The annual San Diego Comic-Con is one of the most popular and most attended events in the world. Boasting more celebrities than the Oscars, what used to be a place for aspiring artists and vendors has now become home to the most valuable press in the world; grass-roots marketing. By packing all these movie stars in one place, promoting a franchise, and getting the masses to attend, Comic-Con has found a way to garner even more buzz for a film than what was originally thought possible.
Granted, these star-studded events have kind of replaced the entire reason Comic-Con was created in the first place. Still, thousands of adoring and loyal fans make their way to San Diego every year for the much-anticipated event that never seems to disappoint. But for those of us who don’t get to go to the Con every year, we’ve always wondered, right? I mean, it’s hard to not even think about going when it seems so damn enticing.
Leave it to Morgan Spurlock, the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker known for his near single-handed assault on McDonald’s that resulted in the eventual disappearance of their “Super-Size” option. I actually got to meet and interview Mr. Spurlock last year during promotion for another fantastic film he made, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. In an attempt to better understand product placement in films, Spurlock learned about selling out by selling out.
Spurlock has always had a knack for taking seemingly normal subjects and creating fascinating stories with them that almost always directly affect his real life. Liver problems in Super Size Me, piles of contracts in The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, and the safety of his ow life in Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? But for, Comic-Con: Episode IV- A Fan’s Hope, he decides to take a step back and let his subjects do all the talking. It’s an interesting and definitely unfamiliar dynamic for him to take, with all of his previous films anchored by his charismatic personality.
But somehow, in some strange way, he makes it work. By telling the stories of eight Comic-Conners, Spurlock presents us with a truly diverse view of the Con itself, giving the viewer a chance to peek into many aspects of what the Con has to offer. He also intercuts the film with fascinating celebrity interviews from the likes of Kevin Smith to Joss Whedon to Seth Green and many more. By explaining their passion for comics and film, Spurlock really does prove that celebrities are just like us. Maybe even more than we think.
In my opinion, Comic-Con: Episode IV, with its clever and instant homage to Star Wars, is simply a passion project for Spurlock. With an extremely small release that serves mainly online and home providers like iTunes and onDemand, Comic-Con: Episode IV is definitely a step-back for Spurlock, but in a good way. At only 87 minutes, the film is definitely not overlong or boring, and the stories that he sets up are quite interesting. He also doesn’t take the easy way out by giving us a do-or-die situation that forces us to feel sympathetic for the character. As if everyone going to Comic-Con needs to get signed to a label or they won’t be able to pay their rent.
Of course, some more interaction from Spurlock would have been appreciated, but to be honest, this is a film for the fans. It’s fascinating to hear comic geeks just nerd out about movies they love, writers they love, artists they admire, and what influenced their love for certain comics and artists. The film works as a love letter to the fans, but is welcoming enough to invite the casual reader. It lets them know that it’s okay to join the club. We don’t bite, I promise.