Comic Book: The Movie review by Mike Long

When I first saw the press materials for Comic Book: The Movie, I assumed that it was a documentary, based solely on the fact that the numerous appearances by cult figures was a prominent part of the marketing. Well, as it turns out, I was wrong, Comic Book: The Movie is in fact a mockumentary, but, like the recently released dramatic film Radio, it would have been much better as a documentary.

In Comic Book: The Movie, Mark Hamill plays Donald Swan, an English teacher and comic book enthusiast who is obsessed with an obscure Golden Age hero named Commander Courage, and he's devoted his adult life to educating comic fans about this long forgotten character. Swan gets word that Hollywood wants to do a movie based on a modern incarnation of the character named "Codename: Courage". Being the nation's leading expert on Commander Courage, he's invited by the film's producers Taylor Donohue & Anita Levine(Roger Rose and Lori Alan) to be a consultant on the film. Their plan is to wine & dine Swan, satisfy him that their intentions are honorable, and then send him packing. But, Swan has other plans.

Swan is sent to the San Diego Comic Con (the world's largest comic book convention), along with a bizarre cameraman named Ricky (Jess Harnell), who will document the official announcement of the movie. Fearing that "Codename: Courage" will forever besmirch the good name of "Commander Courage", Swan has a plan to enlighten the public about the old character, even if it means wrecking the new movie project.

It's clear that Mark Hamill and company had good intentions when making Comic Book: The Movie and intended the film to be a love-letter to comic book fans. But, that isn't how it comes across. What we get is basically a tour of the San Diego Comic Con with a forced comedic story behind it. As noted above, Hamill would have been better off simply making a documentary about the Comic Con and those who attend it. Instead we get "Donald Swan" walking the convention floor and running into random celebrities, such as Matt Groening, Ray Harryhausen, and Ron Perlman, just to name a few. These scenes are intercut with the "plot" as Swan forces his agenda onto the film's producers. We also get scenes of Swan interviewing Kevin Smith and Bruce Campbell.

So, this should appeal to fanboys, right? I guess. I worked in the comics industry for three years, and while much of Comic Book: The Movie rings true, it doesn't necessarily feel right. Swan's devotion to his favorite comic is admirable, but his obsessive qualities will do nothing to dispel the myth that all comic book fans are geeks. If nothing else, the film comes across as a vanity piece in which Hamill and other actors who make a living doing voice-overs, such as Tom Kenny and Roger Rose, get to step in front of the camera. And, it's impossible to watch the movie without looking at Hamill and thinking, "He starred in three of the biggest movies of all time. What happened?" If you've always wanted to see what the San Diego Comic Con looks like, then Comic Book: The Movie may serve well as a sort of travelogue, otherwise you're better off re-reading some of your favorite comics.

Comic Book: The Movie flies onto DVD courtesy of Miramax Home Entertainment. The film, which was shot on high-end digital video, is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain or overt material defects. There is some audio noise on the picture at times, as well as some obvious video lines on the image. The colors are good and the image is stable throughout. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and music reproduction, but the only time that surround sound effects come into play is from the convention crowd noises. There is very little in the way of bass effects.

Proving that any movie can be a 2-disc special edition these days, the Comic Book: The Movie DVD is loaded with extras. The extra on Disc 1 begin with an audio commentary from Mark Hamill, Billy West, Roger Rose, Jess Harnell, and producers Scott Zakarin and Eric Mittleman. This is a fun commentary as they speak mainly about how the film was made and what a blast it was to meet with all of the celebrities who appear in the movie. Also on are brief bios for the 33 people who provide cameos in the film. There is an art gallery showing concept art for "Commander Courage". There are 13 deleted scenes, only a few of which have footage from the Con. Rounding out Disc 1 are biographies for the cast & crew.

Disc 2 contains the remainder of the extra features. "Behind the Voices" is a 51-minute segment which features a panel of voiceover actors which was conducted at the San Diego Comic Con in August, 2002. This panel features many of the actors from the film and is moderated by the legendary Gary Owens, as the speakers field questions and talk about their work, usually in funny voices. The DVD also contains biographies for several of the group. The participants of this panel also acted out the "Commander Courage Radio Show" (7 minutes), which was written by Mark Hamill. There are extended versions of the interviews which appeared in Comic Book: The Movie with Bruce Campbell (17 minutes), Kevin Smith (20 minutes), Hugh Hefner (40 minutes), and Stan Lee (9 minutes). There are also bonus interviews with Mark Evanier, Scott Shaw, Billy Mumy, Peter David,a nd Paul Dini. "4 Color Fantasy" is a 17-minute "making of" featurette which reveals how Comic Book: The Movie came about and the process of shooting at a large, public event.

3 out of 10 Jackasses

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