By Drew Turney
Despite his comical and endlessly happy approach, Morgan Spurlock’s major films have been essentially negative in nature until now. ”Supersize Me” was about the danger inherent in fast food, and ”Pom Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” was a very clever Mobius Strip of a film about the insidious reach of product placement in entertainment, paid for by product placement. For the first time in ”Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope” he goes lighter, looking at San Diego’s epic yearly showcase of movies, comic, games and pop culture.
Making a film about Comic Con is a little bit like making movies about World War II – we’ll never run out of stories because so many people are involved and it’s such a global event with so many different but related aspects. Spurlock zeroes in on just a couple of them, moving back and forth between personal stories and showing us the various angles to the show through the characters’ point of view.
There are a couple of guys hoping to break into the comic book industry thanks to the meet and greet events with comic book editors and executives. We meet a cute couple of nerds so in love he can’t get away from her to pick up the ring he intends to use to propose to her during a Kevin Smith Q&A. A costume designer and her team put so much effort into their Mass Effect-themed stage show they put many movie industry make-up and costume designer to shame. And a veteran comic book store owner has come to try and shift some stock to save the store, including his prized half million-dollar book if he can find a rich collector.
In another first, Spurlock keeps himself out of the proceedings, letting his subjects tell the story through their own fears, hopes, dreams and disappointments. And interspersing it all are talking head comments from across the world of famous geekdom, from Kevin Smith and Eli Roth to Guillermo Del Toro, Seth Rogen and the granddaddy of them all, Stan Lee himself.
Spurlock’s mandate seems to be to present the one place in the world where – no matter what you follow – as long as it’s sci-fi or fantasy and you’re obsessed about it, you’ll be among friends. It’s a great place to start, but if you know anything about TV, movies, games or comics, you’ve probably become intimately familiar with Comic Con’s machinations and culture over the last 15 years or so. Anyone can tell you fan geekdom’s not only nothing to be embarrassed about anymore, it’s a badge of pride in the postmodern world.
If it isn’t the deluge of tweets and blog posts from the event every year, it’s the marketing boost the whole thing’s had since movie studios started attending to push their big superhero releases. It’s even regularly name checked in fiction, as it was in the Nick Frost/Simon Pegg/Seth Rogen film ”Paul” last year.
The Valhalla of sci-fi and fantasy isn’t about sad losers who can’t get girlfriends any more, it’s for the new cool kids – and we all want to be one. The reason that works against ”Comic Con Episode IV” is because even if you’ve never been there it feels like you know the cosplay, the incredible prices paid by collectors, the movie panels in Hall H and the crowds intimately.
Morgan can’t really bring anything new to that experience, but humanising the show through the attendees he follows is the best approach because like all the best stories, it makes it about people and gives us a prism through which to see.
Not that there aren’t several insights into the Con itself that you might have imagined but didn’t know. One of the biggest gripes of longtime fans (that movie studios have crowded comics out) is bought to hilarious life by the comic store owner who complains that he can’t get a loading dock at the convention centre anymore because Lucasfilm owns them all.
It’s a love letter, and after a decade or more of such high recognition of the event it feels less like something that will open your eyes and more like a document that wraps and boxes up everything you already know in one unashamedly fun package.