When most people think of Comic-Con, the term “geek” often comes to mind and no one (not even those who regularly attend the event) could really argue against the broad generalization.  The question is whether or not people fall into the geek category or if they’re on the outside wondering what all the hype is about.  Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope gives an inside look at the comic book convention that started in 1970 for 500 fans and has since grown into a pop culture event with over 140,000 in attendance.  For the geeks, A Fan’s Hope will leave you thinking about your own memories of your first, second, or tenth time at the convention.  For everyone else, the doc will make you wish you were one of the geeks.  (Luckily, it’s a pretty easy club to join.)

Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me and The Greatest Movie Ever Sold) directs with a solid voice and brings the excitement of the annual convention onto the big screen for everyone to see.  It’s clear that he loves the material as much as he wants everyone else to, and the groups of people in front of the camera are equally as excited to be there.  With documentaries, there always seems to be a certain lesson to be learned or some deep, philosophical meaning to take away.  However, A Fan’s Hope, at its core, is just an endearing story about people trying to make it big in an industry they’re passionate about.  There’s nothing life changing or profound here, but that’s how it should be.  Anything else would be exhausting and overbearing.  Sometimes simple really is better.

The documentary follows a group of loveable geeks from all over the country and shows their specific Comic-Con adventures, both good and bad.  Eric Henson is an aspiring illustrator serving in the US Air Force, and thus, he hasn’t had much time to really pursue his passion for drawing.  It’s his first year at Comic-Con, and he’s trying to jump start a new career by impressing publishers with his illustrations.  Chuck Rozanski is a long-time comic book dealer and by far the veteran of the group.  He’s been going to Comic-Con since the beginning.  Literally, the very beginning.  With one of the rarest comic books around, he’s hoping to make a big enough sale to stay in the game and keep his business running.  Holly Conrad is in it less for the comics and more for the costumes.  She is an extremely talented costume and creature designer, and she’s planning to showcase her skills during the big Masquerade competition.  Whether anyone notices her hard work and talent is another matter entirely.  James Darling wants only one thing out of his experience: to propose to his girlfriend in an epic way.  He met Se Young Kang the previous year at Comic-Con, so it’s only natural that he would want to propose in the very place they met.  The real fun is for the audience because she has no idea what’s in store, and we all just hope she’ll say yes.  Skip Harvey rounds out the group as another illustrator looking to make it big.  His parents met at a Star Trek convention, so it’s clear that “geek” runs through his veins.  Watching Skip is like watching a child walk into a candy store that’s owned by Willy Wonka.  He fits right in with everyone else walking around wide-eyed and in awe.  Comic-Con has that effect on people.

To add to the excitement, there are plenty of cuts to interviews with geek gods like Joss Whedon, Stan Lee, Eli Roth, and Kevin Smith.  They all confirm what Spurlock is trying to convey: Comic-Con is fun.  It’s a place for people to be excited together without the risk of judgment or feeling silly.  In what other culture can you walk down the street dressed as Captain America and rather than get strange looks, have people cheer and want to take pictures?  Comic-Con has become such a phenomenon that some could even argue it’s cool to be a geek.  A Fan’s Hope will only solidify that argument.  The only problem is getting the non-geeks to the theater to see it.  There’s a specific market here, and for anyone who hasn’t heard of or has never been to Comic-Con, there won’t be much interest in seeing anyone else’s experience with it.

As entertaining as it is, there are moments when skipping back and forth between the five subjects feels like too much too fast, and there’s not quite enough time to see everything there is to see.  One of the stories even ends on a disheartening note, which goes against the general endearing and exciting tone.  In order to avoid spoilers, I’ll let everyone watch for themselves to see which story doesn’t get a happy ending.  Of course, that’s just a small piece of the puzzle, and considering it is, indeed, a documentary, there’s not much Spurlock could’ve done to change the story into a fairytale.  It still comes together and leaves the audience enthralled with the journeys these people are taking, which is really all that matters in any medium, documentary or not.

Bottom line: A Fan’s Hope rocks…  if you’re into that kind of thing.  It’s exciting and charming, and it makes you want to go to Comic-Con straight from the theater.  There won’t be many non-geeks in line to see it, but those who do decide to venture out and buy a ticket won’t be disappointed.  If nothing else, it provides a great sense of nostalgia and leaves you wanting more.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5