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“What would you do if you could…?” – A Stan Lee tribute

“What would you do if you could…?” – A Stan Lee tribute

WriteMovies Director Ian Kennedy explores the works of Stan Lee and why superhero stories unleash our imaginations better than any other kind of stories…

At the heart of every superhero story is a central question that fires our imaginations every time, and nobody took it further than Stan Lee. The extraordinary array of well-known characters he brought into the world, which return again and again across many formats and platforms, is testament to that.

Cosmic stories like the creation of the universe are just too big to really relate to as stories, at least in the scientific telling – but many mythologies and religions make these stories relatable by ascribing these vast events to recognisably humanized figures. Gods like Zeus/Jupiter and Odin/Woden are presented like more powerful versions of human beings, able to shape the world with their powers and the sometimes arbitrary logic of their choices and lives; ancient heroes like Hercules and Beowulf are humans but given extra powers or significance. Superhero stories are clearly following in this tradition – and grasp towards almighty powers at times (DOCTOR STRANGE, CAPTAIN MARVEL, The Phoenix in X-Men).

By bringing these forces down (or up – SPIDER-MAN!) to our scale, we get to explore how people like us would act if they were capable of so much more than we are. It’s no coincidence that the modern superhero genre and many of its biggest characters have their origins in the Great Depression – when ordinary people were powerless against global economic forces. The flimsy justifications that the storytellers find for giving these figures their powers, are really just an excuse to let our imaginations run riot, and are quickly delivered and forgotten about in most of the origin stories, so that we can get onto the fun and exciting bit.

Nobody grasped the potential of these stories more, or took them further, than Stan Lee and the teams of writers and illustrators and filmmakers who he has worked with – the list of now-famous characters he created is vast. But at the heart of all these stories is just one very powerful central question, which is deceptively simple but really fires our imaginations. “What would you do if you could…?”

Superheroes and supervillains both play out these powers and their potentials and hazards throughout every story. Here are some of our favorites at WriteMovies from Stan Lee’s creations.

If you could… move and sling webs like a spider!
On the one hand, Peter Parker is just an ordinary teenager, worried about the same kind of things as any other teenager – on the other, he finds himself equipped with the awesome powers that make him SPIDER-MAN. We can all relate to his troubles at school while rooting for him to become a true superhero as he learns an important lesson: “with great power comes great responsibility”.

If you could… fly around in an armored suit!
IRON MAN’s Tony Stark is basically another Bruce Wayne, but with much quirkier personality. As an outright arms manufacturer, he’s also more morally compromised than Wayne. While Wayne has an orphan sob-story, Stark has an ego. And unleashing an ego that size, on a suit that powerful, creates excellent conflict throughout – so much so that in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, he can fight against many of our other heroes, without losing our empathy.

If you could… use you other senses to fight despite being blind!
DAREDEVIL has found immense success on Netflix, and with good reason. Matt Murdock is a deep, conflicted character, living in a world of darkness after being blinded as a child. With his other senses heightened, the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen is so captivating because he doesn’t just overcome his physical disability but turns it into a strength, proving that anyone – even someone who is blind – can become a superhero.

If you could… shrink to the size of an ant!
Scott Lang may be a former criminal, but his desire to reform himself makes us support him all the same. As ANT-MAN, he proves that even the smallest person can make a huge difference – and all while showing us a crazy world around us too small for us to even see!

Stan Lee has given us plenty of amazing creations over the years, and the world is a lesser place without him. Take a look too at our thoughts on two films based on his other superheroes, THOR: RAGNAROK and BLACK PANTHER!

First Look: THOR: RAGNAROK Review

First Look: THOR: RAGNAROK Review

Disney. Marvel. Superheroes. Every time I feel like I’m done with the genre, Marvel seems to release a film that draws me back in… well, a little bit. This year that film was not THOR: RAGNAROK, it was SPIDERMAN: HOMECOMING. But without Spidey’s refreshing re-introduction I wouldn’t have even thought about watching the third THOR installment.

Before the SPIDERMAN reboot, my interest in the MCU had fallen so low.

I have no strong feelings, one way or the other about these films. I didn’t care for CIVIL WAR, which I still haven’t watched, and to be honest, I don’t think I’ve missed anything from it. But there is no doubt that Marvel still produce some solid and entertaining films, even if they have no massive impact on my life.

THOR was a very nice mix of superhero, steampunk sci-fi, and comedy – a real good dose of comedy. I was impressed with how the film and director, Taika Waititi, balanced the odd blend of tone and genre. The comedy certainly had the New Zealand subtle, monotone style which Waititi employed brilliantly in one of his previous films, EAGLE VS SHARK. The comedy came naturally within the story and characters and hit all the right beats. Hell, this film might be the confirmation that Chris Hemsworth is more of a comic actor.

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD… The story had a solid premise – with the death of Odin, Thor’s evil and power-hungry sister (Cate Blanchett, who is her usual brilliant self) was released from an other-worldly prison, and she was set on taking her throne back. The film takes Thor to unique and interesting places, but as with most superhero films, you don’t ever feel he’s in any danger.

THOR: RAGNAROK represents my biggest issue with the Marvel films, though. Yes, it’s solid, it’s funny, it has decent action, it keeps your attention but… it doesn’t do anything else. This is the type of movie you put on TV if there’s nothing else to watch – you don’t hate that you’re gonna watch it, but there’s better things out there. For me, that is every single Marvel film. There is no film in the entire roster, from IRON MAN to THOR: RAGNAROK where I would go “Oh man, I gotta watch this again!”

These Marvel films just don’t do anything spectacular – not really. They aim to grab and maintain the attention of most of its main demographic, and hey, they do that super well, but at some point, we (and by we, I mean me) need something a bit more different. There was some variety here, in HOMECOMING and even in ANT-MAN, but each of these felt like there were two hands on the wheel – the director and Marvel. As much as I could see Waititi’s style on THOR, or Edgar Wright’s on ANT-MAN, I could feel Marvel’s influence just as much.

THOR: RAGNAROK was a fine film, I enjoyed it, but that’s it. Each Marvel film is a solid 7 out of 10 now – they’ve got their formula and it works. But there’s no WOW factor. Sooner or later there needs to be some change, some variation in these films and the genre as a whole… otherwise, I might think about watching some DC films… OK maybe not, but you get my point!

What did you think of THOR: RAGNAROK? Was it another home run for Marvel, or just another superhero flick? Let us know on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

© WriteMovies 2017. Exclusive to WriteMovies – To syndicate this content for your own publication, contact ian (at) writemovies dot-com.