I’m a big fan of comic books, action figures and all things considered “geeky” by those looking in from the outside. While these things have become more popular in recent years, with the help of Hollywood blockbusters making superheroes more mainstream, there’s no denying that there are still plenty of people who still consider people dressing up in costumes on any day other than Halloween as weird. Morgan Spurlock’s latest documentary is not for those people, and while watching it may open their eyes to just how much fun the esteemed comic convention is, odds are they’ll be too busy trying to give their TV screen an atomic wedgie to notice.
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope is a documentary that focuses on a handful of people who are all attending the San Diego Comic-Con for their own personal reasons: first there’s the disgruntled die hard comic store owner who’s looking to make ends meet, while also attempting to sell an incredibly rare comic for $500,000; then there’s a collector who will do whatever it takes to find that one action figure that eludes his ever growing collection; and there’s also two artists who are looking to get discovered; and a group of costume designers who build incredible pieces in their garage back home in hopes of getting noticed when they present them at the Con; and finally there’s a couple who met at the convention a year earlier, and this year a secret proposal is planned with the help of Kevin Smith.
All these stories interweave with one another, with wonderful graphic design layout and editing that sees each story fade out in the form of a frozen comic book page still instead of just cutting to the next piece. It adds to the quality of the documentary, and gives the viewer the feeling that they’re following along with a comic book that comes to life between pages.
The best part about the whole thing is that each story is interesting in its own right. Watching these two artists (who are both separate stories) trying to showcase their work to famous industry artists can really hit the heartstrings at times, simply because these are two guys who are putting it on the line, and sometimes the feedback they receive – while constructive – just hits them in a way that you can tell hurts. Meanwhile, watching this action figure collector running through isles in order to capture a rare prize all while epic music is playing is funny and entertaining in its own way. No two stories are truly alike, and each character brings something to the table so that we’re never waiting for the documentary to revert back to someone else, as it’s always interesting and enchanting.
While these stories are the meat and potatoes of the documentary, there are also a plethora of interviews with actors, directors, writers, artists and creators mixed in as well. People like Joss Whedon, Stan Lee, Matt Fraction, Harry Knowles and Kevin Smith all talk about what Comic-Con means to them, and how much it has changed in recent years with the surplus of Hollywood panels coming in and taking the focus off the comic books entirely.
The fact that many Hollywood studios now use the Comic-Con as a place to showcase their latest blockbuster films has changed the atmosphere entirely. And while some understand that this is the place where studios can grasp what fans truly want, and help their films get the best word of mouth advertisement possible, others feel that the Con will never be the same again, and that they miss the days where it was a place just for comic book fans.
Those who enjoy Spurlock’s past works will likely notice early on that this film is missing one key ingredient that he usually uses to sell his films: himself. That’s right, from beginning to end we never hear a peep from Mr. Spurlock, and while I’m sure he would have made the film entertaining in his own way, the decision to allow the fans themselves to tell the stories that carry the documentary forward was really a smart one, as it really drives home the fact that Comic-Con is a place that certain people call home, and really get to be themselves for a few days of the year without fear of being judged.
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope is an incredibly entertaining look inside a world that not everybody understands. Those who enjoy conventions, comics and or collecting pretty much anything will likely find something to enjoy and relate to here; however, those with an open mind who are looking to see just what all the fuss is about when it comes to these conventions will find the answers they’re looking for, as well as some laughs along the way.
The video transfer of the documentary looks great; with sharp, colourful images throughout that help keep the viewers feeling like they’re in this enchanting world being spoken about. The audio quality is also spot-on, with dialogue never being an issue both in the storied sequences, or the interviews.
There are only a few special features, though one in particular really adds almost an hour to the film itself to some extent.
Behind the Scenes – This is a brief behind the scenes featurette that sees Morgan Spurlock finally appear in front of the camera, and in six and a half minutes he explains how he got the film made, and how he got so many big names involved. He also speaks about how at any given time there were 15 full-time crews shooting footage throughout the Con. Really quick fun watch, especially for those who missed Spurlock’s voice during the piece itself.
Deleted Scenes – There are nine minutes worth of deleted scenes, and while they would’ve thrown off the flow of the documentary in some cases, they’re actually all worth watching, as they add a bit more depth, and humour in some cases, to various stories.
Interviews – Here’s the feature that really gives the viewer something to cheer about, as they’ve added in an hour of extended interviews with a great number of those we heard from in the documentary itself, and some we didn’t, such as Ellen Page and Felicia Day. Definitely worth checking out for those who enjoyed the film, but especially for fans in general who’d like to hear what these folks have to say about the hobby and lifestyle they love so much.
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope is an entertaining documentary that tells a handful of stories, while also giving inside perspective by those who helped make the comic book industry as popular as it is today. It may not be educational in the sense of delving into the history of comics and how they came to be, but that’s not what Spurlock set out to accomplish. No, this documentary is an exploration of different aspects of a convention that has helped change the face of the entertainment industry, and it does so without judging those who call it home.
Wrekin Hill Entertainment and Neca Films Present Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. Directed by: Morgan Spurlock. Written by: Morgan Spurlock & Jeremy Chilnick. Starring: Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith, Seth Rogen, Seth Green, Eli Roth, Harry Knowles, Morgan Webb. Running time: 86 minutes. Rating: PG. Released: June 10, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Eli Roth, Grant Morrison, joss whedon, Kevin Smith, matt fraction, San Diego Comic-Con, Seth Green, Seth Rogen, Stan Lee