Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope is the latest offering from documentarian Morgan Spurlock, of Super Size Me fame.
The set-up of this documentary is two-fold. The filmmakers follow several people on their personal journeys to San Diego Comic-Con. Each subject is given a descriptive nickname such as “The Artist”, “The Lovers”, etc. and we learn their reasons for going to the Con.
The second part of the documentary is intercut testimonies by celebrities giving their take on the big daddy of cons. Joss Whedon, Stan Lee, Kevin Smith and many others give their endearing views on the Con, fans and fandom.
Sadly, there are few (non-celeb) fan testimonies, despite the fact that the filmmakers had interviewed many, many people at the Con in 2010. Fan testimonies are reduced to a sentence or two, deftly watered down by the many celebrity interviews. However, the predominance of the celebrities vs. fans seems to validate the Con experience and will likely appeal to a broader audience, i.e., muggles and mundanes. Also, we fans seem more “sane” due to those who speak in our defense, so “Trekkies,” it is not. Thank you for that, Mr. Spurlock.
Despite the lack of regular attendee interviews, the documentary is extremely well done. It begins with the story of how San Diego Comic-Con began in a hotel basement, and quickly moves on to the modern-day behemoth it has become. The attendees we follow strive desperately to get what they need out of their personal experience with Comic-Con. As in any good drama, some succeed and some don’t. There are tears of joy and tears of sadness. One story in particular had our press-screening audience cheering out loud by the end of the film. Yes, even jaded press were swayed by the emotional rises and falls of the real-life people onscreen.
A misstep in the construction of the documentary might be that Kevin Smith seemed to be the star. Yes, people love him (as do I), but he is not really a “superfan” in the sense that he’s not really a known spokesperson for fandom. But there he is. Onscreen. Constantly. He has phenomenal quotes and is wonderfully funny and enjoyable to watch, but about three-quarters of the way through the film you realize you’re watching a whole lot of Kevin Smith, and the balance seems a bit off. Stan Lee has very little to say, and what he says is placed near the end of the film. It did seem nice to build up to Stan, but I felt a bit empty with his seeming absence through most of the movie. Joss Whedon, however, is amply sprinkled throughout.
The film also didn’t adequately express the enormity of Comic-Con: the TV Panels, Sails Pavilion, Writer’s Workshop Panels, the expansion into the Gaslamp district, overnight lines, the struggle and drama of getting tickets, hotels and parking. The documentary concentrates on a select few things, and does justice to them, but those who have been lucky enough to attend will know that Comic-Con is so much more than what is shown in this film.
I was among those interviewed for this documentary, yet am nowhere to be found in the film. Well, my interview is nowhere to be found. I end up being seen in the background of a long scene, and that’s all. But I’m okay with that. DVD extras, Mr. Spurlock?.
A Fan’s Hope enjoyably tells the general story of the world of San Diego Comic-Con. See it with friends and laugh (especially at the extra bits during the closing credits). More importantly, see it with the mundanes and muggles in your life and maybe, just maybe, they will understand you a little bit better. ‘Nuff said.