Share |
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope (2012)
DIRECTOR: Morgan Spurlock
SCREENWRITER: Morgan Spurlock, Jeremy Chilnick
MUSIC BY: Jingle Punks
STUDIO: Wrekin Hill Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: April 6, 2012
MPAA RATING: PG-13
Spurlock Unleashes His Inner Geek

Written by Chris Pandolfi

San Diego Comic-Con International began in 1970 as a one-day only convention in which comic book fans gathered in the basement of the U.S. Grant Hotel and bought and traded magazines. A little over 100 people were in attendance. That, according to original founders Mike Towry and Richard Alf, was considered a successful turnout. Could they have foreseen that it would balloon into an annual pop culture phenomenon that in recent years never had less than 100,000 people in attendance? Although they are still given areas for showcasing, it isnít so much about comic books anymore; major media companies, especially TV networks and movie studios, vie for space to promote their latest productions, with big name Hollywood celebrities and filmmakers serving as hosts for gigantic press panels.

I have never attended Comic-Con, and quite frankly, I have no desire to ever attend. One of the reasons I appreciated Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fanís Hope, Morgan Spurlockís newest documentary, is that it allows people like me to view the convention from a safe distance Ė no heartbreak from not getting into sold-out events, no waiting in obscenely long lines, no pushing or shoving through densely packed crowds, no chance of being deafened by cheering throngs, no risk of getting into fights with frothing fanboys over a misunderstanding. We obviously arenít show every nook and cranny of the San Diego Convention Center, but we do get wonderful snapshots of the major events, the most prominent being the celebrity press panels in a 6,500-seat venue known as Hall H.

A Fanís Hope, a joint venture between Spurlock and executive producers Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, and Harry Knowles, is an entertaining mixture of convention footage, subject interviews, and fan testimonials. While a few of the latter are given by anonymous attendees, most are given by celebrities, all of whom feel a personal connection to Comic-Con and its community. Whedon, Knowles, and Lee all make statements, but so too do Frank Miller, Seth Green, Seth Rogen, Thomas Jane, Eli Roth, Olivia Wilde, and most amusingly, Kevin Smith. Noticeably absent is Spurlock himself. Indeed, this is the first of his documentaries in which he neither makes an appearance nor provides a narration. This begs the question of why he feels so attracted to Comic-Con. Whether or not you agreed with his previous documentaries, his appearances in them made it clear that he had vested interest in his subjects.

Filmed during the 2010 convention, the film documents the lives of six fans, all given nicknames, all of whom hail from different parts of America and have deeply personal reasons for attending. We have Skip Harvey and Eric Henson. The former tends a sci-fi themed bar while the latter currently serves in the U.S. Air Force. Both are talented illustrators who dream of being hired by a major comic book publisher. Armed with portfolios, they wait in long lines to have their work critiqued by trained representatives. We have James Darling and his girlfriend Se Young Kang, who immediately hit it off after first meeting at Comic-Con a few years earlier. James now wants to propose to Se Young in grand fashion, namely during a panel hosted by Kevin Smith. For all his planning and coordination, the one thing James didnít count on was Se Young refusing to leave his side for even a few minutes. This will be a tricky one to pull off.

The two most compelling subjects are Holly Conrad and Chuck Rozanski. The former is a young costume/creature designer and seamstress; she, along with a group of friends, participates in Comic-Conís Masquerade Ball dressed as characters from the video game Mass Effect. Naturally, the costumes were all meticulously hand crafted by herself. One of her friends dresses as an alien creature, one that requires the use of a motorized latex head. The end result could easily rival a theme park animatronic. The latter is the owner of a Mile High Comics store in Denver, one thatís struggling to turn a profit. He brings with him his most prized possession: A mint-condition first issue of Red Raven, one of the rarest comic books ever published. Understandably, he laments the fact that Comic-Con has over the years veered further and further away from its original intended purpose.

That doesnít seem to have stopped it from happening, and it certainly hasnít stopped anyone from attending. In fact, the 2010 convention currently holds the record for having the largest attendance Ė130,000-plus. I grant you that itís a rather bland fact, although I suspect that if we had been given such statistics, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fanís Hope might have been an even more enlightening documentary. Seeking a laymanís explanation for the conventionís appeal, I consulted friends and fellow film critics Mike and Joel Massie, who have both attended Comic-Con annually since 2006. Not surprisingly, they see it only from a moviegoerís perspective. ďItís really about seeing celebrities,Ē Mike told me, ďwatching advanced footage and seeing exclusive tidbits about movies that are sometimes years in advance.Ē I, for one, am far more comfortable living with the anticipation.

You can read my full-length interview with Mike and Joel Massie in my article Comic-Con-fidential: San Diegoís Biggest Convention as Seen Through the Eyes of the Massie Twins.


Share |




Knowing a Good Story When You Hear One
Read More!
An Ape at War
Read More!
The X-Man That Got an R
Read More!
The Horror of Race Relations
Read More!
Assembling Another Disappointment
Read More!
James Baldwin in His Own Words
Read More!
Please Tell Me This Isn't the Start of a Franchise
Read More!
Not Your Capraesque American Dream
Read More!
Real Life Lessons from a Fantasy Creature
Read More!
Early, Early, Early Risers
Read More!
Henson's Puzzling Coming-of-Age Story
Read More!
This Is Not a Muppet Movie
Read More!
The Tagline Is Absolutely Correct
Read More!
So Simple, It's Scary
Read More!
All Wrapped Up with No Place to Go
Read More!
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again (2016)
Read More!
Why we should never judge a film, remake or otherwise, before actually seeing it
Read More!
San Diego's Biggest Convention as Seen Through the Eyes of The Massie Twins
Read More!
The reasoning behind my review of Act of Valor, supporting our troops, and the meaning of real patriotism
Read More!
Chris Pandolfi predicts the winners and shares his thoughts on the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. Did your favorite make his list?
Read More!