How you’ll receive this flick largely comes down to a question of whether or not you laugh at a particular shot at the end. As the soundtrack swells and one of the interviewees makes a fond final statement about Comic Con off-screen, the screen cuts to slo-mo footage of the throngs of fans walking outside the convention center. One sort of viewer will see this shot and simply vibe on the warm feelings being expressed. Another type of viewer - - one very probably like you - - will notice that the lone cosplayer in sight is dressed as Pedobear and chortle at a snarky in-joke that wryly belies the sentiment on the surface.
I know there’s such a demarcation of viewers because I caught Morgan Spurlock’s new documentary, COMIC CON: EPISODE IV - - A FAN’S HOPE, at a press screening full of critics who didn’t get this. It was literally just me and one other guy chuckling at that meme that’s taken on such a life of its own; meaning we were likely the only viewers in attendance who actually belonged to the “tribe” that’s discussed and profiled at length in this documentary. Or a facet of it, at least.
Hold this thought - - we’ll clarify it in a moment.== TEASER ==
This doc follows five or six individuals attending SDCC 2010 with different agendas. There are two aspiring artists seeking portfolio reviews to varying results, a fan looking to propose to his girlfriend at a Kevin Smith panel, a hardcore collector who’s got his sights locked on a Galactus figure, a cosplayer who designs and crafts MASS EFFECT outfits of professional caliber and then Chuck Rozanski, the head of the uber-retailer Mile High Comics, who’s breaking out a rare Golden Age comic with the hope that a quarter million sale will alleviate his bottom line. These threads never intersect, but they’re stitched together with a plethora of close-up interviews with fans, creators, journalists and assorted geek media types talking about the Comic Con experience from all its varied angles.
Watching a doc about something you’re actually a part of is always an odd experience. I could tell you that this specifically covers SDCC ‘10 without it ever being stated outright because I was there. I saw the camera crews. My friends are interviewed on screen. The booth I was signing at even peeks out in the corner of the screen sometimes. And I can say that the doc captures the event accurately enough that the precise sensation of the convention floor’s air conditioning came to my mind reflexively while I was watching. This isn’t a piece like those of so many outside journalists who come to “people watch” at the show and don’t bother to do their usual research.
However, getting back to the earlier thought, the intent here probably leans closer to providing a travelogue to the uninitiated. It’s more for those who hear about Comic Con on the news every year but haven’t ever gone to it, nor any other sort of convention, themselves. To be more specific, it’s for those who aren’t going to giggle about that silly bear. And that’s perfectly sensible. Advisable, really. The purpose here shouldn’t be to make a video yearbook for the SDCC class of 2010’s second anniversary banquet. Still, if you’re a fan (and I’d expect you to be, if you’re on this site) it’s worth knowing ahead of time that most of this doc’s going to be telling you things you probably already know and voicing conversations you’ve probably already had.
For my part, I saw a lot in the portions on the aspiring artists that made me think of my own experiences trying to break in at cons years ago. However, the threads I got the most out of were the ones on the cosplayer and Rozanki. Regarding the former, scheduling’s never allowed me to check out the masquerade, so I’ve always been curious about how it shakes out and what sort of creative process produces the amazingly creative outfits I see in the alleys of every show. (And that maybe harps on how the show’s so enormous that it’s literally impossible for you to experience every part of it without the help of a half-dozen documentary crews working simultaneously.) Regarding the latter, Rozanki’s a charismatic personality who’s simply engaging to watch in action. He delivers the movie’s unquestionable stand-out line when he comments on Nicolas Cage’s infamous liquidation of his comics collection…
“When your wife starts telling you it’s time to grow up about something like this, that’s when you know it’s time to get a new wife!”
Seriously, somebody give him a reality show.
Anyway, if you're a fan, there’s plenty to smile about in this flick, and some especially candid portraits of fandom to wince a little about, as well. It's a polished and diverting document through which to relive the con, if you've been there, but it's probably best recommended as an entertaining means to explain Comic Con to friends and family who don't yet understand what it's really about.