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I've been to the Comic Con International 5 times over the years and this movie captures the feel and the heart of the convention even though comics become less and less the core of the event each year. I won't tell you why....but you will definitely tear up during one of the climactic scenes. Show this movie to you family and friends so they will understand why nerds are such good people.....and if you aren't a nerd, that's your loss! It's available online so you don't have to be near one of the limited number of theaters showing this movie....I can't wait for the DVD to be released since this is already my pick for documentary of the year!
Besides being a not so subtle nod to Star Wars, Comic-Con Episode Four:
A Fan's Hope is a documentary told through the viewpoints of eight
individuals as they descend into the madness that is the San Diego
Comic Con. All of them have a purpose to be there, and all have a goal
in mind, whether it is to sell a rare comic, win a masquerade or get
signed on as an artist for a comic book company.
Morgan Spurlock's latest documentary was one of the late entries on my list of films to see at this year's past Toronto International Film Festival, and one I have continued wrestling with over how I felt about it. Packed with dozens of hilarious interview clips with real and internet celebrities, along with actual footage from the floor, Spurlock valiantly tries to capture what it is like entering and navigating through the four day convention that becomes bigger with each passing year. He gets access to some behind the scenes material, and offers a fan's eye view of some of the panels and events that had occurred at the 2010 event.
But what holds the film back from being anything but a fun and amusing diversion for the geek and convention crowd, is the fact that it is a film lovingly made almost explicitly just for them. While the interviews are entertaining and downright hilarious, they do not provide any real insight or explanation for what fan culture is or why so many people go to Comic-Con year after year. Even the stories contained within the film do not answer why these people do what they do, simply that they go to obscene lengths to make sure they can pull off their goals. I assume Spurlock's main goal was to tell multiple stories (more on that in a moment), but I cannot help but feel it hinders the film. It seems content at simply existing, as a memento for everyone who experiences this kind of subculture.
Then that brings up another point what is the ultimate goal here? I go to at least one major fan convention per year, so I have experienced the rush of seeing and meeting geek idols, witnessing the detail of some of the costumes, and talking shop with people just like the ones profiled here. But what about people venturing in with no real grasp on geek culture? What are they supposed to take from this? Are they even supposed to venture into this film? It seems a bit elitist in that respect, because there is nothing really to grasp if you do not already have some preconceived knowledge on the topic. In his previous films, Spurlock has tackled tough topics and asked some tough questions. While some segments and films work better than others (the less said about the borderline ridiculous Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?, the better), he still made a real attempt at getting the answers. Here, he just seems content without asking the bigger questions, and as a result, the film feels like a much weaker effort.
While I do fault Spurlock's lack of analysis here, I must praise the fact that outside of name credits, he does not appear in the film at all. He offers no narration whatsoever and does not appear on-screen at any time. He lets the people being profiled tell their stories, and lets the interviews help guide the film through its less-than-90-minute run time. It is a bit flabbergasting at first, considering how prolific and personal he has made his other documentary films, but I think it helps reflect his maturity both as a documentarian and filmmaker, and as a storyteller. It allows the film to become a more intimate film, and helps reinforce the notion that it is a film made as a kind of memento for the geeks. It is made up of their stories and quips, and Spurlock never interferes or redirects the film to follow him and his thoughts. It makes the film that much more different in that respect, and I think is the key reason why it works at all.
Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan's Hope was an interesting idea on paper, but I think in practice it comes off as more flawed than it should. While it is entertaining to watch the ups and downs of the people profiled within the film, I cannot help but feel underwhelmed by the general lack of analysis on Spurlock's part. There have been documentaries before on specific fan cultures, but no real works centred around the mother of all conventions. There was plenty of material he could have mined and a wealth of individuals who could have given keen insight on the idea of fan and convention subculture. But in the end, it feels like a whole lot of ideas, and not a lot of actual follow through. As a love letter to the people that come out to San Diego once a year, it succeeds. But as a documentary on fan culture, it fails.
Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock brings his usual care and attention to a
subject that, this time, sadly never gets it. From fast food, to
terrorist-hunting, to product placement, and now to the largest
convention in North America, Spurlock has proved diversity and that if
you add the right balance of seriousness and wittiness to any subject,
you'll be able to create a wonderful documentary. That's exactly what
he does with Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope.
To my knowledge and research, this is the first documentary ever made focusing on the convention itself. Sure, when it happens in July we have updates on the web, and VLogs from a number of people, but nothing has ever been compiled into a full length movie. Spurlock chooses to follow along four people who are traveling to the convention from all walks of life, with different goals in mind.
They are "The Geek" (Skip Harvey, a bartender hoping to write a graphic novel and get feedback on his artwork at the convention), "The Solider," (Eric Henson, also hoping to become a comic book artist to support his wife and kids), "The Designer," (Holly Conrad, a young woman in a small, concise town who is designing costumes for a Mass Effect reenactment she hopes to put on), and "The Survivor," (Chuck Rozanski, a struggling-comic book store owner who is hellbent on making a huge profit by selling hundreds of comics at the convention. Including the extremely rare, first issue of Marvel's "Red Raven" which can command thousands of dollars online).
In the mix of chronicling these four strangers, Spurlock also sets his sights on getting opinions and commentary from actors and directors who have been to the Con themselves. One of them is Kevin Smith, my favorite director, who attends Comic-Con to provide a monstrous Q&A session in the largest room of the convention. Other celebrities include Hostel director Eli Roth, stating that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a passion for something you liked when you were young, Knocked Up star Seth Rogen, and comic book king Stan Lee.
We also follow a man who proposed to his girlfriend at Kevin Smith's panel last year at Comic-Con, as well as seeing a toy collector who is determined to acquire another entry in his prized collection, much to the dismay of his wife.
These people are genial, optimistic, and effortlessly likable. They aren't wallflowers, who sit back and expect to be taken under the wing immediately without contributing some amount of effort. They take the steps necessary in order to achieve their big goals. Comic book store owner Chuck seems to be the odd-man out when stating this, but if you look at his persistency, continuing to have faith in the comic book community and constantly spending money to run his store, he is truly fighting just as hard as the other subjects in the film. He already has his dream, he's just fighting to keep it.
The one downside with the documentary is Spurlock, himself, has virtually no part in the film whatsoever. This is quite a shame, seeing as we can see just by the way he captures the footage and edits it together (not to mention, last year, he wrote a book about the convention with the same title as the film) that he has a true love for the Con and the crowd it draws. Why doesn't he ever interact with the four subjects or the crowd themselves? It's a bummer because on top of him already remaining silent, it almost seems he doesn't have any questions for the people, when we already know that is highly unlikely. Spurlock seems to sit back and watch the fun happen, without ever getting involved or enjoying it for himself.
I would still call Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope a documentary that needed to be made. As I've grown older, I've found it important to look at all walks of life with an open mind, and to see documentaries further illustrate that idea is wonderful. This is definitely an eclectic and ambitious film, not only documenting an extremely popular convention, but the kinds of people you'll find there. From what I hear, that's half the fun of going.
Starring: Skip Harvey, Eric Henson, Holly Conrad, Chuck Rozanski, Kevin Smith, Seth Rogen, Eli Roth, and Stan Lee. Directed by: Morgan Spurlock.
The phenomenon of San Diego's Comic-con has grown to astronomic levels
in both attendance and exhibition since it's inception in 1970. It has
morphed into something much more than just a gathering of comic book
nerds, packed into a hotel conference room. Comic-Con encompasses all
things pop culture, be it comics, movies, games, or anything else
people can geek out over. Famed director Morgan Spurlock decided to
chronicle the 2010 con, and follow a select few to document their
reasons for being there, and their experience.
In addition to following around a genuine, and interesting cast of characters, Spurlock sprinkles in some interviews with some of the con's most prolific figures including Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon, Seth Rogan, and many more. Having these people give their thoughts and anecdotes about the con was a nice touch, and added some flavor to the film.
The real meat of the documentary, however, is with the interesting group of central characters. We see two aspiring artists, a costume designer, a collector, a comic book dealer, and a young couple in love. All of the characters have different reasons for being there, and yet they all share the same passion for comics, movies, and games. The characters were varied enough to keep things interesting, and they were all very likable people. In addition to learning about who these people are, and their reasons for attending Comic-Con, we learn that there's much more to the con than to simply see famous people and buy memorabilia. People use Comic-con as an opportunity to showcase their talents, and hopefully further their careers.
One of the other important topics discussed in this documentary is the concept of geek culture, the rise of geek coolness, and the commercialization of Comic-Con. As most of us know, many of the things that were considered nerdy when we were kids, are actually cool now, and as a result, many companies are cashing in. When Comic-Con began, it was just a small convention focusing on comics, however now, comics take a backseat to all the other stuff going on in the con. Nowadays, many of the people that attend, don't even know, or particularly care about comics. This is upsetting to comic book fans, especially since the industry has been suffering for years.
Although Comic-Con Episode IV may not break new ground in the documentary genre, it does give people an inside look at one of the biggest pop culture events of the year. As stated in the film, everyone can find something to love about Comic-Con, and the same can be said about the film itself. It's a light and enjoyable film, that's certainly worth a watch, even if you aren't a die hard comic fan.
The biggest reason I watched this documentary was that it was co-produced and directed by Morgan Spurlock--and he always seems to make interesting films. However, I was very surprised at the style of the film, as it's nothing like his other movies and you don't see him at all during the picture. Instead, you simply are taken to ComicCon in San Diego and get to see the sights as well as follow a few nice folks there. There are also LOTS of interviews with the royalty in the geek world. This made the film very free-flowing and natural--like a REAL experience in going to this convention as well as getting a personal interview with these people. Now considering it's practically impossible to get tickets (believe me, my daughter has tried!), it's the best most people can do. My only complaint? I would have liked to have seen more! Highlights--seeing the guy propose, the AMAZING cos-play team and the guy who wanted to become a comic artist AND succeeded amazingly well!
I'm not an avid comic book fan, but I really enjoyed this cheerful,
passionate geek-doc. It's really not as much about Comic-Con in itself,
as it is about the people that travel there from different parts of the
world in order to follow their lifelong hopes and dreams of
distinguishing themselves in this ever-changing, tremendously cool
By juxtaposing the interviews with some awesome, well-known people, with the adventures of a few Comic-Con regulars Morgan Spurlock achieved a subtle level of tenderness and showed a much different side of this enormous, spectacular fan gathering. The subheading (A Fan's Hope) reveals the whole truth about this picture, as the movie truly corresponds to the adventures of five attendees, who think of Comic-Con as a place of ultimate fulfillment. Comic-Con is a cultural phenomenon that's able to bring together not only all the true geeks and cos-players, but also many people, who aren't actually interested in comic books, yet they still want to take part in this splendid event. The truth is that this is the only place in the whole world where all of those people can really feel at home.
Apart from showing the passion and energy that permeate the place, this documentary also ponders a very difficult topic, namely the gradual demise of the cult fan-base, due to the overpowering force of corporate impact on the industry. While comic books will be made and fans will still read them, Comic-Con is slowly changing into a sort of business conference, where money is mentioned more times than any superhero or villain. That's a thought that the creators of the movie leave the audiences with.
I had heard of comic-con before but never really understood what went on there. I was a huge comic book fan (X-men, Tales from the Crypt and Archie, etc.) but I really did not think that they were still all that popular, especially with the all the electronic gadgets that are out today. As the film illustrated, there are still folks out there that love to draw action figures (my brother being one of them) and are looking to break into the comic book industry. The two gentlemen depicted in this film are adamant about the opportunity to show the portfolios of their art and this film takes us with them on their journey on trying to get there and get someone to look at their work and hire them. I actually started to feel sorry for one of the guys because he was really heart-broken and I felt his pain. The film also showed other aspects of the convention like what goes into actually making some of the costumes that are showcased and what the sales folks have to compete with trying to sell their books in an electronic age. I enjoyed the film about the inter-working of the convention that is held in San Diego annually; I just had no idea that so many people attended and how many geeks (me being one) are actually left in this world. Emma and I are planning on attending the one that will be held here in Irving, Texas next month. That should make for some interesting pictures (smile). If you are a lover of comic books, action heroes and all related stuff, this would be an excellent film for you to experience.
Considering the treasure trove of weirdness and fascinating material
that a massive event like San Diego's annual Comic-Con offers up, it's
surprising the convention hasn't received the feature-length
documentary treatment until now. Director Morgan Spurlock's Comic-Con
Episode IV: A Fan's Hope revolves around the 2010 convention, exploring
the evolution of Comic-Con from its origin as an event for hardcore
comic book enthusiasts to one that now relegates the actual comic book
aspect to the background, with much more of an emphasis put on general
pop culture content such as movies, TV, books, toys, and video games.
Along with some of the film's high profile producers (Joss Whedon,
Harry Knowles, and the unfailingly cheerful Stan Lee), numerous other
celebs and artists like Frank Miller, Matt Groening, Seth Rogen, Kevin
Smith, and Kenneth Branagh weigh in with their take on the convention.
The documentary had a companion coffee table book released last July
and is Spurlock's second feature of 2011, following The Greatest Movie
Incorporated into the probing of the convention's history and relevance are the individual stories of a handful of Comic-Con attendees. There's the two amateur comic book artists looking for their big break into the business, who are willing to endure harsh criticisms of their portfolios from professionals and the sting of rejection. Then there's the couple who met at the previous year's convention, with the boyfriend hilariously attempting to break free from the clingy grip of his girlfriend in order to pick up the engagement ring (Lord Of The Rings themed, naturally) he'll present to her when he proposes during the convention panel featuring filmmaker Kevin Smith. Chuck, the crusty owner of America's largest comics retailer, Mile High Comics, struggles with a decision to sell one of his ultra-rare issues to pay off some debts and generally frets about how his sales at the convention are going. Another man seeks his Holy Grail of toys for his collection, a limited edition figure of Marvel Comics' Galactus character. Finally, there's Holly, an aspiring costume designer for whom a two minute appearance on stage at the Comic-Con masquerade event is the biggest moment of the year. Her and a small group of friends dress up as characters from the Mass Effect video game.
Clearly, with so many examples of arrested development from these folks, there's plenty of opportunity for ridicule here. I mean, what's not to laugh at in a scenario involving a grown, married man who pursues a toy with unwavering conviction? Laughing at, and not with, these people is an inevitable by-product of such fanatical behaviour, but the viewer also can't help but develop some level of respect for the passion and focus the characters demonstrate towards their obsessions, despite the pummelling their individual levels of cool take. As a hardcore fan of U2 and Bruce Springsteen who has, on a number of occasions, spent anywhere from twelve to sixteen hours at a time waiting in general admission lineups at their concerts and gotten puzzled looks from most people when I tell them about it, let me just say that on some level I can relate to these Comic-Con eccentrics.
Despite the interesting subject matter, Spurlock's documentary feels flat and just never achieves liftoff. He has a lot of balls to juggle with the numerous paths the film follows, but many of them lead to unfulfilling conclusions and an uneven movie. I've seen nearly all of his previous film and television work and thoroughly enjoyed all of it and Spurlock, like fellow documentarians Michael Moore and Nick Broomfield, has always taken an active on-screen and narrative role in his projects. Here, the charismatic filmmaker barely appears in the film and provides no narration. Perhaps there's a connection, perhaps not.
Baseball caps and awful facial hair are very much in evidence in this
affectionate look at the San Diego Comic-Con, directed by Morgan
Spurlock (himself, of course, no stranger to the dreadful moustache).
We meet the owner of Mile High Comics (who has a stock of 8million
comics) hoping to sell the first issue of 1940's 'Red Raven Comics' for
a cool $500,000; the young woman marshaling her troupe of costume
parade participants (as part of which she has created a nifty moving
face mask - we tried hard in the early 90s' UK Comic Art Convention,
but this is a different league altogether!); there are a couple of
wannabe artists - one promising, one whose ambition is perhaps bigger
than his ability; and the young man planning to propose to his
girlfriend during one of the panels - except she won't leave him alone
long enough for him to collect the custom-designed ring he's
commissioned. Many professionals are interviewed: Kevin Smith is
especially funny ("At Comic-Con now are all these fourteen- and fifteen
year-old girls dressed as vampire chicks who in five years' time are
going to be so slutty and absolutely perfect...")
Comics- and media fans are, of course, an easy target for lampooning, but this film treats everyone with respect and shows how important Comic-Con is for many people who appreciate the chance not to feel embarrassed about their hobby, and who love being able to talk to like-minded people who understand: "It's like having your own country" says one woman, and how right she is.
I thought this film was well-made, using an interview format to tell
the real story about Comicon. I actually went to the 2010 show that
Spurlock used to document SDCC and I was surprised to see myself in the
photo pit with others shooting the Mass Effect cosplayers. Maybe I
should get a residual.
The film follows some fans and their stories, what their goals are for the con and a nice wrap-up with what they actually achieved. I especially liked James and his girlfriend as he prepared to propose marriage to her at the Kevin Smith panel. Very funny, especially when she makes the remark "I hope James doesn't ask any stupid questions." Indeed.
The clips from fans and actors was cool as well. The Kevin Smith F-bombs at the end though, I could have done without.
I've been following Mile High Comics outspoken owner Chuck Rozanski for some time, since he used to write for the now defunct Comic Buyers' Guide. His insight into the comics business and getting in a free plug for Mile High was a smart business move getting it all on film. Chuck is not totally correct that San Diego is not focused on comics.
They are right though that comics have fallen to a secondary status with the A-List stars and Hollywood's impact on the show.
To have to show dial down a bit to two shows has been proposed, aka Anaheim and San Diego. Another alternative was for the Hollywood end to go to Los Angeles.
Film is recommended and very cheap on Amazon Instant Video, only 99 cents to rent!
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