there at the Con. It is also interesting to hear much of the cynicism emanating from those that have been attending for many years, directed at the perceived ‘selling out’ of Comic-Con that has occurred as its popularity has skyrocketed. The film gets stronger as it goes along. There are a couple of fantastic high points in the second half and Spurlock manages to create some tension out of these really high stakes times, the culmination of dreams.
My criticisms of the film, if any, are that the people it presents are so interesting, that I wanted to know more about them. I couldn’t get enough of each of their stories in this 80 minute format. Perhaps a TV series, where 30 or 60 minutes could be devoted to each of them may have been a more satisfying way to really tell their stories rather than just present a sketch of these people. The film does a good job of overcoming the inherent awkwardness of many of the subjects and manages to get the audience invested in their various hopes and dreams though. It also shows the obsession of some people involved in geek culture and manages to do so in an interesting way. Not afraid to show that sometimes this obsession can verge too far and become unhealthy with people losing sight of the reason they got into this stuff in the first place. Like all of Spurlock’s work, this is well shot. It has some cool little touches too like the comic style intertitles when each subject is introduced and labelling on screen. The film as a whole also benefits from the sterling choice of talking head interviews and the punters that are being showcased who bring their passion to the film.
As an examination of geek culture through its most famous manifestation, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fans Hope is pretty successful. If you have absolutely no interest in geek culture whatsoever, then there probably is not a whole lot for you here. But if you have even the slightest curiosity about what happens at Comic-Con, then this is definitely recommended.
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs
Like what you read? Then please like Not Now I’m Drinking a Beer and Watching a Movie on facebook here