Ongoing Investigations: Case #166

From well-known documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (you’ll probably know him best as the guy who did Super Size Me), comes a look into the biggest geek convention in the U.S., San Diego Comic-Con. A Fan’s Hope follows a few different people through the convention which wasn’t abundantly clear in the trailer I saw but now after seeing it, the title makes much more sense. There is a lot more of a personal journey to this documentary than a real focus on the con as a whole and its development and history. While that wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, the film isn’t a disappointment but more an incomplete tale.

Unlike some other films, Morgan is only behind the camera for this one, which is a shame since he would have been the perfect person to give us tidbits of information and bring context to scenes. The people we do follow are generally interesting if not experts on the con. Two artists trying to go pro, a comic book dealer who hasn’t had a good year for profits, a costume sculptor wanting to show off her skills, a toy collector on the hunt, and a couple where the guy is going to pop the question make up our merry band.

Equal attention wasn’t given to everyone, sometimes this was good (the couple), sometimes this was bad (the artist from the military), but most of all it felt like they should have cut back on the group as a whole or make the film longer. Though the public proposal I could have done without altogether, it makes me so uncomfortable! And I had gotten a little worried about the guy since his girlfriend seemed attached to his hip. Interspersed between these stories are celebrities saying a line or two or telling a story about the convention and these were a lot of fun. Kevin Smith does an especially good job while telling a story about what would happen if his now self could travel back and visit his 11-year-old self.

This film is a celebration of fandom, it is not an expose, but it really needed to be a bit of both.

I did not realize that this was a Morgan Spurlock documentary until after I saw it. Or I should more precisely say that I did not realize Morgan Spurlock was also the same director as Super Size Me until after I watched the movie. As a long-term nerd I can’t say that I learned anything particularly shocking about Comic-Con as a whole. It is distinctly more of a celebration of Comic-Con and a look at how it affects certain people rather than an in-depth expose of the grand mechanisms behind the convention.

If you’re looking for parts on Twilight fanatics vs. Comic nerds or the sickly side of the cosplay community you won’t find it here. They do touch on the fact that the convention had become much more of a general media con than a solely comic focused event though the eyes of one of the oldest remaining comic sellers but even that is mostly played as a positive. The real meat of the documentary was the experiences of the people who attended the con. You had the collector, the cosplay girl, and the dealer among others. Their stories were all interesting. The Mass Effect cosplay group was undoubtedly skilled. That animatronic Krogan outfit was a marvel. You cannot see that outfit and not be impressed. (You can but your mostly just a jerk who likes to pat themselves on the back for how “worldly” they are).

But the most interesting stories were the two men trying to get professional jobs in the comics industry while attending Comic-Con. It was a good look at someone who makes it and someone who was clearly not ready. I wish they had focused a little more on the artist who got a job through the event. As a married man in the military I felt he really contrasted the image of the lonely super spaz you associate with comic fandom. He was clearly seriously into comics with the skills to back up that love but I felt he was a fascinating example of the diversity of the community. The gentleman who was rejected was also compelling. As someone who has never taken rejection well his story hit very close to home even if he dealt with his setbacks with a good amount of grace.

The real question this documentary answers is why do people go to Comic-Con. It is a wonderful examination of what makes people come back year after year and why the convention has become the phenomenon it has. I am coincidentally listening to the Freakonomics audio book. Since Spurlock worked on the film based on that book I might give that a look soon as well.

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