"Fanboy," like "hipster" or "liberal," is a word that has evolved from a term that aptly describes a group of people into an epithet spat pejoratively by those who aren't part of that particular culture. Fanboys needn't fear Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope, because Morgan Spurlock has made a loving tribute, devoid of sarcasm, cruelty, or condescension, but still with just the right amount of modest self-awareness.
The movie captures the frenzy, fun, and madness of the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con, giving us a brief but welcome introduction to the history of the annual event. Though it started as a small get-together where comic-book enthusiasts, and those who wanted to break into the business, could speak with established artists and writers, the convention has since ballooned into a massive PR event where Hollywood blockbusters attempt to stoke early interest in upcoming summer spectacles, people spend thousands of dollars on collectible toys, and a great many folks dress up like their favorite characters for days at a time.
Through this elaborate party, Spurlock focuses on a handful of individuals who all have different motivations for coming to Comic-Con. There's Skip Harvey and Eric Henson, a pair of aspiring artists who have come for the old-fashioned reason of wanting to get their foot in the door of the publishing end of the business. We learn their backstories and watch as they are given blunt, honest critiques of their portfolios by professionals who are looking for fresh talent, but don't have time to waste.
Also looking to make her mark is Holly Conrad, a costume designer attempting to win the elaborate costume competition held at Comic-Con. She's an immediately likable presence, in large part because she knows what she wants to do and she has a plan for it. Even if you find the idea of people putting on skits while dressed as characters from video games and comic books you've never heard of utterly ridiculous, her sheer desire to win is infectious, giving the competition an unexpected dramatic edge.
At the other end of the age spectrum is Chuck Rozanski, an experienced comic-book dealer who's had a rough year financially and has come to Comic-Con in hopes of selling one of his rarest items. He has a young female protégé, and the advice he dispenses to her is often humorous and revealing; his explanation as to why Nicolas Cage was stupid to sell his comic-book collection -- just because his wife wanted him to -- is an instantly quotable bit of one-track-minded wisdom.
As if to disprove the old adage that guys who go to this kind of event never kiss girls, Spurlock also turns his camera on James Darling, a young man who plans to propose to his girlfriend, Se Young Kang, in the middle of a large Q&A session with director/writer/unapologetic fanboy Kevin Smith, but who keeps running into unexpected problems that jeopardize the big moment.
That's not Smith's only appearance in the movie. He's in a number of talking-head shots, along with luminaries like Joss Whedon, Seth Rogen, and Eli Roth, all of whom share stories about their lifelong attachment to this ever-growing subculture.
Spurlock's talent has always been a combination of self-promotion and finding push-button topics to make films about. What makes this movie his best so far is that, for the first time in his career, he takes himself out of the equation. His goal isn't to talk about his relationship with Comic-Con, but instead to give fanboys their day in the sun -- to make viewers who might otherwise dismiss those who obsess over collecting particular action figures pay attention to the sense of togetherness and identity that this culture imbues in people.
In addition, if you already are a person who makes the annual voyage to San Diego's Comic-Con, or to any of the other smaller but similar conventions that take place around the world, you'll have a new hero in Spurlock precisely because he gets it, he gets you, and he has come to celebrate you. Some audience members might think that people who dress up like Klingons for days are immature, but Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope is Morgan Spurlock's most mature documentary yet.
awards for Comic-Con: Episode IV - A Fan's Hope on AllMovie
Comic-Con: Episode IV - A Fan's Hope (2011)
Toronto International Film Festival