A Web-Slinger’s Hope

“I know we all think we’re immortal , but what makes life precious is that it ends; don’t waste your time living someone else’s life, fight for what matters” – Gwen Stacy, The Amazing Spider-Man 2

This past weekend, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 swung its way into theaters across the country.  The second installment in the series rebooted in 2012 by Sony, it’s the fifth Spider-Man film since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man in 2002.  While I consider this new series of big screen adventures to be inferior to the “Raimi Trilogy” – Bruce Campbell cameos are nowhere to be found in the new films – this latest Spider-Man film is far better than the 2012 re-boot.

Sitting in the theater in 2012, weeks after web-slinger reboot released, I found myself watching a film that, while fun, felt unnecessary; a story that didn’t need telling.  The one thing that kept me in my seat was the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, his first love (I was never a fan of the portrayal of Mary Jane Watson or the character in general).  While the Gwen Stacy character was forced into Rami’s Spider-Man 3, as a nod to fans and foil to Mary Jane, it was not what it should have been.  This time around it was done right and that feeling extends through to the sequel.

The film opens with Spider-Man attempting to apprehend a lesser-known Spidey-villain while en-route to Peter Parker’s graduation ceremony from Midtown High where Gwen is delivering the Valedictorian address.  This address is what frames Gwen’s character and action throughout the rest of the film, her understanding informs her choices.  As the film progresses the relationship between Peter and Gwen breaks down and Peter walks away from it for fear that his actions as Spider-Man might endangers her or get her killed just like her father, police captain George Stacy, in the first film.

This continues a long-running trope in superhero films of the struggle between both identities and how to live in the reality of both.  In the midst of this struggle, Spider-Man saves a OsCorp engineer names Max Dillion (Jaime Foxx), a “invisible nobody” who worships Spider-Man and imagines a connection to him.  A technological accident at OsCorp leads to his transformation into Electro, a staple villain of the Spider-Man gallery of rouges who can channel electricity.  His love for Spider-Man turns to hatred when he realizes that Spidey doesn’t really remember him and maybe he’s actually as invisible to people as he’s always believed; his entire motivation is to be acknowledged and validated, “I just wanted people to see me” he says.

In both these films, the specter of OsCorp, the company run by Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin of Spider-Man lore), looms large (as the employer of Curt Conners, Richard Parker, Gwen Stacy, and the catalyst for Peter’s transformation).  Nevertheless, Norman’s actual screen presence is small and  the focus is on his son, Harry.  As Peter’s childhood friend, they are reunited when Harry returns to New York City to visit his dying dad and learns that he has the same genetic disease his father has.  This revelation leads Harry to use his father’s research to reach a cure via Spider-Man’s blood but the web-slinger refuses, not wanting Harry to become a monster that peter’s genetics are responsible for creating like Dr. Connors in The Amazing Spider-Man.

Both villains in this film – one with nothing and one with everything – want something from Spider-Man (one validation, the other hope via a cure from his blood) and Spider-Man says no.  When the hero denies the villains what they want, they vow a world without him and join forces to achieve that end.  Interestingly, one villain feeds the others need to be wanted and validated and the other to give access to the technology that might save him.

The latter part of the film sees both Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy embrace the responsibility they have to one another and the world around them: to use their lives for good, to give others hope despite the possible consequences.  Just as Peter’s choices reflect his understanding of his Uncle Ben’s last words about the relationship between Power and Responsibility, Gwen’s choices reflect her understanding of the same.  She has the knowledge needed to give hope and thwart evil so she acts on that understanding even though her actions gravely endangers her.  Her story reflects the other side of Peter’s:  Just as great responsibility doesn’t exist apart from great power, so too great hope cannot endure apart from great sacrifice and suffering (echoing aspects of the Easter Story in the Gospels and the Apostle Paul in Romans 5).

As Gwen explained at the close of her graduation speech:  “It is easy to feel hopeful on beautiful days, but there will be dark days too and that is when hope is needed most; we must become greater than what we suffer”.  Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man suffers much at the hands of villains in this film, but that crucible, and the wisdom of those he loved, enable him to become the hopeful hero that his city needs.

Posted on by Aaron in Uncategorized

About Aaron

Author, Speaker, and Super Nerd. Aaron Welty speaks and writes regularly connecting the dots of life, faith, and science fiction. Originally from Michigan, he now lives and works in the Washington, D.C. Metro area.

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