“Comic Con: Episode IV, a Fan’s Hope” is Morgan “Super Size Me” Spurlock’s affectionate visit to San Diego’s annual super-sized comic book, and sci-fi and fantasy movie, TV and game gathering of the nerd tribes. It’s a gentle, almost nostalgic look at fanboy and fangirldom.
“Affectionate” in that all of the people pictured and interviewed in the movie sing its praises, even in their self-mocking moments (A lot of people talk about “the smell” of a convention center packed with the costumed and hygienically challenged). Nostalgic in the ways comic books, the original reason for the convention in the first place, have been brushed aside, pushed into the background as the Hollywood hype machine takes over this 100,000-plus annual orgy of fandom.
And “gentle” in the ways it dares not suggest what those who mock this event and its participants are burning off a lot of time, money and brain energy on what is, in essence, their case of arrested development.
In separate storylines delineated by comic book graphics, we meet The Soldier, Eric, an aspiring comic artist from Minot, N.D., and the California goth girl, “The Designer,” Holly, who hopes her elaborate “Mass Effect II” costumes (complete with animatronics) presented at Comic Con’s “Masquerade,” will be her intro to game and film costume designing. “The Lovers” are very young fans who met at Comic Con and now the guy plans to use his moment at the mike at a Kevin Smith Q & A to ask her to marry him.
And then there’s a dose of reality. Chuck is “The Survivor,” the wizened, pony-tailed owner and operator of Mile High Comics, a vintage comic book collector and dealer who sees the glory days of his profession fading into the sunset.
For once, Spurlock the filmmaker (“Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?”) leaves himself out of the mix, content to take in the wonder of all he surveys, painted into a more rigid structure than his usual documentary by the film’s multiple-stories, everybody meets at Comic Con format.
We glimpse the sea of costumes, note the obsessive nature of the fandom (Let’s check into “The ‘Quantum Leap’ retrospective.).
And we hear testimonials — FAR more than are necessary, from everyone from Joss “Buff” Whedon Frank “Sin City” Miler to Kevin Smith, Eli Roth and Seth Green — legions of (mostly) white (mostly) males revelling that they’re’ “found my tribe.”
Smith is, as always, profane and funny. And there are touching moments, encouragements, disappointments and a hint of lament that maybe this event has lost its way.
They talk about losing themselves in this world that so attracted them, generations of fans who didn’t let the “Star Wars/Star Trek” or “Transformers” experience end with the closing credits. They collect toys, write “fan fiction,” make their own video versions of movies, TV shows, etc., and dress up like game characters.
“When a woman tells you to grow up, that’s God telling you to get another woman.”
Nobody has the self-reflection or nerve to suggest that society’s way of mocking this “type” and this event — that they’re socially stunted Peter Pans who refuse to grow up — might have a point.
But Spurlock has made a marvelous artifact, lacking only the “Odor-ama” that would make this a definitive snapshot of tribe and its sacred relics and sacred rites.
MPAA Rating: unrated, with some profanity
Cast:Seth McFarlane, Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith, Stan Lee
Credits: Directed by Morgan Spurlock, written by Spurlock, Jeremy Chilnick and Joss Whedon
Running time: 1:22