THREE STARS – THOUGHT-PROVOKING
Though taken from a comic book, the archetypal characters of "Spider-Man" are not for children. Full of Jungian symbolism and biblical struggles, good and evil, expressed both internally and externally, are clearly portrayed. Affirming Solzhenitsyn's observation that "the line between good and evil is drawn through the middle of every person's heart," Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) and the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) each struggle with their own power and soul.
Symbolizing the coming of age struggle of every adolescent, Parker is a high school student when his body begins to change. Though unique in his journey after being bitten by a genetically enhanced super spider at Columbia University, his physical changes are archetypal of every young person's struggle. Noting his angst, Parker's Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) appropriately counsels him that "with great strength comes great responsibility."
As is true for both Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, the awareness that we have the strength to harm someone confronts us with the ethical and moral decision of whether or not we will.
In a moment of anger after being defrauded by someone, Parker's passive revenge only comes back to harm him in a way that is devastating. This truth is an ancient wisdom expressed not only by the biblical teaching that we "reap what we sow" and those who "live by the sword die by the sword," but it is also expressed by the law of karma that everything we do for good or for ill eventually comes back to us.
The struggle within the Goblin is one of more obvious dimensions as Osborn's corporation is on the line unless he can deliver an enhanced human soldier to the military. This fear of the military-industrial complex is still haunting our lives as we attempt to deal with the horror, greed and possibilities of such a symbiotic union. But an even greater symbol of this union's potential to both bless and destroy us is the struggle within Osborn's soul. Fighting his own ambitious insanity, Osborn regrets and yet benefits from his alter self's evil deeds.
In a world where we often divide ourselves into two types of people, with our type being "good" and those different from us as being "evil," the message of "Spider-Man" is a helpful parable. The struggle is within each of our hearts and the power to overcome our own fears and ambitions is often lacking, isolating us from one another.
This isolation is seen in the final scene of the film, which not only sets it up for its sequels, but also demonstrates the fear Parker has about himself. When Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) realizes she loves Parker and wants to be with him and not with the alluring Spider-Man, Parker rejects her because he loves her. This twisted expression of love is the result of lives not yet at peace with either themselves or the conviction that good that will defeat evil. Such a place of peace only comes from the spiritual faith Parker's aunt and uncle expressed, but Parker has yet to understand.