Wednesday, May 16, 2012

From the Archives: I Geek You, I Geek You Not

Who is more of a legend than Stan Lee? Who? Hmm?

One of my favourite docos from last year; thought it would be fitting to repost seeing my recent coming out re my love of all things fantastical. Check out my review:

Film: Comic-Con: Episode IV – A Fan’s Hope
Year: 2011
Director: Morgan Spurlock
Stars: Holly Conrad, Chuck Rozanski, James Darling, Se Young Kang, Skip Harvey, Eric Henson
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Comics

On viewing the trailer for Morgan Spurlock’s elaborately titled documentary: ‘Comic-con: Episode IV – A Fan’s Hope’ one immediate thought was raised in my mind, ”This is for the geeks”. And I wasn’t wrong.

I’d been a follower of Spurlock’s work in the past, starting with the controversial ‘Supersize Me’, which put me off fast food for the entirety of my adult life. The superbly successful ‘30 Days’ television series was also an intriguing example of the provocative work Spurlock has become known for. However, and as any cult-following droid lover will know, the term ‘comic-con’ in a film title was what excited me the most. Therefore, imagine my joy, then, at hearing ‘Comic-con’ was screening at the 2011 Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF 2011). There would also be a question and answer session with the man that brought a 30-day cholesterol growth onto himself in the name of art. This was a moment of celebration for all Qatar-dwelling fan-geeks.

As with any film or documentary viewing, it pays to set the tone in the cinema hall. With avid discussion of expectations and woops of genuine excitement echoing around the theatre, Spurlock didn’t even have to try and entice this audience. In a room packed with trekkies, anime fiends and wannabe zombie hunters to boot, an eager participant yelled: ‘May the force be with you!’ to the towering director. This audience was rearing to go; it was time to unleash comic-con fever.

Spurlock tells the story of comic-con – the largest comic-book convention and pop culture gathering in the planet – through the eyes of the different fans who gather at this annual celebration of film, gaming and, of course, comic-books. As we join the intriguing fans’ on their journey, we meet passionate amateur animators, tireless costume designers and lifelong comic-book vendors, all with incredibly different goals, yet united by their creative minds and love of this fantasy world.

‘Comic-con’ doesn’t attempt to dispel or reverse the labels society has plastered on this unique subculture. On the contrary, it embraces the stereotypes with endearing and quirky examples. There are secret stashes of costly toy robots, and scenes depicting blooming romance amid hordes of storm troopers. The film screams, “this IS geek culture” and then makes a strong case for why everyone should fall in love with its pointy-eared stars.

One of the main stories features shining star Holly Conrad, whose ‘Mass Effect’ costume conjuring is a visual delight for both the film’s audiences and a hit with the fans on the ground at comic-con. Conrad is is a prime example of the devoted comic-con-goer. With years of road tripping up her sleeve and a garage-cum-costume designing workshop in tow, she is a girl with a dream. Wholly dedicated to her dreams of turning pro, we are given the privilege of witnessing how comic-con helps her achieve just that.

Surprising the audience at the DTFF 2011 screening, Conrad marched on stage in her shiny Commander Shepard leather-latex war suit, sparking a lengthy round of applause and looks of genuine admiration.

Topping off the inspirational stories of the comic-con fans in the film, were appearances by the masters of this underground and over the top geek and cult subculture universe. ‘Comic-con’ succeeded in bringing the Doha audience close to tears of happiness; the most prominent of these instances being when president of Marvel Comics, king of the comic-book cosmos and original Avenger, Stan Lee graced the screen. Lee shared some charming anecdotes of his love of comic-con and this intoxicating world of possibility, alongside executive producer Joss Whedon, legendary funny man (and self-confessed geek) Kevin Smith and fantasy directing legend, Guillermo del Toro. Peppered throughout the thoroughly entertaining 88 minutes of the documentary, these insights lifted ‘Comic-con’ and brought dreams and aspirations to life.

So, if you’ve got that Lord of the Rings Blu-Ray tucked away in your cupboard somewhere, a toaster on a chain hidden under the pillows of your jewellery box, or a Chewbacca bobble-head lost in the depths of your office drawer, this film is for you. It’s time to put your inner geek on show because, as this documentary proves, we’re cooler than most people think.

Note: This post can be found in its natural home on the Doha Film Institute website, here.

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