Before I dive into this review of the documentary simply titled Stan Lee, I just want to make a little bit of a note on myself and who I was as a child. It is particularly interesting that I always was fascinated with movies and always wanted to be involved in the medium whether that be by writing (still a dream of mine) or critiquing film; I just always wanted to involved somehow. However, what was particularly interesting about myself as a child was that I was never really interested in reading, but something that caught my eye before I was allowed to read comics was Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants. However, as I got a little older, I found myself constantly wanting to read comics and to dive into that world. With some willingness and encouragement since I was actually wanting to read something, my parents let me read Marvel Comics. Since then, I became obsessed with comic books, mostly Marvel and Batman, but there was something my young brain couldn’t comprehend, and that was that there was one man who managed to bring all of these books together.
Sure, this one man may not be responsible for every character under the banner, but he was the innovator and creator of Marvel comics. He created Spider-Man (the hyphen is very important), Hulk, Thor, Ant-Man, Black Panther, and countless other characters. When I was 8 years old, I saw my very first superhero movie in theatres, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and saw the man himself, Stan Lee, having a cameo. Stan Lee is such an integral part of popular culture today, a titan amongst men, and, by all accounts, one of the nicest people to have ever graced this Earth. While I cannot say for certain that there is “new” information in David Gleb’s documentary, what I can say for certain is the love, admiration, and behind-the-scenes information and culmination of interviews about Stan Lee, makes Stan Lee a wonderfully touching documentary on one of the greatest comic minds to ever put pen to page.
The documentary opens with Stan Lee telling a story that is familiar to anyone who’s ever attended a con with him in attendance. It is about the inspiration behind his idea and creation of Spider-Man. It’s a wonderful story, and if you’ve never heard it, the snippet shared in the documentary will truly be a treat. The film then continues about Stan’s life and how important it was for him to have a steady job, a paying job, and wanting to make a stable life for himself. It goes through how he ended up working with comics, how he ended up working with Jack Kirby, and, moreover, how he ended up creating Marvel comics and Spider-Man amongst many other original characters. It briefly touches on a variety of things, like the Comics Code Authority, the ownership of Spider-Man, why Stan Lee did what he did, and how he lived. It is a treasure trove of love and passion from one of the greatest minds to ever create comics. While the documentary is less of an in-depth, behind-the-curtains expose, it is a celebration of life and creation that Stan Lee brought to the fans, to the world, and to comics. It truly is something that provides insight for the unknown fan, the casual fan, and, potentially, the hard-core Stan Lee fan.
All documentaries do not need to be gigantic exposés that reveal awful injustice, to be in-depth looks events, or to be behind-the-scenes looks at things. Sometimes, they just can focus on one person’s entire life and be a celebration of life that truly honours a legacy that a legend has forged for himself. It would be safe to say that even if you don’t follow comic books or their movies, you know the name Stan Lee. He was a household name who was just known. Throughout his immense career, no one ever seemed to have a bad word for him. While the documentary certainly exposes that he butted heads with some other Marvel creatives, in the end, Stan always seemed to do the right thing. It is a very safe and touching documentary that doesn’t shatter boundaries, which it didn’t set out to do. More of a fluff piece on Stan Lee than a deep-dive, it is a celebration of life that showcases the immense impact Stan Lee had on the modern pop culture world we currently find ourselves in. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe will never be the same as all of Stan Lee’s cameos have been released, his legacy lives on past the screen, past the comics, and lives forever in the hearts of nerd culture forever.
For more information, head to the official Tribeca Film Festival Stan Lee webpage.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.