Comic Book

COMIC BOOK: THE MOVIE. 2004

Director: Mark Hamill

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



I read three faan reviews back-to-back, all killer-reviews deploring this "mocumentary" in the most venomous terms. But I just can't see why comics fans would dislike it; it is an accurate portrait of comics fandom & it is a loving rather than demeaning portrait.

Mark Hamill wrote, directed, & starred in this suprisingly sensitive homage to comic book nerds. Hamill is in real life a member of that very crowd, so he gets every bit of it right, but makes nerdy obsession into a kind of nobility.

Appearances by Bruce Campbell & Stan Lee as themselves are stand-outs, & there are some original Star Wars actors in cameos providing inside-jokes. But among cameos, if you've been to many conventions, you'll recognize faces all over this film. It was shot in part at San Diego ComiCon, & big-name faans & pros pop up all over the place. There's a commentary track for a second viewing, & a companion DVD chock full of extras & interviews of real interest (real interest if you like the film or comic books). The interview with comics nerd Hugh Hefner was a particular delight.

Hamill plays a comic book store owner & lifelong collector whose expertise are hired by a Hollywood film production company. They plan to adapt a war-time comic book hero to the screen. They give the Big Name Nerd a budget to make a documentary about the making of the movie, which is supposed to be an "extra" for the envisioned DVD.

The cute nerd's agenda is quite different from the film studio's. They want to make an updated CGI-dominated tale of violence & explosions & non-stop action for the lowest common denominator audience. Hamill's character wants them to make a moral, patriotic film of old-fashioned idealism such as those old comics embodied.

His "making of" documentary becomes, a la Spinal Tap, a record of a project going down in flames. But at all times, it is the comic book people who keep their integrity, & it even begins to wear off onto a couple of the corrupt Hollywood film people.

I've never been particularly a Mark Hamill fan. I always assumed no one would ever have heard of him if he hadn't been Luke Skywalker, which was not a role that required acting ability. But my opinon of him as a scriptwriter, as an actor, as a filmmaker, even as a human being, leapt by bounds watching this sweet little film. The essential decency of the thing is all too rare in our justly cynical world -- not that Hammil's comix nerd is a complete saint, he does a couple bad things in pursuit of his dream.

Neitehr have I ever been a hardcore comics fan, but I've certainly been an overly devoted horror fan at many book & film conventions throughout my life, & more than a few comicons as well, & I felt the naive weirdo utopianism of Hammil's vision of fandom was dead-on correct. And he brings a realistic yet glamorous sexiness to four-eyed geekiness; the potential for cute sexiness in nerds is something never elsewhere so perfectly represented in film.

Yes, it shows fandom as nerdy & even anal, & I wonder if the killer reviews I encountered were motivated by a sense of it not portraying nerds as cooler'n'ratshit punk greatness some would prefer to believe themselves to be. Or maybe it was just embarrassing to be perceived & presented as so damned sweet. It was a goodhearted film full of wry, intelligent, understanding humor, & I'm sure the more self-aware elements of fandom will be pleased to see themselves/ourselves accurately depicted.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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