This is a Disney+ documentary look at the one and only Stan Lee, largely told in his own words which were recorded during his almost century-long life.
For those who don’t know Stan Lee is the guy who got a job with Timely comics in the late 1930s and ended up staying with the company for decades, eventually rechristening it as Marvel. Along the way, he helped create the Fantastic Four, The X Men, The Hulk, Spiderman, and dozens of other characters.
This is a loving tribute to a man who altered the world with the things he wrote. If you hate the Marvel superhero movies blame Lee for creating the source material. It’s a film that while firmly focused on Lee and the Marvel years (Marvel is owned by Disney after all) clearly gets across how important Lee was to the art form of comics.
While far from complete, his work for anyone other than Marvel is completely ignored, the film does do some things I didn’t expect to see, particularly putting Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko front and center in the creation of many well-known characters. Yes, the film has Lee argue that he created say Spiderman because he came up with the idea, but the film is framed in such a way to make it clear that artists like Kirby and Ditko were as, or if not more important than Lee. It shows that they left Marvel because of Lee’s ego which made him insist he was the guy. I suspect that some people will argue the film doesn’t do enough in this regard and they are probably right, but those battles need a whole film unto themselves, and besides this film’s breezy celebration in Lee’s own words and as such you are not going to find enough material to fight that battle.
Say what you will about comics, this film makes the case that part of the reason comics are what they are today was because of Stan Lee. Lee and Marvel forced the medium to grow up and deal with real people (minorities were represented) and real problems (drugs). Additionally, because Lee was such a good spokesman he ended up altering how people saw comics just by speaking on TV talk shows. While I know many artists hated that Lee was the face of comics, the reality is that he was a good face of the industry and his friendly outgoing nature clicked with the public.
Despite knowing much of this I was moved. For better or worse Stan Lee was a crazy guy you couldn’t help but like.
I truly loved this film.