Director: Morgan Spurlock
Writer: Morgan Spurlock, Joss Whedon, Jeremy Chilnick
Stars: Kevin Smith, Stan Lee, Eli Roth, Chuck Rozanski
Release Date: September 10, 2010 (Toronto International Film Festival) / April 5, 2012 (Santa Monica, CA)
For the unindoctrinated, A Fan's Hope provides a heartfelt look into what makes the San Diego Comic-Con so special for so many.
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope follows a handful of individuals in the days leading up to and during what is referred to as the "Mecca for geeks." Specifically, it revolves around the San Diego Comic-Con International of 2010 (at which point the convention had been running for 40 years strong). We get a good sampling of just who it is that attends the convention: fanboys and fangirls, cosplayers, aspiring comic artists and longtime comic dealers.
Their jubilation and tribulations are intercut with talking heads (known and unknown) who give sincere answers as to what Comic-Con means to them. From Kevin Smith to Frank Miller, it's an articulate and passionate bunch that bring a lot of credibility to the documentary (and yes, probably a fair amount of self-interest and investment). However, the vast majority of the screen-time is given over to the everyday attendees like you and me.
Eric Henson and Skip Harvey are two indie comic artists, they come from different walks of life, have different styles and are met with different results after showing their work to publishers stationed at the convention center. As with many jobs in the entertainment arts, it's easier than ever to get started and build a portfolio but harder than ever to legitimately break in. Their story had a significant impact on me and will similarly affect any other non-professional artists.
The other stories on display in A Fan's Hope include Chuck Rozanski, the owner of Mile High Comics. He attends every year in hopes of selling some of his most rare and expensive issues (i.e. Red Raven Comics #1 going for $500,000). Chuck hopes to sell enough to pay off his debts and his voice emerges as one of the most valuable in the documentary simply because he's been here the longest. I attended Comic-Con for the first time last year but was only able to walk the show floor for an hour's time. I don't know if I've ever been more overwhelmed (in a good way) in my life. It was long enough to stumble upon Mile High Comics' space and see Rozanski bent over a calculator. His story marches on.
It's hard to feel sorry for the man desperate to be one of the first on the floor to buy a limited time action figure (excuse me, collectible figurine), but it gives us an idea of many who attend for such a reason. Then there's the young nerd who plans to propose to another young nerd when he takes the microphone at a panel. Oh, and the costume designer who leads a team of impressive Mass Effect cosplayers to take part in the convention's contest. All are essentially organisms to the stability and clockwork of the Comic-Con ecosystem. As has been said, "the geek shall inherit the earth."
Documentarian Morgan Spurlock exploded into public perception with his incredible and self-starring experiment Super Size Me. He brought that format to the short-lived 30 Days TV series. He's been playing with cameras and messing with people ever since. Oddly enough, Spurlock is never seen or heard throughout A Fan's Hope and I appreciate the restraint in that decision. He is a commanding presence when onscreen, so maybe he didn't want to steal the limelight from the subject or characters at hand. Or maybe he's not much of a comics guy himself? Or maybe (as I've heard say) he was rather hands-off in the making of this film?
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope is not a great documentary and it has a truly terrible title. It feels like an extended TV documentary or (dare I say it) even a reality show at times. I could probably say the same about Spurlock's sensational Super Size Me. However, unlike some of Spurlock's previous films, A Fan's Hope feels like anyone could have directed it. It's simply about the convention and what it means to different people. It doesn't need to be an exercise in fine cinema. It's a celebration of fan-base pop culture in the world today and that's all it ever aspired to be.