When a woman tells you to grow up, that’s God’s way of telling you to get a new woman. Especially if it means getting rid of your comics. There are three billion women on the planet, but only so many good comics, so the choice is an easy one.
–Chuck Ronzanski

Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold) goes to Comic-Con and reports back. The movie tours select theatres, will eventually be available as video, and certainly bears watching, especially if you’re the sort of person who frequents a site like this one. You’ll get a fun taste of what Comic-Con has become. What you won’t get is anything especially deep or probing.

Title: Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Morgan Spurlock

Additional cast and crew may be found here.

Premise:

We follow fans from their home towns to San Diego, where they pursue their varied dreams at Comic-Con. Two want to enter the industry, one wants to make costumes professionally, one wants to propose to his girlfriend, and one wants to keep his business—you may have heard of it; it’s called Mile High Comics—afloat. Interspersed with their quests we receive talking head commentary from the likes of Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon, Stan Lee, Seth Green, Seth Rogan– and various nerds.

High Points:

I enjoyed this movie. It’s good to see a Con on film, minus the “Ma! Pa! Lookit the nerds in their funny costumes!” excess that affects much mainstream coverage of these events. The director withholds his usual commentary, and lets the subjects take us through the film, showing affection for their obsession and their tribe, with whom Spurlock clearly feels at home. Nevertheless, the film also provides glimpses of broken and empty dreams.

Kevin Smith proves a good deal funnier and likeable than many of his recent productions and, while Stan Lee offers nothing terribly new, he’s having as much fun here as in his Marvel movie cameos, and its genuinely infectious. Costume designer Holly Conrad, a nerd girl dream, could be the basis of an entire film, as she works in her bleak neighbourhood building original costumes, all for a moment of glory and the dream of a costuming career.

Low Point:

The film doesn’t probe with much depth, however, and holds back any critique of the Con world to a few glimpsed moments and a couple barbed comments by interviewees. I would have liked an even greater sense of the fan trepidation as they see the comics get pushed aside by other industries and dreams, and the convention overwhelmed with security measures and Hollywood accountants. Old school fans have to search for their Con in the chaos of what it has become.

We don’t really get a sense of what drives the fannish obsessions, or at what point they grow from fun to fanatic to genuinely unhealthy. We also get little sense of why nerd pursuits have grown so mainstream. It’s great that my twenty-something niece, a popular dancer and an athlete in school, a person of mainstream interests, now pursuing a lucrative career, thinks that Iron Man and Thor are cool. But how did that happen? What might it mean?

And then there’s the title. That’s one unwieldy title in the service of a mediocre joke.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 Trekkies and others have gone here before, and the definitive film about conventions remains to be made. Nevertheless, this covers some very broad ground in an hour and a half.

Effects: 5/6 I suppose the costumes count, and they impressed me.

Story/Flow: 4/6 This is a documentary, but it has stories told with echoes of the four-color medium. It sprawls and spreads out like Comic-Con itself, and we cannot always find the thread.

Acting: 4/6 Not really applicable. Good commentary, and a few too many talking heads.

Production: 6/6

Emotional Response: 4/6

Overall: 4/6

In total, Comic-Con IV: A Fan’s Hope receives 30/42.