Unlike Spurlock’s previous documentaries (“Super Size Me”), the tone here is fond and uncritical. No matter how goofy or laughable some attendees seem--and it’s a relatively nerdy crowd--Spurlock’s camera gazes on them with almost fatherly affection. Clearly, these are his peeps. That tender regard, however, means that he never asks any really interesting questions. What is it about comics that inspires such devotion? Why haven’t these adults moved on to more mature or complex forms of art and literature? What relationship or pursuit is crowded out by the hours devoted to such an absorption in this particular activity? Has this mania for comic book storylines benefited our cultural environment? I liked “The Walking Dead” when it started on AMC last season, but as the writers couldn’t come up with anything more than hordes of zombies overrunning the landscape, it became dull. The characters didn’t change in response to their environment, no one wondered where the plague had come from or suggested working on a cure, people didn’t react in believable ways--in other words, the show’s comic-book roots began to show. Simple storylines, flat characters, a lack of nuance and complexity characterizes the genre. Maybe that’s what makes them so popular.
Unlike his other films, Spurlock doesn’t seem in the least interested in asking questions or in examining his own feelings about comics, their allure, and their impact. Previously he studied the subjects of his documentaries through their effect on himself. We could have used a bit more of that self-reflection here. But that isn’t what comics are about. Although “Comic-Con: Episode IV” isn’t a deep or illuminating look at a cultural trend, it is an amusing hour and a half, especially if you love comic books and the characters who love them.
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