“I’m Stan Lee, but don’t hold that against me!”
Although he’s most famous for his work with Marvel, comics legend Stan Lee has spent the last decade or so contributing characters and concepts to other companies. This includes a run with Archie Comics, who created a “Stan Lee Comics” brand for him. The headliner for this brand was Stan Lee’s Mighty 7, which had the gimmick of being the first “reality comic.” With superhero movies being all the craze now, someone decided to give the Mighty 7 their own adaptation, this time in animation as Stan Lee’s Mighty 7: Beginnings.
Comic book writer Stan Lee (as himself) is out for a drive one night, hoping for inspiration, so he can pitch new superhero characters for Archie Comics. Then, an alien spaceship crash lands in front of him, and seven super-powered aliens come out. Two of them are space cops, and the other five are space criminals they’ve apprehended. Now, with their ship damaged, all seven must work together to find some way off this planet.
Stan invites the seven back to his place, where they explore life on Earth while uncovering a secret conspiracy involving other aliens on the planet. Stan, meanwhile, uses the aliens’ likeness as characters in his comic.
So just who are these alien heroes?
* Strongarm, super-strong space cop (Armie Hammer, The Social Network).
* Silver Skylark, space cop who can fly, and is a romantic interest for Strongarm (Teri Hatcher, Desperate Housewives).
* Laser Lord, the rebellious tough guy (Christian Slater, Heathers).
* Lady Lightning, the devil-may-care femme fatale (Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory).
* Rollerman, the brains of the group, who transforms into a huge ball (Flea, The Wild Thornberrys).
* Micro, who can shrink down to tiny size (Darren Criss, Glee).
* Kid Kynergy, who has telekinetic powers (Sean Astin, The Goonies).
Mighty 7 would seem an odd choice for a big-budget adaptation, since the comic only lasted three issues before being abruptly cancelled, its storyline unfinished. A quick trip around the internet and back reveals that the project was really intended as a TV pilot the whole time, which is where this movie comes from.
The movie packs a lot of plot into its runtime. We’ve got seven new characters (eight if you count Stan) all running around with their own powers, personalities and motivations. Not only are they acclimating on Earth, with conflict between the two cops and the five criminals, but they’ve also got outside forces with other aliens secretly living on Earth, and the army scientists out to get them. Add to this Stan Lee running around playing himself, hoping to cash in on the aliens’ stories, and you’ve got a capes ‘n’ tights tale packed with information.
The group is made of up of cops and crooks who have to work together, and this immediately brings tension to the story. The fugitives can’t just run, because they’d still be stuck on Earth, so where would they escape to? The “reluctant partners” thing is the best thing about the story, giving it a different feel from other superhero teams. Along the way, we get brief flashbacks revealing why and how the fugitives became criminals (They’re just misunderstood, you guys), which helps them feel like real characters and not just colorful costumes with power sets.
With so many characters running around, trying to give equal time to them all means some might not get the spotlight they deserve. Laser Lord is supposed to be the cool one, all ruthless and full of bad attitude, but he kind of gets lost in the shuffle. On the plus side, they’ve done a great job making Rollerman quirky and interesting, when he could have just been clownish. The two younger heroes, Kid Kynergy and Micro, are also nicely fleshed out, with tragic back stories. Lady Lightning provides a lot of the humor, as she sees being stranded on Earth as a chance to party rather than to fight an evil conspiracy.
Character work is good, but this is foremost a superhero adventure, so there’s a lot of fights, chases, and explosions, with Stan the Man sarcastically riffing on it all from the sidelines. The look of the movie is interesting. It’s as if they took an old Saturday morning cartoon from the late ’70s/early ’80s and jacked up the visuals big-time. It’s low-budget animation, but it’s slick-looking low-budget animation. The characters’ differing powers and the fact that they tend to break up into separate groups for action scenes mean the action doesn’t get too repetitive.
Presented in 1.78:1/1080p HD widescreen, the visuals on Stan Lee’s Mighty 7: Beginnings (Blu-ray) really shine, with bright colors, and smooth, clear animation. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is equally effective, with big booming sound during the action. For bonus features, there’s an interview with Stan Lee, a “Stan’s rant” where he commits to the bit and talks about living with the Mighty 7. We’ve also got a script-to-screen featurette, a music cues featurette, extended scenes, a trivia game, production sketches, and a trailer. There’s also a DVD copy included, and it comes with desktop wallpaper and printable coloring sheets on DVD-ROM.
Stan Lee’s Mighty 7 isn’t going to replace Marvel’s The Avengers in any fan’s mind, but it’s a fun romp. Check it out if you want some old-fashioned Saturday morning cartoon action.