Fantastic Fest 2011: ‘Comic Con Episode Four: A Fan’s Hope’ – joyful, inspiring filmmaking

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Comic Con Episode Four: A Fan’s Hope

Directed by Morgan Spurlock

USA, 2011

The film’s title feels like a desperately out-of-touch ploy to seem relevant in nerd culture, sure. But in all fairness to Mr. Spurlock, it’s also a pretty apt title. Comic-Con is all about hope, and how it can be totally weird, and how all those weird hopes you have can come true. But beyond the omnipresence of Storm Troopers and Princess Leias, this doc has nothing to do with Star Wars.

Morgan Spurlock, along with Joss Whedon, Harry Knowles, and Stan Lee, put this doc together as a means of bringing the cultural hurricane that is Comic-Con to audiences everywhere. And Comic-Con is a truly bizarre success story. Beginning as a modest comic convention in San Diego, the growth and attention it has gotten in recent years is unprecedented. And so Spurlock and co. took a team of cameramen to Comic-Con 2010 to capture what is now the annual summit of pop-cultural obsession. And what they came up with is an inspirational, loving portrait of ambition on the fringe.

The doc follows one comic dealer, two prospective comic illustrators, a costume designer and her team, a collector, and an inseparable young couple. Each attendee has come across the country to follow their unique calling and it is damned inspirational to see–be it purchasing the new Galactus action figure or winning the Comic-Con masquerade performance. It’s a real tribute to the pure humanity on display here that a costumed performance of a scene from Mass Effect 2 is more than a passing absurdity; it is an emotional wallop.

Spurlock haters will be pleased to learn that the man is not on screen once. This film is pure documentation. Intercut within the greater emotional journeys are interviews with famous folks and costumed festival attendees. Joss Whedon, king of the nerds, gets a good helping of screen time, as does Kevin Smith who shows up to remind everyone that Kevin Smith is hilarious. Comic-Con largely avoids becoming a string of talking-heads, though, and Spurlock does a remarkable job of balancing his chosen protagonists with random festival chatter. This is an insightful and moving peak into a world that many of us will never get to experience.

By no means is this required viewing, but it is joyful, inspiring filmmaking. Several times during the film I found myself wishing Spurlock had produced this as a TV Miniseries so that he could go into more depth, and introduce more odd festival-goers. In the end, Comic-Con is a reminder that unstoppable passion, no matter what it is, in the face of societal constructs is one of the most beautiful human qualities.

-Emmet Duff

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