There have been a smattering of films and TV shows about fan conventions and associated phenomena – as various degrees of ridicule and affection are poured in Kinvig, Amazing Stories, Galaxy Quest, Free Enterprise, Cruise of the Gods, Fanboys, My Sucky Teen Romance, Mindhorn, and others . It’s quite likely, given the rise of geek culture as a quasi-mainstream phenomenon, that there will be a lot more. This isn’t much of a contribution. Directed by Zak Knutson (of the excellent documentary Milius) – who co-scripted with Andy Sipes and Dana Snyder – Supercon is a baseline version of this sort of thing, which happens to come out at just the wrong moment.
Its villain is former TV headliner Adam King (Clancy Brown), a big-headed showbiz blowhard who despises (but exploits) fans, pervs on underage interns and charges big money for autographs (tearing a page out of the book of a Downs Syndrome kid who hasn’t got cash on him) and is plainly the result of lingering resentment against William Shatner for something he once said (‘get a life’) in a satiric context (Shatner has guyed himself often since, including in Free Enterprise). All well and good, if a touch on the obvious side … but in real geek culture, the big stories of the day are entitled fanbros whining about The Last Jedi, the gamergate movement, non-comedic sexual harassment issues (as often revolving around supposed ‘superfans’ as creatives), the Sad/Rabid puppies debacle, ‘cosplay is not consent’, badgering women/minorities off social media and in person and congealing from visionary embrace of a future in space into endorsing The Handmaid’s Tale as their idea of a utopia on Earth. Okay, so long queues for autographs or photos are easy to make fun of – and this does incidentally land a few of its pot-shots on the current sorry state of big-ticket conventions, but this feels much more like a contribution to the whining than anything else.
King, one-time star of Tex Johnson US Marshall, is the alpha dog guest at Supercon, which is run by his hustler partner Gil Bartell (Mike Epps) … the disgruntled, passed-over second-stringers include Johnson’s once-a-kid sidekick Keith Mahar (Russell Peters), voiceover artist Matt Wheeler (Ryan Kwanten), now-out-and-bald former macho-and-wavy-haired leading man Brock Hutchinson (Brooks Brasleton), glass-ceiling-oppressed comics artists Allison McNeely (Maggie Grace) and stoner comics legend Sid Newberry (John Malkovich), all of whom have been screwed over by King and Bartell in one way or another. After a ton of spot gags in the Kevin Smith style, a plot emerges as the gang of misfits decide to heist the undeclared-to-the-taxman cash from the con – and naturally dress up in anime cosplay outfits to do it. Perhaps the film’s biggest problem is that the only cast member who really throws himself into it is Brown, which means that the baddie – who is finally reduced to screaming ‘fuck the fans’ on youtube clips as if this were still the era of A Face in the Crowd – is so much more entertaining than the petulant, selfish, hard-to-like good guys that the balance of sympathy is tilted the wrong way.