Thursday, April 12, 2012

Morgan Spurlock is back--and less snarky--w/ COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN'S HOPE

Documentarian Morgan Spurlock is also a satirist. Of sorts. From Super Size Me and Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden to the more recent The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,  he's making fun of (some of) us and our popular culture and what this is doing to our country. But as Spurlock is growing older and perhaps wiser, he also appears to be growing a bit gentler. That, in any case, is how it seems with his endeavor, COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN'S HOPE, which takes on the famous (or maybe infamous, depending on how you view it) comic book convention that occurs annually in San Diego, California.

Spurlock, shown at right, travels there and gets some face time with a lot of different people concerned with the convention -- from its organizers, to the man who's been hawking comics there and/or elsewhere for decades, fans who've come from all over to be there (including one cute pair, the male of whom is planning to propose to the female on premises), a bunch of celebrities (from Harrison Ford to Kevin Smith) who are helping to hawk their latest wares, Marvel Comics' most famous name Stan Lee (and other hot artists) and some of the young would-be artists who've come here to try to interest the pros in their work.  Oh, yes, and one particular troupe of performers (below) who are planning to put on an act as part of the "costume" portion of the show.

The filmmaker is not unaware of how Comic-Con has grown and changed from a convention primarily interested in comic books into the major yearly hawker of new product (generally movies, video games, or TV shows) that are in some way related (fantasy, sci-fi, action and other popular genres) to those comics. And so money and marketing, once again, conquer all. This theme seems a major part of all of Spurlock's work and it is why TrustMovies, along with many others, values him and his films.

While his targets (from fast food to product placement) may often seem like sitting ducks, his view is more inclusive and his satire less scathing and more generous than may initially be apparent. With the Comic-Con film, this is particularly true, so that, though we might (I certainly did) initially laugh aloud at much of what we see here, once the filmmaker sticks with his subjects for a bit, each takes on a life of his or her own, and we find ourselves rooting for them all, no matter how nutty they might have first appeared.

I admit to being a little bored by the subject and, in fact, with the movie's content, over its first half hour, probably because I'll never attend Comic-Con nor will I feel I've missed anything (particularly now that I've seen this film). But I must also admit that, by the end of the movie, I was with it -- and its many odd characters -- one hundred percent.

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope (from Wrekin Hill Entertainment, 88 minutes) opened last week in Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco -- and opens this week in New York City (at the Village East Cinema), Philadelphia and Boston. I also noticed it available via VUDU, which probably means it's  already viewable on VOD.

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