“Comic Book: The Movie” follows the trials and tribulations of Don Swan (Mark Hamill), a comic book guru hired to be the consultant on the big-screen adaptation of the classic hero Commander Courage. Don is a purist and takes issue with the recent revamping of the Commander into the ultra-violent Codename: Courage. A documentary crew follows Swan to the San Diego Comic-Con International where the studio will announce the development of the new Codename: Courage movie. With his heart’s in the right place, Don takes matters into his own hands to preserve the good name of Commander Courage.
After watching this film, I think that Mark Hamill should be anointed as the patron saint of comic books. Hamill voices the outrage of all comic book fans when our beloved characters and traditions are maligned and manipulated for no other reason than to support the obscene egos of studio executives.
We’re facing this even today with that incomparable hack McG who plans to “reimagine” Superman for the upcoming film. I’m sure Don Swan would be the first to step up and ask why this is necessary, considering all of Superman’s excursions onto the big screen have been reimaginings and always deviate the original source material.
Why doesn’t Warner Bros. give Mark Hamill a chance to direct the new Superman movie? After all, Warner Bros. gave Joel Schumacher $110 million to do the wretched “Batman and Robin.” The least they could do is let real comic book fan have a crack at it.
The people behind “Comic Book: The Movie” is an all-star cast of some of the most famous names you won’t recognize. Almost everyone in the cast comes from the cartoon voice over world. You may not recognize who Tom Kenny is or Billy West or even Jim Cummings. But you’d recognize the voices of SpongeBob SquarePants or Ren & Stimpy or even Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too. But you won’t even recognize these people when they talk as their characters in this movie because they’re vocal chameleons. Most have so many different voices that they put Mel Blanc (God rest his soul) to shame.
The cameos in this film are enough to be a who’s who of comic books and genre media. Specialty interviews are conducted with the likes of Hugh Hefner, Kevin Smith, Stan Lee and Bruce Campbell who all espouse on the virtues of Commander Courage and the golden age of comics.
A good three quarters of the movie was shot at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2002. For those of us who attended this Mecca of pop culture arts, you might remember the hubbub at the convention that Mark Hamill was shooting a movie there. This is where the film got most of its on-the-spot celebrity interviews and fan appreciation. It also provided an ultra-realistic backdrop for the movie’s climax when Don Swan tried to upset the studio’s big Codename: Courage announcement.
The DVD is packed with some really great stuff. There’s the basics you’d expect from a good DVD, like deleted scenes, bios and a commentary track (although the commentary gets a little muddled with too many cooks at the pot). The second disk provides several behind-the-scenes documentaries and even a “lost radio show” from Commander Courage’s World War II days.
Hamill has included Don Swan’s entire interviews with Hugh Hefner, Bruce Campbell, Stan Lee and Kevin Smith. Other extended interviews from the San Diego Comic-Con include Mark Evanier, Scott Shaw, Bill Mumy, Peter David and Paul Dini. There’s even a special Don Swan interview with Mark Hamill hidden in an Easter Egg on the Bonus Features menu of the second disk.
Ultimately, “Comic Book: The Movie” isn’t a great feat in improv or comedy. But it has one big thing going for it… It’s a movie for comic book fans made by comic book fans. If you’re not a comic book fan, you can still enjoy the movie, but comic fanatics will have a special connection to it.
As far as improv mockumentaries go, Christopher Guest still gives Mark Hamill a run for his money. There are some uncomfortable performances, particularly from Donna D’Errico (although she looks great in the Liberty Lass outfit), and the improv itself seems forced outside of the insanity of the Comic-Con. But ultimately, the folks who are going to go for “Comic Book: The Movie” are going to be the comic book fans themselves, and this is a great look at comic books from the grass roots level.