Review of Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope

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A behind-the-scenes look at the thousands of fans who gather each year in San Diego, California to attend Comic-Con, the world's largest comic book convention.
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What's the difference between a geek and nerd? No one's really quite sure, but after watching Morgan Spurlock's new documentary Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope, I can confidently say that both are awesome. For those of you not suitably initiated, Comic-Con is an annual convention devoted to Comics, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and all things Geek. Originally a small gathering of a few hundred diehard comic fans, it has expanded to fill the San Diego Convention Center to capacity, with 130,000 attendees. Spurlock's film attempts to encapsulate the experience, to examine what “The Con” is and where it may be going. On the whole, he succeeds smashingly.

Being that I've been one sort of nerd or another since birth, I had been excited to see Comic-Con since it showed up on the schedule. First though, I had to make it to the screening alive. LA traffic being the snarling beast it is, I tend to get around by bike as much as possible. Most of the time, this isn't a problem. However, this screening was in Century City, which meant a ride down Santa Monica Blvd. The section of Santa Monica near Beverly Hills is a death trap on a bike, particularly if you have to make a left onto Avenue of the Stars, as I did. There's no light or crosswalk. Your only option is to cut across three lanes of 40mph traffic to get to a left turn lane. Not fun.

I somehow made it to Century City without any broken limbs or crushed vertebre. After nearly being swallowed whole by The Century City Shopping Center, a sprawling ode to consumerism if there ever was one, I finally found my way to the ICM Theater, incongruously located in the heart of a steal and glass highrise. Only in LA.

The film's principal focus is the stories and trials of a cross section of convention attendees, ranging from grizzled veterans to fresh faced newcomers. These include two amateur illustrators looking to finally break into the comics business, a costume designer hoping to parley a strong convention showing into an industry job, a young couple that met at a previous Con who may be about take the next big step, and a long time comics dealer trying to keep his business alive at a convention that seems to focus more and more on Hollywood and video games every year while his bread-and-butter fades.

Besides the principle subjects, the film also features interviews with geek notables and luminaries such as Kevin Smith, Seth Green, Olivia Wilde, Joss Whedon, Harry Knowles, and The Man himself, Stan Lee (Whedon, Knowles, and Lee also executive produced).

In total, what you get is not only a fun and informative overview of the The Con itself, but also a good introduction to geek culture to those on the outside and a pleasant navel gaze for those on the inside. The overriding, common thread running between everyone featured in this documentary, from bit players to featured amateurs to industry insiders, is passion. This isn't just their job or their hobby, it's their life. And they couldn't be happier in it. You'd be hard pressed to find a group of people more comfortable in their own skin, and Spurlock's lens captures this comfort in loving detail. In a culture of critics and cynics, it's a welcome relief.

The biggest takeaway from Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope, for my money, is that an overabundance or passion is no bad thing.