There are 130,000 stories at Comic-con and here are a few of them.
That’s not a quote from Morgan Spurlock’s just-released documentary based on the 2010 convention in San Diego. But, that’s what went through my head watching it.
The Comic-cons of the last decade have been so massive and so diverse that to tackle the topic in a documentary is probably an impossible task. No matter what approach one takes, you are bound to miss the experiences of some portion of the mass of humanity that attends.
Spurlock makes a good go of it, though. He chose to follow a few attendees who each had a goal to achieve by attending the convention. So, we get a couple of artists who are trying to get a job. We get a collector who is out to snag a limited edition collectible toy. We get a woman who designs an elaborate set of costumes based on the video game “Mass Effect” and wants to do well in the Masquerade competition.
There’s also some focus on a comic book dealer who may have to sell a very rare comic to make ends meet.
All of these are “types” are representative of what I would consider Comic-con minorities. They exist at the convention, of course. The closest we see of people who are just there to attend is a couple of dating fans who met at the previous convention and the male fan intends to propose at the Kevin Smith panel.
Interspersed with these stories, Spurlock does cover a little bit of what the convention is to other people. He effectively uses interviews with Smith, Joss Whedon, and Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman and other well-known Geek Gods to talk about how and why the convention has grown important in the pop culture. Smith and Whedon—each who are big draws at the convention for their entertaining panels—provide the most entertaining sound bites.
Since I attended the 2010 convention, as well as many others since 2000, I couldn’t help but feel I was getting a glimpse of what other people were doing there. I tend to go to the TV panels and there wasn’t much about those panels in the documentary. They spent a little screen time about the movie stars who show up at Hall H, where most of the movie panels are. Too bad they didn’t get their cameras into the Chuck panel.
The movie does touch on the dilemma of traditional comics types who feel eclipsed by the TV and movie people. That is most communicated in the tale of the comics dealer. But, it doesn’t go so far to denigrate the trend because the film relies so much on the contributions of people like Kevin Smith and Robert Kirkman, who aren’t just “comics” people.
The film is mostly reverential of geekdom and nerdom. A New York Times review of the movie said “ the film leaves a subject that cries out for a sarcastic takedown virtually unscathed.” That makes me suspect that non-geeks would probably have preferred a movie that made fun of the participants. This is not Spurlock’s movie.
To be honest, I liked this documentary, but I didn’t love it. I’m going to the 2012 con, but getting a membership and a hotel room was so difficult, I’m questioning why I did it. But, something in the film did touch on why I go. It’s about being a geek and feeling like you are not alone. Spurlock does communicate that very well.
I don’t really know how to grade this. Your mileage may vary depending on whether you are a con veteran, a geek who has never gone, or a non-geek who would have preferred a freak show.