Released in 2010, With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story is a documentary (well, more like an extended DVD extra) chronicling the basic aspects of Stan Lee’s career from before, during and after his legendary contribution to the comic book industry. With the help of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Lee created some of the greatest comic book characters of all time, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Avengers, to name just a few. For a long time, there’s been a definitive documentary about “The Man” that was just waiting to be made, and even though this one isn’t truly it, it nevertheless paints a nice overview of Lee’s prolific lifestory.
For those expecting a deep and thorough exploration into Stan Lee’s life and career are probably going to be disappointed as what’s presented here is very superficial and basically just about glosses over a lot of the controversial (and interesting) aspects of his career and is a bit too admiring of him. For example, if you thought Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were the best of friends solely based on this film, then you don’t the true story, as that clearly wasn’t the case. There was always a controversial creative dispute between the two as Kirby felt he didn’t receive as much credit as Lee did, but they barely touch upon it here. There’s also barely any mention of Steve Ditko’s departure from Marvel and what compelled him to do so, leaving it a case that’s likely to be forever shrouded in mystery.
Also, the film is a bit of a jumbled mess since, while for the most part it’s arranged chronologically, it jumps around a lot and it’s almost as if the filmmakers involved didn’t quite get a grasp on how to tell the story. Yet even so, this does paint a solid, by-numbers portrait on the basics of Stan Lee’s career that would prove suitable to the novices out there. We hear all the stories about how he developed the ideas for characters like Spider-Man and the Hulk, as well as the stories about his working relationships with Kirby and Ditko. We hear from various celebrities that talk about how Lee’s work impacted them and the movie adaptations that have followed since then, showing how these iconic characters continue to thrive and endure to this day.
In the end, if you are looking for the definitive lifestory about Stan “The Man” Lee in documentary format, then this is something of a mixed bag, as it’s something of a disjointed affair that only glosses over Lee's incredibly impressive career. Plus, while we do see an array of notable comic creators, historians, and directors and actors that have worked on Marvel films, that appreciate and praise Lee’s achievements, it does seem over-complimentary as if it was presented from within the Stan Lee empire. A solid effort, but nothing really special.
WITH GREAT POWER: THE STAN LEE STORY / CERT: PG / DIRECTORS: NIKKI FRAKES, TERRY DOUGAS, WILLIAM LAWRENCE HESS / SCREENPLAY: NIKKI FRAKES, WILLIAM LAWRENCE HESS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (US); UK RELEASE DATE TBA