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Stan Lee's Mutants, Monsters & Marvels

review by Zach B.

 

 

Not Rated

Running Time: 95 minutes

Starring: Stan Lee, Kevin Smith

Directed by: Scott Zakarin

 

Studio: Columbia/Tri-Star

Retail Price: $24.95

Features: Cast Bios, Behind the Scenes Featurette, Bonus Interview with Stan's Wife Joan, Bonus Interview About the Never Released "Fantastic Four" Movie, Stan Recirs his original Poem "God Woke", Rare Stan Lee Home Movie Footage, Actor Comic Fund

Specs: Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby 2.0, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (9 Scenes for Feature 1, 10 Scenes for Feature 2)

Released: May 14th, 2002

 

 

Comic books are an art form all their own. It's sad to say that people don't take them seriously, because I think they're not just a great art form, but also a great literary form with amazing stories (let's face it: not every comic is some superhero fighting evil). I think over the past few years comic books have begun to be taken more seriously (thankfully), as it takes so much to create them. There are so many talented artists detailing the drawings and so many talented writers fleshing out and creating stories and characters. While I'm not a giant comic book fan, I do enjoy them a lot and comics are definently a fine form of media.

Of course, there's one man who's like some Lord in the comic industry... not to mention his name is widely known even to non-comic fans. More or less changing comics forever with his keen sense for ideas, stories and characters, it must simply be said that Stan Lee is a creative genius. Truly a key force behind Marvel Comics, watching these interviews is really downright amazing. Hearing about the inspirations and struggles to bring out Lee's creations, his decisions and everything is really cool. Lee is a great person to be interviewed; he is quite eager and enthusiastic to talk about his work. Watching this DVD, Lee's not the type to give little answers to any kind of question. He gives great, long and detailed responses. When someone does that, it always makes for a stellar interview.

The disc has two interview features, each are great and each with a different focus. Feature One focuses on arguably Lee's greatest creation (and probably most successful), "Spider-Man." Lee has a positive and a sweet attitude toward everything Spidey. It's particuarly intriguing to hear how the creation of "Spider-Man" was somewhat a trial-and-error deal, and how it almost never made it but then turned into a surprise success. Lee's comments are superb as he gives reasons why Peter Parker have an aunt and uncle instead of a "usual" family, the greatness in that Spider-Man's problems are relatable, characters within the comic itself, writers taking on the comic after he stopped writing, Spider-Man branching out into film and much more, including an awesome visit to Lee's home. If you're a comic fan, Marvel fan or Spider-Man fan... you'll definently get a lot out of this. Insightful, priceless tidbits are to be found here.

Feature Two, entitled "Here Come The Heroes," covers a wide array of topics about the man himself. Stan talks about his early years in the comic industry which is pretty fascinating, and about his birth place and growing up a bit, including stuff about being in the services for three years. On the comics side of things, Smith talks about more of Marvel Comics in other films, what he thinks of his fans, DC comics, the large appeal of X-Men, his first writing job, creating The Fantastic Four, working with Jack Kirby and so much more about Marvel and comics in general. By the end of this fifty minutes, I've felt as if I've lived through the man's life himself. Really just excellent stuff all around here.

But what good is an interview without a good interviewer? I could not think of anyone better to interview Mr. Lee than filmmaker Kevin Smith. And thankfully, Smith does the interviewing here and is seriously the best personality to do so. If anyone is familiar with Smith, then you know he's a life-long comic fan with a pretty giant collection, and even owns his own comic store (Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash - 35 Broad Street Red Bank, New Jersey 07701; 732-758-0020... whoa, all of Smith's plugging has rubbed off on me!). But the main point is that Smith is filled to the brim with comic knowledge, and he really knows what he's talking about. Smith comes across as friendly, humble, low-key and is really the perfect interviewer for this type of thing. He makes some really nice comments too and brings certain points up at times in what Lee is talking about, and from there Lee talks about things further. Smith does a wonderful job as the interviewer and host here. He really has the skills for interviewing and again, really does a perfect job here. Every single person should be pleased that Kevin Smith did this gig and did such a fine job with it.

Despite these awesome interviews, it must be noted how they're presented. Let's face it: there's not much you can do with an interview. Still, I must give credit to directior of photography Peter Ney and director Scott Zakarin. The editing style is very seamless, as you get good head shots of Kevin Smith and Stan Lee, and during the interview, images of the characters Lee discusses and comic pages pop up (and in the more personal places, photos of Lee himself and other people he talks about). It's interesting how they fade in and zoom in on those. Really cool. And it's nice how they shoot the panning back and forth between the two, zoom ups and so on. It's really sweet.

I don't know what else I can say about a fantastic interview DVD. I know interviews are a pretty niche market, especially when you're selling them taped and all and they're not in a magazine, not to mention certain people will only appeal to other certain people. But this has got to be one of the greatest interviews I've ever seen (I mean that), even if I'm not a die-hard comics fan. It really is that damn good because it's just really cool to here all these stories and about Stan Lee's overall life in the industry as well as things about himself. It's captivating, well shot, well editied, has a great interviewer in Kevin Smith and much more. If you like comic books the least bit, then you owe yourself to rush out and check this out. It's really that good. You will not be disappointed.

 

To my surprise, "Stan Lee's Mutants, Monsters & Marvels" is presented in an incredibly spiffy anamorphic widescreen presentation that seems to be framed at 1.78:1. You really don't buy a title like this to show off your home theater, but I think having this feature in sidescreen is nice, and seems necessary. How the documentary is shot gives good head space for Stan Lee and Kevin Smith, and how it's all edited and pans and zooms up to each individual... it's nice. There is some shimmering and noise on the transfer, while fleshtones and color saturation are excellent. The images shown during the interview look nice too. Overall, it's a fine transfer but again... you're really buying this for the content, not to show off your home theater. Still, it's a nice little perk.

 

There's not too much to say about the audio, in English Dolby 2.0. Despite some musical backdrops between segments, this is all talk. You can hear everything each man says. It's crisp and it's clear, but sometimes when they speak too loud there's a little distortion and it sounds a bit wobbly. No matter though... this is all dialogue basically and it sounds nice. Fidelity is high. Pretty straightfoward stuff here if you ask me. Also included are English closed captions via your television.

 

If the two excellent interview features were not enough, some extra goodies are included here which are pretty awesome. There are three Cast Bios: one for Stan Lee, one for Kevin Smith and the other for Creative Light Video, behind the DVD. There's not much new information in these, but they're worth reading if you have no idea about the background of Kevin Smith and/or Stan Lee.

The Behind-The-Scenes featurette is in non-anamorphic widescreen, and features footage of the interview being shot (including Stan Lee talking to director Scott Zakarin's kid who's in a Spider-Man costume), plus interviews with director Scott Zakarin and Kevin Smith. Those two go on how much they respect Stan Lee. Lee himself also talks on this feature, praising Kevin Smith. Nicely done and non-promotional in the least bit.

A Bonus Interview is with Stan Lee's wife Joan. Smith isn't doing the interviewing here sadly, but this is a bit fluffy, but still fun. Joan talks about how Stan proposed, is a bit confused on who Gwen Stacy is, her experience working with comic creators and a bit more about her husband. There's not too much to this interview, but it's still cool that it's on the disc. It's in non-anamorphic widescreen.

The other Bonus Interview is about the never released "Fantastic Four" movie is a bit short, but still interesting nonetheless. It's in non-anamorphic widescreen, too. Smith brings up the project, and Stan Lee explains the low-budget film was shot due to some rights on-goings where they had to start shooting by a certain date or else they wouldn't be able to do another movie of some kind. Stan sounds disappointed in this, saying the cast and crew worked hard on the film, as a lot of them didn't even know it was never going to be released.

Stan Lee Recites his original poem "God Woke." This is audio only... but still nifty. Stan talks about the background to the poem (which hasn't been heard in decades). Lee has such a commanding voice, and this is actually a really nifty poem about "the greatest hero of them all."

Rounding the disc out is some Rare Stan Lee Home Movie Footage which certainly looks its age, and a still for the Actor Comic Fund. The organization is non-profit, and seeks to help comic book industry veterans. More info can be found at their official site.

 

If you're a comic book fan (or die-hard Spidey fan at least), this is a must see DVD. The interviews between Lee and Smith are excellent, as there is so much to learn about Stan Lee's process of working, his creations, his decisions and all of his excellent life long work in the comic industry. The DVD has a suitable English track for sound and a cool widescreen transfer, plus nifty little extras that make everything much sweeter. Perhaps even if you're not into comics, you'll be entertained and interested in Lee's wonderful stories. Truly a cool disc.

And speaking of interviews and Kevin Smith... I'd love to do a sit-down talk with Smith about his films, life, DVD, comics and other stuff. That would make a cool DVD if you ask me. Is anyone listening?