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Review: Spurlock doc `Comic-Con' for geeks only

By Christy Lemire
AP Movie Critic / April 3, 2012
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People who love Comic-Con spend about an hour and a half telling you how much they love Comic-Con. That's pretty much the extent of "Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope," Morgan Spurlock's documentary about the annual convention in San Diego which has turned into sort of an extravaganza for geeks.

If you have to ask what the title is a reference to, this movie is probably not for you; then again, even if you do get it, you won't appreciate the film fully unless you're already a member of the choir to which it's preaching.

What began in 1970 as an opportunity for a couple hundred serious comic book aficionados to meet and discuss their favorite characters and stories has exploded in recent years to a platform for blockbuster sci-fi movies, TV series and video games that draws about 150,000.

You won't get much insight into the inner workings of this specific personality type, this fervent fanaticism -- people who spend untold hours crafting their own Stormtrooper outfits or learning to speak fluent Klingon -- but you will get countless testimonials as to why this annual gathering makes these sometimes socially awkward folks finally feel comfortable. The idea that going to Comic-Con is like going home is one that gets repeated here a lot, but then so do many similar expressions of enthusiasm. These are, after all, fans.

Spurlock makes the unusual move of remaining behind the camera this time and instead follows a handful of people as they prepare for and then wade into the color and cacophony of the Con. He shifts between their stories as if moving through the panels of a comic book. Some hope it's a launching pad for a new career; others just want to bask in the communal nerdiness of it all.

You've got a couple of aspiring comic book illustrators and a costume designer. A veteran comic book dealer who has found his business struggling in recent years at least provides some relevant economic context, a reflection of seismic cultural shifts; plus he's just a complete hoot with his no-nonsense demeanor, long braid and bolo tie. And then there's the young man who nervously proposes to his girlfriend in front of thousands of people, a moment that radiates sheer joy.

In between, Spurlock weaves fond remembrances from more famous names: comic legends like Stan Lee and Frank Miller, revered writer-directors like Joss Whedon and Kevin Smith, and popular actors including Seth Rogen and Olivia Wilde. Set against a plain white backdrop, their tales sometimes add humor and pop to the proceedings but they can also feel like filler, especially as the film starts to drag after only about an hour.

But again, if you're the target audience, this might be as satisfying as porn -- and we're not just talking about the parade of Slave Leias.

"Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope," a Wrekin Hill Entertainment release, is rated PG-13 for some sex and drug references, language and brief horror images. Running time: 88 minutes. Two stars out of four.

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Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:

G -- General audiences. All ages admitted.

PG -- Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 -- Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.

R -- Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

NC-17 -- No one under 17 admitted.

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