3 Stars - Wholesome
It is refreshing to see that the simple story with a clear moral found in the original Marvel tales is being kept in the filmed versions of Spider-man. Like most literature written for children before recent times, in the classic comic book era, the superheroes were only vehicles for exploring the deeper moral and spiritual issues of our lives. From coming-of-age identity formation and the need to take our responsible place within society found in the first film to the call for self-sacrifice found in the second, the third Spider-man film deals with jealousy, vengeance and evil's empowerment with its corresponding emptiness.
The central characters are the same as in the first three films, except they are no longer teenagers but young adults. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is now a young man who has experienced the intoxicating pleasures of fame as Spider-man. Peter's life-long love, Mary Jane (M.J.) Watson (Kirsten Dunst), is trying to find her own destiny as a Broadway star. And Peter's life-long friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco), continues his struggle with jealousy and vengeance against Peter due to his belief that Peter caused his father's death in the second film.
Central to this new chapter in the tale is a black symbiotic organism from outer space that hitches a ride on a comet and lands near Peter and M.J. as they share a romantic web in the forest. This organism has the ability to take whatever emotion and spiritual longings are found within its host and amplify them. Thus when it joins with Peter, it takes his vengeance at the person who killed his uncle, his pride at being Spider-man, his jealousy and scorn at thinking he lost M.J., and empowers Peter to fulfill these internal evils.
But Peter has a choice, at least at first. And this is central to the moral of this tale. Choosing evil's momentary empowerment is a temptation difficult to reject, but if we do not we lose ourselves to its symbiotic attachment. Rejecting evil, Peter turns to the power of the Cross to set him free. When he turns away from this evil empowerment, Peter repents and enters a church steeple where he providentially discovers how to rid himself of the symbiot.
What he doesn't realize, and this is the converse side of the moral of the tale, is that below him is Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) who has entered the church with a jealous and vengeful prayer that Jesus will kill Peter for him. This sacrilege is answered by his becoming the next host of the symbiot who has retained the power of Spider-man and so he becomes Venom, the new arch enemy of Spider-man.
Even a child can understand the moral here, that there are those who try to use God and religion for evil purposes. But the result is that they are taken over by a blackness that costs them their very souls.
This struggle with evil is balanced within the story by the journey to forgiveness. This journey is symbolized in two persons. The first is Harry Osborn's whose life is changed by his experiences as the new Goblin. The second is Flint Marco (Thomas Haden Church), the true murderer of Peter's uncle who returns in this film. Through a freak accident, Marco becomes an evil superhero able to become a Sandman. A complex character within the film, the story allows us to know that there is evil, and there are some people we think are evil but whose lives have been impacted by events that drove them to do the wrong things they do. This understanding allows us to have compassion for them and give them forgiveness.
To make sure we do not miss the moral of the tale, the film ends with Peter's voiceover reminding us that we can confront the evils of life without giving in to them by making the right choices - and it is never too late to make the right choice. This is a message every child and adult needs to hear.
- The love which Peter has for M.J. is kept from being fully experienced. Why do you believe that is true? Is it only to keep the love-interest in the tale continuing without resolution to create interest, or is it inherent within the super-hero life as implied in the second film?
- The momentary amnesia of Harry allows him and Peter to reconnect. It also softens him such that he believes his butler's account of his father's death. If you have lost a friendship, what events would it take for you to reestablish trust?
- The presence of the church as both a place where redemption of evil is experienced by Peter and a place where surrender to evil is experienced by Eddie Brock underscores the struggle between good and evil even within religious contexts. In what way have you experienced this?
- The forgiveness that is offered by Peter to Flint Marco is healing. How have you experienced this in your own life?