With Great Power... The Stan Lee Story
R0 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (10th April 2017).
The Film

“With Great Power… The Stan Lee Story” (2010)

Born Stanley Martin Lieber on December 28th 1922, Stan Lee is and will forever be known as one of the most famous and influential people in comic book history. Captain America, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Thor, and the X-Men are a handful of superheroes created by Lee and his team throughout the years, continuing popularity into modern day. Not to say Lee was the sole creator of everything. Artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko helped shape many of the characters in the early days and the characters evolved over time through different assistants and artists while still keeping with the artistic integrity and characteristics of the original form. But who really was Stan Lee and how did he rise to fame and continue to inspire well into his nineties?

“With Great Power… The Stan Lee Story” chronicles the life Lee through a series of candid interviews with Lee himself, along with actors, moviemakers, artists, and also his wife of 60 years. From his early years growing up during the Great Depression, getting a job at a magazine, working as an official military playwright during WWII, and his rise to fame with creativity through Marvel comics, the documentary is a straightforward linear story on the man who has lived an amazing life doing what he loves. But it is not all high and mighty. There were parts of his life and career which went to low points - the time when Marvel was bankrupt, the hardship of seeing Kirby and Ditko not getting the credit they deserved, the financial scandal of employees at Stan Lee Media, the creatively broken television and film adaptations in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and the most devastating of all - the loss of one of his children only seven days after birth.

Praises are high coming from the many people he had worked with or from the fans that were inspired by his creative work, and obviously things started looking brighter in the cinematic world from the critical and commercial successes of the Marvel films from “X-Men” (2000), “Spider-Man” (2002), and the Marvel cinematic universe crossover films. But does the documentary really stand tall and give a good spotlight to the man behind the figures? Unfortunately the film falls a bit short, both in length and in substance. Lee dominates the conversations and rightfully so, with funny anecdotes, behind the scenes trivia, and a sense of reality rather than the fiction. Scenes where he interacts with his wife Joan are sweet and cute where the love is stronger than ever in their many years together. As for the rest, the interviews with other people are more on the shallow side of praise, and there are too many, too quickly. Even with big names like Nicholas Cage, Michael Chiklis, Jon Favreau, Samuel L. Jackson, Todd McFarlane, Frank Miller, Kevin Smith and many more, each are given only a minute or so to share their thoughts and it is barely enough. And frankly, everyone basically repeats the same information of high praise. In addition, there are many uses of photos, television interviews, TV series’ clips, and movie clips to show the growth of Marvel and the characters throughout the years as well and there are some very fascinating rare glimpses of the creative evolution of the Marvel brand.

While Lee’s influence is undeniable, the film seems rather condensed and short to really give it a definitive status of a biography. There are some fascinating moments, but with the wealth of stories each character and each comic series had, the rushed pace of the film just made things feel incomplete and hollow, rather than deep and insightful as it should have. “With Great Power…” is good, but it is a bit lacking to really call it “great”.

Note this is a region 0 NTSC DVD which can be played on any DVD or Blu-ray player worldwide

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in 1.78:1 with anamorphic enhancement in the NTSC format. The interview segments are flashy and colorful with comic book backgrounds behind the subjects, but the colors tend to bleed and the image is lacking in definition. Figures are not sharp and ghosting is prevalent in almost every shot. As for the vintage footage, they are lacking in quality but they are forgivable as the source materials tend to be the issue, but it should also be noted that the vintage 1.33:1 footage has been cropped to the 1.78:1 widescreen ratio. Overall it is a disappointing transfer and presentation.

Below are some example screenshots:















The film’s runtime on the disc is 80:12.

Audio

English Dolby Digital 5.1
The audio is presented in 5.1 with all dialogue being centered while the background music and effects are used in the surrounding channels. As it is a talking heads documentary the sound is mostly centered with the other speakers used on transitional occasions. There are no major issues of audio errors, but with some of the vintage footage and audio there are examples of a downgrade in quality obviously.

There are no subtitles offered on the disc.

Extras

Unfortunately there are no extras offered on the disc, and that is the biggest shame. There is a US DVD of the film available which included a commentary, 90 minutes of deleted interviews and featurettes, plus an extensive image gallery and information totaling more than 500 pages. The biggest drawback of the US DVD is that it is non-anamorphic widescreen. The Australian DVD does have an anamorphic image but it is a weak one at that.

Packaging

The rear of the package states the DVD is in the PAL format, but this is incorrect. The disc is NTSC.

Overall

“With Great Power… The Stan Lee Story” tells a fascinating story about one of the most fascinating minds of the twentieth and twenty-first century, but the substance is lacking as the runtime is too short and the more interesting points were condensed. Without any extras on the disc and having a weak picture quality, the DVD itself a little difficult to recommend, but for fans looking to see and hear more from Lee, there are some very interesting moments shown throughout.

The Film: C Video: C- Audio: B- Extras: F- Overall: C

 


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