Stan Lee's Mighty 7: Beginnings (2014) / Animation-Action
MPAA Rated: PG for comic-style violence
Running Time: 66 min.
Cast (voices): Stan Lee, Christian Slater, Armie Hammer, Sean Astin, James Belushi, Teri Hatcher, Flea, Michael Ironside, Mayim Bialik, Darren Criss
Director: Lee Ningning
Screenplay: Tony Blake, Paul Jackson
Review published June 26, 2014
The title is Stan Lee's Mighty 7, but I think it should be retitled Stan Lee's Insomnia Cure, as that's about the only reason I can think of that someone could ever pick up a copy of this barely-an-hour-long excursion into monotony and consider it a success. The project began as a proposed six-issue comic book mini series, but was scrapped after just three published issues when it was determined that it would better be served in other mediums. This film serves as a pilot to what its distributors think could make for a boffo animated TV series, video game franchise, and toy line. If this is the pitch, it's also a big swing and a miss. It's secondary title is "Beginnings", and that's apropos, as most people who attempt to watch it will never see the ending.
The only unique hook of Mighty 7 is that Stan Lee himself is a character in the story, who becomes the catalyst for a team of aliens to become "real-life" superheroes, all the while they become his inspiration for writing more comics. In this thin and contrived plot, Stan Lee happens to be driving in the desert trying to come up with his next big comic book idea when a spaceship containing seven super-powered aliens (two marshals and five prisoners) crash lands right before him. It turns out that the septet is being hunted by a top-secret government agency, and Mr. Lee becomes their protector of sorts on Earth, but they have even bigger problems when Earth itself has become a battleground when the reptilian alien Taegons plan to invade Earth for their own colonization.
The best thing I can say about Mighty 7 is that it boasts an impressive collection of celebrity voice talent for a production this miniscule. It must have been the allure of working with comics legend Stan Lee that would make Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger), Jim Belushi (Underdog), Christian Slater (Nymphomaniac), Sean Astin (Justice League: War), and Flea (of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame) decide to get on board what surely must have been a tiny paycheck for their services. Stan Lee's genial presence is always welcome, and while the writing of this film struggles to have any discernable personality, Lee's perpetual meta-perceptions on the comics industry provide a modicum of low-rent jokes that comics fans should welcome.
The downsides are too many to name in full, perhaps the worst of them being how little thought went into the story beyond just the basic sketch of a concept. For one thing, there's literally no explanation whatsoever on not only how these aliens from different planets all speak the same language -- and that language happens to be English! Just before the ship crash lands on Earth, a planet these aliens have never been to, they say they are going to crash in the Mojave -- how do they know the names of our deserts? The writers of this film have such little regard for audiences by thinking we'll swallow the thinnest of premises in order to watch generic comic book action, it's actually insulting to contemplate they want to give us 26 more episodes with more of the same.
The character designs and animation are pretty generic as far as independent animated studios are concerned, but the computer graphic qualities to the movements of the characters, especially in how their faces barely move along with their bodies (and their mouths barely move with their dialogue), make it feel quite clunky and poor in any scenes requiring walking or talking. Stan Lee was a pioneer in the 1960s, but now into his 90s is only getting work due to his name and not because of his prowess at creating novel new superhero concepts -- his brand name has long become a bland name. I love Stan Lee, but, sorry Stan, Mighty 7 is mighty substandard.
©2014 Vince Leo