DVD Review: With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story

When it comes to comic books and the people who write and illustrate them there’s only person that the public recognizes en masse: Stan Lee. While comic book aficionados could name and point out any number of people behind the scenes, of course, the average person thinks of Lee as “the man” when it comes to comic books. And while he probably will never get his own biopic a documentary makes significantly more sense in this case. Thus With Greater Power…The Stan Lee Story arrives with a look at the man through the eyes of those around him.

The film follows Lee as he tells his life story, interjected with any number of creative collaborators as well as those who have starred in films based off his properties, from his early childhood through the present. With archival footage and pictures from all aspects of his life, we get an interesting perspective on the man’s life from its peaks to its valleys.

The one thing that’s the most interesting about the documentary is how in depth we get into the early days of comic books. This isn’t a quick glance over eras, etc. This is a look at the era in which Lee and his characters came to prominence, et al, and the way in which Marvel was run back when he was a much younger man. It also gives something unique to Lee’s life: perspective about the times he lived in.

Lee arguably may be given too much credit for the comic book booms of various eras but what he thought of, and the creative process he used, is put on display as he walks us through how he created the iconic heroes of his time. It’s fascinating to see how and why he created the characters he did in almost a romantic way; and that’s the film’s main problem.

It’s too glad-handing of Stan Lee.

The film ventures too much into EPK territory as Lee is all too often given this seat of power as the greatest thing to ever happen to comic books, ever, and that’s far from the case. There’s no objectivity to it; this is a Stan Lee super fan’s take on the man, nothing more. While there are some interesting glimpses into early Marvel, as well as early Lee’s character creation process, there isn’t much of a true insight into the man.

We get nothing but glowing praise for Jack Kirby when Lee’s cinematic exploits of Marvel characters have come at his expense, for example. Lee is an important figure in the history of the medium but this is the ultimate glad-handing of his legacy and creations.

Say what you want about the film this is a stacked. There’s a filmmaker commentary, of course. Additional interviews with Stan that were cut from the film are included. There’s a Marvel character gallery of over 500 characters co-created by Stan and the artists he worked with over the years, as well.

“With great power comes great responsibility” is something once said in a comic book and unfortunately Terry Douglas and Nikki Frakes interpreted it as “With great power to tell the story of Marvel’s famous icon comes the ability to make him look as good as possible.”

FilmBuff presents With Great Power…The Stan Lee Story . Directed by Will Hess, Terry Douglas, and Nikki Frakes. Running time: 80 minutes. Not Rated. Released: November 6, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.