Director Morgan Spurlock is a man concerned with excess and absurdity. Super Size Me is about eating too much, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is about too much advertising, and so, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope is about a hundred thousand nerds in one building. It does so with not much gain and not much loss, as Spurlock crafts a low stakes hour and a half hour documentary that stars the supposed rejects of modern society.
The documentary follows six of those nerds, two artists, one retailer, a costume designer, and two lovers, who all attend the con for fun and profit. Not all of them get to play a starring role, as Spurlock focuses on the first four, even then pushing one of the artists aside. Each character plays a nearly archetypical role, as the retailer is wry and full of experience, aptly referring to the convention as the world’s largest focus group. The costume designer is a nerd by way of the suburban mid-west, who is self-aware enough to recognize her proximity to the meth capital of America. And finally, there’s the hopeful but maybe not talented artist trying to break into the industry. They’re all people you expect to see in a documentary like this, and their stories are tragic in the same way that a bad haircut is mildly annoying. Worse comes to worst, you can wait a few months and try again.
Interspersed in their tales are interviews, giving the viewer a sense of the madness at Comic-Con. All the major idols, from Kevin Smith to Joss Whedon appear and give personal accounts and vivid description that make Comic-Con sound magical. Their voices also make up for the dearth of time spent on the convention floor, outside of a few key moments. The only time the interviews become grating is when people try to make Comic-Con sound like a safe haven, as if this is still the 80s and poindexters are being persecuted in the streets.
In spite of its predictable narrative, the film at least is honest about its characters. The artist early on nervously argues with a bar patron which Marvel character, Longshot or Black Cat, would win in a fight. And while they can’t decide on who would win, they can sure agree that it would become a “sex fight.” Another scene has the retailer explaining to his daughter how to prove she’s a real nerd. The documentary doesn’t discuss these issues but it doesn’t try to hide them either, which is tepidly commendable.
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope is a movie about Comic-Con for people who would like to attend Comic-Con. There are scenes that are too self-referential to matter, and it relies on the viewer’s knowledge of nerd culture to fill in any gaps. The documentary barely goes out of its way to make the convention seem historic, with the occasional mention that it’s not as good as it used to be to compensate. The film is competent and enjoyable and little else. Spurlock has not analyzed anything, so much as raised his shoulders, saying, “Nerds. Weird, huh?”
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope is currently available on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download. Want to geek out this weekend in Toronto? Check out what’s in store at Fan Expo Canada by visiting fanexpocanada.com.
Directed by: Morgan Spurlock
Top image: A scene from Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. Courtesy eOne Films.