Director: Morgan Spurlock
Featuring: Stan Lee, Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon, Fans
The Film: I don’t normally like to start reviews off with anecdotes, but I feel in this case it is needed to put the subject of this Morgan Spurlock documentary into perspective: Back in the winter of 1976, executives at 20th Century Fox really had no idea how to properly market what they perceived as a ‘small science fiction film’ called Star Wars. This movie, which featured vaguely incoherent and silly dialogue, along with created galaxies with puppet aliens, had all the potential of going the way of Hollywood forgetfulness. Then they came up with a brilliant plan: in a relatively low key event called Comic Con, there lie an opportunity to promote their “little science fiction” movie to create a little word of mouth among their target audience, and at the very least be able to break even. Since its inception in 1970, Comic Con had appealed to strictly comic book fans. If you can, I recommend you seek out footage from 1976’s event, as it had MAYBE 300 people in its masses. And there was the Star Wars table, getting a bunch of attention, and being shown on a science fiction show that my father used to watch. Word of mouth spread, and I think we all know what happened with Star Wars from there.
This review isn’t about Star Wars though. It is about the documentary called Comic Con Episode IV, and its attempts to show what the event of Comic Con has become. As someone who has made the trip to San Diego to attend the event on a number of occasions, I can tell you that you pass at least 300 people in the restrooms alone now, and it is almost impossible to weave your way through crowds within its confines. Spurlock wisely decides to focus on a particular set of stories instead of ones that are easy to ridicule, as it would have been easy to show a guy making a costume and leaving his mom‘s basement just long enough to attend the event and then come right back to where he started. It is not hard to notice that the people featured in Comic Con: Episode IV seem to have other things on their agendas than seeing what cool panels will be taking place in the vaunted Hall H.
Two comic book artists (stories told separately) are convinced, even within the confines of criticism, to take their work to Comic Con with the everlasting hope that they will FINALLY make it big. There is the story of a couple who met at the convention just a year prior, and the man’s determination to put the ONE ENGAGEMENT RING TO RULE THEM ALL (yes, it is Lord Of The Rings oriented and I did not just make that up as a cute allusion) on the ring finger of his lovely girlfriend during Kevin Smith’s panel. There’s a comic book store owner who, when faced with making ends meet, struggles to sell an extremely rare comic for $500,000. There’s a collector who will do whatever it takes to get that one action figure which has eluded his collection. And finally, a group of costume designers spend months preparing costumes in their garage for the sole purpose of looking to get the attention of someone within the industry when they are presented. Each story interweaves in one way or another, and the film is probably Spurlock’s best combination of laughs and heartache that he has ever done. It is tough not to get a bit teary eyed during the stories concerning the comic book artists, as we all know what rejection is like. But the constructive criticism these guys receive is devastating considering how much of their souls and money they put into their dream, and this particular story hit me pretty hard. At the same time, the guy looking for that elusive action figure brings more laughs than naught, and the film does a hilariously nice job of weaving in and out of the Con with him on his ‘quest.’
However, Comic Con Episode IV isn’t just about the Con’s attendees. Don’t worry fellow geeks, all of our heroes makes an appearance or two within the film’s 88 minute running time. Everyone from Smith, to Harry Knowles, to King of Nerds Joss Whedon, to Stan The Man Lee himself all have something to say, and it is fantastic getting all of their takes on what has undoubtedly become a phenomenon. Not surprisingly, Smith, who I have always maintained is a fantastic speaker, shines in these segments. One person who is surprisingly absent, being that he has been both an onscreen presence and offscreen narrator in all of the other stuff he has done, is Spurlock himself. While I can see why some would be angered by this, I found myself liking this decision more and more as the film went on, as Spurlock lets the stories and people speak for themselves. It was also interesting hearing people talk about how much they miss the subtlety that the Comic Con event lacks as compared to what it was, as studios have jumped on these few days of the summer, seeing them as an opportunity to make waves with their latest releases. Much like 20th Century Fox did all those years ago.
A minor complaint I had with Comic Con Episode IV was that Spurlock does not necessarily show closure within each story. Sure, there is conflict within the documentary that is resolved. But one particular story’s final moments left me a bit uneasy. Not everything has to be wrapped up in a nice little bow. But if you ask us to spend 88 minutes with these people, at least show us what happens. Nonetheless, Comic Con was made for those people who either cannot make the trip or are more than a little curious about the sub culture known as Comic Con. As both an attendee and a fan of Spurlock’s work, I think that his film hits almost all the right notes for both of these audiences. And beyond.
The Australian DVD
Audio/Video: The video transfer for this disc is beautiful. And while this isn’t the type of film that is necessarily going to blow out your speakers, the sound is superior as well.
Here we go. Here are things that people are gong to love. As the features on this disc add no less than an hour of extra time to what has already been seen. And all of them add to the film’s overall purpose.
Behind The Scenes: Here is your opportunity to see Spurlock on camera, as this 6 minute piece shows the trial and tribulations of putting this film together. Great segment and a nice companion piece to the documentary.
Deleted Scenes: There are nine minutes worth of deleted scenes. All are worth checking out, but I can see how they could be a detriment to the overall flow of Comic Con Episode IV.
Interviews: Here is the feature that had me yelling for joy (seriously, ask my neighbors.) There is over an hour of extra interviews here, all featuring people we had both seen and not seen during the documentary itself (Felicia Day, marry me.)
Review Written By Garrett Collins
Thanks to Ben from MadMan for his support.