(Full disclosure: Harry Knowles, head of Ain't It Cool News, is a producer on the documentary COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN'S HOPE, alongside director Morgan Spurlock, Joss Whedon, Stan Lee and Thomas Tull. As usual, at no point in time was I contacted about the film by any of the listed parties, their representatives or anyone associated with the film, outside of scheduled interviews and the arranged viewing of COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN'S HOPE, regarding my review)
COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN’S HOPE isn’t your usual Morgan Spurlock documentary. For one, he’s nowhere to be found in it, so, if you’re looking for the documentarian to drive the stories of Comic-Con weekend, you might be a little disappointed. You shouldn’t be though, as in his stead, Spurlock uses interviews and the raw emotions of the fans and professionals that have helped make San Diego Comic-Con the geek peak on an annual basis. Instead of Spurlock telling you how much Comic-Con means to fans of movies, comic books, television, anime, video games, etc., he allows them to do it in their own words, giving you a crystal clear picture of the passion for everything the event encompasses, no matter what segment of the geek population they represent.
COMIC-CON never aims to chronicle the history of San Diego from its first year in 1970 to the present. It does however tell the stories of a handful of SDCC attendees who are making quests of different sorts to the 2010 Con in order to accomplish something great for themselves. A couple of the stories have higher stakes than the others, and it’s when these tales are playing out on-screen COMIC-CON shows just how important Comic-Con can be to some. There’s a high degree of drama inherently a part of watching Holly the cosplayer invest all of her time, effort and money into creating accurate real-life versions of the MASS EFFECT 2 characters (complete with animatronics) as she hopes to win the Masquerade. The same goes for Chuck the comic book dealer who is facing the reality of a fading industry and a minimized place at the Convention which is no longer centered around comics any longer. There’s also a pair of illustrators looking to chase their dreams of working in comics, staring at the uncertainty of whether or not they’re good enough until they have a chance to meet with talent scouts from the various publishers who can offer up a honest assessment. To them, Comic-Con is more than just a fun weekend, and, because of that, there’s something to their individual journeys.
However, not all of these stories are winners. COMIC-CON also showcases a toy collector whose main goal is purchasing an 18-inch Galactus exclusive and a guy seeking to propose to his girlfriend at Comic-Con one year after meeting at the event. The payoffs to these two scenarios come nowhere close to matching the builds, particularly in the case of the couple. They may be a great pair in private, but, at least in this short glimpse, the girl comes across as smothering and highly co-dependent, forcing you to actually root against the proposal going so smoothly. If I can’t take watching them together in short bursts during the film, I can only feel for the life this poor bastard is going to live in matrimony when he can’t even take a leak in peace.
The interviews are a nice break from the gravity of these situations, offering up anecdotes and often times humorous takes on what Comic-Con has come to mean to everyone over the years. Joss Whedon stands out with his analysis as does Kevin Smith, who, regardless of how self-important he’s become over the past few years, is still capable of being funny in his observations and stories. Whenever the two of them pop up, you know you’re in for something good that stands apart from the more serious takes of others.
The greatest strength of COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN’S HOPE though is giving you an overall sense of the community by delivering a wide-ranging view of the different aspects of the Convention. For those who’ve attended in the past, you may not know of all the things that go on outside of your schedule, so you get a taste of everything that goes on. There’s something for everyone, with those various elements all receiving their due. And, as someone who has yet to make it out to San Diego for Comic-Con (one year… one year…), the film makes you feel like a part of the community atmosphere just by watching. Yeah, it’d be much better to be there in the flesh, but, if you can’t afford the airfare and the hotels, COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN’S HOPE is a good enough substitute for being in attendance that you can experience from the comfort of your couch.
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