02 May, 2012

Review: Comic-Con Episode IV A Fan's Hope by Morgan Spurlock

Never having attended SDCC nor having watched a Morgan Spurlock film, I might be bringing a different perspective to this. My viewing party consisted of a child, a SDCC 2007 attendee who has comic connections and myself. I left the film having no desire to ever attend SDCC. The 8 year old said "Did you buy this? Because as a rental, OK, but if I bought this I would be mad." Anger isn't the emotion I'd have but it's definitely not a film I will watch again. Spurlock has decent pacing, his technical work is good, the art direction is appropriate. On the scale of competency, the film scores. In content it is a little more problematic. There is nothing in Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope to challenge any preconceived notions one might have about the comic world.

Statements by the chosen elder statesmen aren't challenged. When McFarlane said the only thing he looks at in a portfolio is the quality of the art my viewing mate laughed. Apparently they once skipped a portfolio review because McFarlane would only meet with people willing to relocate to Phoenix. No feedback without commitment to potentially accept an offer. (Artists don't routinely relocate, either.) Now McFarlane is a busy guy. How he runs his business is his concern, but the documentary frames his statements as ones of accessibility. Like other aspects of the film, there is a lot more to the reality of SDCC.

Spurlock focuses heavily on Chuck from Mile High Comics as a way to illustrate that the con has moved far from it's roots. Chuck's been in a hard business a long time. That doesn't make him the most interesting person to base a large section of the film on. In fact, most of the participants seem chosen for being fairly dull and fitting a geek mold. There is the collector who stores his mid range figures in a gun safe, the lovers with a suffocating dynamic, a young artist who wants to be discovered instead of making something happen, it's a mishmash of expected figures. If I were not already immersed in the geek world, I certainly wouldn't join it on the basis of the film.

With such rich subject matter Spurlock could have addressed issues of accessibility inside the con itself. The most interesting character is a young black soldier. He is the most prepared, the most professional, and the most talented. He is given too little attention. Issues relating to race are completely ignored. Issues relating to women are barely mentioned. A short aside about cosplay women "forgetting their pants" is the only time gender is raised. The staff working the event go uninterviewed. I feel like Spurlock wasted an opportunity. The material underlying Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope is so rich. There is so much for a documentary to say about this culture, this collision of commerce and cult. Spurlock didn't say any of it. If you believe Comic-Con to be a collision of misfits and moneymakers, then Spurlock has you covered. Right down to Joss Whedon, master marketer, decrying the raiding of his fellow geek's pockets.

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope won't offend you. It won't enlighten you. It won't do much but make you glad you're not those dudes. And hey, Frank Miller looks pretty sober in it.

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