Comic-Con: Episode IV - A Fan's Hope Reviews
All I desired from this movie was to be a fly on the wall for one of America's most loved conventions. Happily, that is what I got. He even follows the plight of a few aspiring artists as they prepare for the annual event.
Unfortunately, the personal stories are overshadowed by a smorgasbord of B-list celebrities gushing over this sacred gathering. While I admit it is fun to see how many celebrities Spurlock cajoled into appearing in the film, it robs the film of cohesion. It is a step in the right direction for Spurlock, but one that still needs a little fine tuning.
Every person in Morgan Spurlock's newest documentary, with it being his most restrained and straight-forward to date, has a fascinating story to tell. In addition, appearances from fan favorites and admitted geeks themselves Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith, Eli Roth, Guillermo Del Toro, Seth Rogen, Seth Green, etc. all make welcome and warm statements sprinkled throughout this loving documentary.
In A FAN'S HOPE, there are eight individuals who come to Comic-Con for various purposes. Some are successful in their endeavors, others find a lesser amount of it but still strive on. There is the Survivor, the Soldier, the Costume Designer, the Lovers, and four additional individuals as well. From the comic book vendor of Mile High Comics (the Survivor) hoping to sell his most treasured, lock-sealed comic and turn a good profit in a market now dominated by popular mediums other than comics, to a soldier (of course the Soldier) from a small town who dreams of drawing comics for Marvel; and a costume designer (self-explanatory) who designs costumes with her friends and hopes to get a big break in the film/promotion costume designer scene. In short, these people are as relatable as they are honest in their camera confessions and what events and acts they take part in in 2010's Comic-Con.
Morgan Spurlock is firmly behind the camera the entire time, having only chronicled the events of the aforementioned eight individuals and directing his camera-men. He also released a stand-alone book with the same title that is a exciting photo journal of 2010's Comic-Con (at least for me). The camera-men knew how to tell the stories of these individuals, mainly by keeping the camera focused on them and the few key players in their geek-centric journeys.
A FAN'S HOPE is, by all means, a calling card for geeks of the newest generation to attend and geek out if we get the chance to at next year's Comic-Con, or any year for that matter. This documentary is also a reminder/affirmation to long-time geeks and attenders of Comic-Con that the geek mecca they have admired and loved over the years has received as much admiration and love from the filmmakers of this project that the widely-revered event it covers deserves. Us geeks feel it, and that's all that matters.
That's not to say this is Spurlock's most insightful work, because clearly it isn't. At it's core, this is a celebration of all that the San Diego Comic-Con stands as now, and that is the holy Mecca for lovers of...well, anything pop culture related. Comic books, anime, role playing, you name it and it's there. But the event has also come to be a place of opportunity for many others, and besides highlighting the adults who walk around dressed up like Darth Maul or Sailor Moon, the main focus is on a handful of people who are relying on Comic-Con to change their lives.
There's the two wannabe comic books artists looking to impress an editor and hopefully get a job at a major publishing company. The harsh reality of the comic book industry is that maybe 1% of all art submissions gets approved and lead to careers, and Spurlock, who usually takes a tongue in cheek approach to even the most serious subjects, doesn't flinch away from the truth. The film also shows us a young, nerdy(we nerds can call one another that) couple attending the event, with the guy planning to pop the big question at a Kevin Smith Q&A. And then there's Holly, a remarkable costume designer who hopes to impress at the annual masquerade event with a dramatic re-creation of the Mass Effect video game.
By far the most intriguing story of all is that of Chuck, a veteran of the comic book retailer wars. As owner of Mile High Comics, the largest online retailer for comics, he counts on Comic-Con to get him through the year and turn a profit. While the bulk of the film is basically one big nerdgasm, Chuck's story presents the simple truth of the comic book industry and it's relation to San Diego Comic-Con, and that's that the industry is dying and those who run the event don't seem to notice or care. Comic-Con has become about much more than comic books now, and as the seller booth dwindles and fewer people show up, more and more retailers like Chuck are falling by the wayside.
For those who have watched Comic-Con grow basically at the expense of the comic book industry, Chuck's storyline may be a bit of a downer, but you'll instantly feel better when icons like Kevin Smith, Eli Roth, and Joss Whedon start sharing the crazy experiences they've had that can only happen at a place like Comic-Con. Smith, in particular, seems especially in tune with what makes the attendees tick, for they make up a sizable portion of his fan base. Oh, and of course there's Stan Lee, the unquestioned king of all things Marvel Comics, looking spry and boisterous as ever.
Unlike Spurlock's other movies, he keeps himself out of the camera, choosing to simply be an observer and not a participant. Plenty of other directors, some very high profile documentary film makers, would have tried to become the focus in some way and been totally out of place in that environment. If anything, this proves Spurlock's growth that he knows when to back away, and let the guys in the Stormtrooper outfits run the show.