Morgan Spurlock's documentaries are like the gateway drug for people who can get addicted to sitting in front of hours and hours of Frederick Wiseman docs, immersing themselves in very detailed worlds that lack a clear agenda. On the other hand, Spurlock can also reach people who don't normally watch infotainment, because he's so darn friendly and accessible (unlike that disagreeable Michael Moore guy). Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope chronicles attendees of the San Diego Comic Con with the same affectionate tone so everyone can appreciate the weirdness--although unlike real life, there's not an abundance of the bizarre.
Full disclosure: I am part of what devoted, aged attendees of the Con refer to as "the problem." I started showing up at the Con about four years ago to hear movie news and shuffle along the convention floor ogling the light saber chopsticks and gigantic Transformers statues. And I am part of the reason you have to get into line at 4 a.m. on the day prior to a big event. In recent years, the cool event for the uncool has gotten much less cool. In fact, the other 359 days of the year, it's hard for me to remember why I enjoy going. But apparently it wasn't always this harrowing to attend.
Yeah, it's all coming back to me now--the best part of Comic-Con, aside from seeing sneak peeks of upcoming movies or overhearing teenage boys try to figure out how to hit on a Slave Leia, is meeting all of the wacky, charming, smart, hilarious, loyal people who are more than likely wearing a Sailor Moon costume. Spurlock captures this feeling perfectly by focusing the documentary on five attendees, all looking to get something different from the Con. There are two aspiring comic book artists, a comic book retailer, a toy collector, a costume designer, and a guy who is going to propose to his girlfriend. It's a pretty good cross-section, only omitting the people who just go to listen, enjoy, and feel the love.
This is a tricky topic, because people that like to dress like Chewbacca or who know how to speak Klingon can easily be made fun of (as everyone who attends the Con already knows). But the nice thing about being in this group of 100K+ is that everyone there is the same, to some extent, and getting that much support can be rare for some nerdy folks. And in Spurlock's gentle hands, as you follow each expertly juggled storyline, the giggles that come are friendly ones. His affection makes him the perfect match for this documentary.
But what is a 2012 documentary about Comic-Con without all the people the fans go to see? A large portion of the film are faces that you will probably recognize (Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon, Eli Roth), and ones whose projects you love (Robert Kirkman who created The Walking Dead and John Schnepp, who directs Metalocalypse and The Venture Bros on Adult Swim). Spurlock gave them the job of doing most of the expository work, and that's the only part that left me a little cold. I was so interested in the stories of the real-life people (as I am when I attend the Con in real life), that I wanted more of that. Perhaps I am just yearning for the kind of Con that I've only heard whispered about while in the mile-long line for the bathroom.