Morgan Spurlock has shown us the dangers of a life of fast food, hunted down terrorist threats and explored the world of product placement in his three previous feature length documentaries. In his latest, Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan's Hope (forever forward known as Comic-Con), Spurlock turns his attention to the not-so underground subculture of geekdom - most notably the uber fans that make the yearly pilgrimage to downtown San Diego for the geek Mecca that is San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC). In Comic-Con, Spurlock has discarded his trademark style of on camera performance, instead placing his fascinating characters front and center, allowing their compelling stories to become the focus. While there are other factors at play here, this decision goes a long way to making Comic-Con Spurlock's best film yet.
What began in the 1970s as a way for comic fans to buy, sell and interact directly with the comic book industry has grown into a mega gathering that encompasses just about anything someone can be a fan of; comics, toys, video games, original art, anime, movies and much more. Over a million people attend each year and anyone who has been will tell you it is unlike any event in the world. Emblemized by the throngs of convention-goers in all manners of elaborate costumes, SDCC is the one place more than any other on earth where the geekier you are, the higher your social standing.
Spurlock rolls out all kinds of celebrities to give their take on SDCC in front of a stark white seamless backdrop. From comic luminaries Stan Lee and Frank Miller to filmmakers Kevin Smith and Joss Whedon to movie stars Olivia Wilde and Seth Green, each celeb has plenty to say about how SDCC is the one place they feel truly themselves. But their musings are really just window dressing for what is the deliciously rich gooey center of the film: the stories of a half dozen or so true fans.
Intercut throughout we follow the stories of a talented costume designer, two young geeky lovers, one of America's biggest comic dealers, a die-hard collector, and two contrasting stories of ambitious artists. Each of these story arcs is brimming with drama, cut to perfection by Spurlock, writer Jeremy Chilnick, and editors Tova Goodman and Tim K. Smith. As the drama plays out, the audience finds themselves extremely attached to these characters, rooting for them to the point of audibly cheering for each small triumph. It doesn't matter if you are a geek or not, Spurlock has captured a human ambition that shines through the super-hero spandex and gets any audience on board.
It is notable that Spurlock has taken a backseat to his subjects here. Anyone who has seen his previous films knows Morgan is a likable guy. But in Comic-Con, Spurlock is tapping into something else. Here he looks into the hearts of what it means to be a true fan - to love something so much that you want your whole life to revolve around that world. Whether it be comic books or anything else - it doesn't really matter. These characters are completely devoted to their passions - and devoted passionate characters make for some pretty damn compelling drama.
Check out the photos from the TIFF Premiere below!