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Fantastic Fest 2011 Review: Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan’s Hope

September 30, 2011
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Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan’s Hope
Directed by Morgan Spurlock
Written by Morgan Spurlock, Joss Whedon, Jeremy Chilnook
Starring Skip Harvey, Eric Henson, Chuck Rozanski, James Darling, Se Young Kang

Fantastic Fest 2011 featured Morgan Spurlock’s new documentary Comic-Con Episode Four:  A Fan’s Hope as one of its closing night films.  It seems like a risky venture to try to chronicle an event that has swelled to over 125,000 participants in recent years, but Spurlock wisely chooses to humanize the film by following a handful of fans and participants. The result is a surprisingly touching and funny film. If you’ve grown tired of Spurlock (who seemed to be everywhere a few years ago), never fear. He never appears in the film, so unlike Michael Moore’s films, this one is truly about the people it features, not the celebrity filmmaker.

Briefly, Comic-Con Episode Four introduces us to a few central characters, a young man orchestrating a marriage proposal at a Kevin Smith panel, two men pinning their dreams on their art portfolios, a costume designer, and the grizzled owner of Mile High Comics, the largest purveyor of comic books in the world.

The movie begins by giving us a little insight into the true roots of the festival-as a place for comic book fans to gather. As most of us now know, the festival has shifted to a pop-culture phenomenon, while comic books and their collectors have been relegated to second-class citizens. As an early interviewee laments, “now it is all people who have never even read a comic book, or people who have never left their mother’s basements.”

Spurlock (who is also credited as writer, along with Joss Whedon and Jeremy Chilnick) intersperses these personal stories with brief interviews of people explaining what they love about Comic Con. It’s a virtual who’s who of geek culture-Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, Edgar Wright, Seth Rogan, Matt Fraction, Harry Knowles, Kevin Smith and dozens more. Things jump around enough to keep the movie zipping along, and it’s a quick watch.

The film is punctuated with a lot of humor, particularly from Mile High owner Chuck Rozanski, with his bone-dry pearls of wisdom. However, there are many parts tinged with sadness. Rozanski’s brutal fight to survive in a dying business and the complete commercialization of a once pure event, along with one of the illustrators gently and consistently getting shot down by talent scouts are quite moving, as is the nerd’s proposal. I was quite surprised to find myself tearing up on more than one occasion, and I know that I wasn’t alone.

This documentary won’t save the world, but it is a nice diversion. There is something exhilarating about the enthusiasm and sheer joy of the participants; it’s the antithesis of the complacencey that plagues our society.

Rating 4/5

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