Monday, June 11, 2007

"Want Forgiveness? Get Religion!"

Warning: NO major spoilers. This review will NOT ruin the movie if you've yet to have seen it [, that includes you, Joseph!].
Spiderman The Third.

Oh wait, sorry, I meant Spiderman: At World's End.

No, that's not right either! Uh... Spiderman 3, maybe? I think that's right. . . [checking guess with Wikipedia] . . . Yes, Spiderman 3! (With all these new sequels out, I get confused!)

After being the last person in America who planned on seeing the new movie that still hadn't seen it (except for maybe this fellow), I have to say I enjoyed it. I find all the harsh critical reception this movie has received a little harsh, though somewhat understandable. The most justified criticism I've heard is from a NY Times writer that "the three villains [Sandman, Green Goblin II, and Venom] here don’t add up to one Doc Ock." And I have no choice but to agree. Alfred Molina's portrayal of Doctor Octopus was simply masterful in Spiderman 2. Despite the film's 2 hour 36 minute running time (that's 28 minutes longer than the last one, and you can really feel the length if you're one of those people like me who is addicted to movie theatre soda drinks), the introduction of villains like Sandman feels rushed and cliche. Thus, Spiderman 3's biggest problem is that it doesn't quite live up to its own standard of excellent, at least in my opinion.

All that negative stuff out of the way, let me proceed with the point of this essay. I am not seeking to review the quality of Spidey 3 but simply to offer a reflection on the movie's moral theme from the lens of a Christian worldview.
For context's sake, let's review the moral theme of the previous 2 movies:
Spiderman: "With great power, comes great responsibility."= Uncle Ben's motto that Peter Parker learns to appreciate as he grows from boy to man.
Spiderman 2: "Sometimes in order to do what is right, we have to give up what we want the most." = Parker learns that moral absolutes do exist in this crazy mixed up world, and they should take priority over the selfish hedonism of the 'Hakuna Matata' philosophy (ok, I made that last part up).
Honorable mention: "Intelligence is gift (not a privilege) to be used for the good of mankind."

And now, the motto of Spiderman 3:
"If you find a black alien goo that wants to bond with you, don't let it!"
Ha, just kidding! Actually, I got the sense that the central theme of this movie was that we all have to learn how to forgive one another, as we are all capable of great evil under the right circumstances. Or as director Sam Raimi stated.

"He considers himself a hero and a sinless person versus these villains that he nabs. We felt it would be a great thing for him to learn a little less black and white view of life and that's he not above these people. He's not just the hero and they're not just the villains. They were all human beings and that he himself might have some sin within him and that other human beings, the ones he calls criminals, have some humanity within them and that the best we can do in this world is to not strive for vengeance, but for forgiveness."

Forgiveness. The best thing we can strive for in this world, according to the director. I was profoundly struck by the sobriety of this third installment in the Spidey series. Yes, it had plenty of action and special effects. Yes, it had some well executed sprinklings of humor. And, yes, it had plenty of angst and frustration that were so common to the first 2 films. What sets this sequel apart from its predecessors, however, is that the hero becomes the true villain of the story. Peter Parker's obsession with power and responsibility bring trouble upon himself. No longer is he just a poor, misunderstood kid who always tries to do the right thing. Rather, he has allowed himself to become a slave to power and a glutton for fame and pleasure.

Spiderman learns that even his soul is not above that of the villains he seeks to bring to justice. In the course of the movie, he betrays the trust of his would-be fiance, gloats his power over everyone else, and nearly commits murder with a sense of vindication. All these sins lead him to a sense of brokenness and he retreats to the sanctuary of a cathedral to ponder the shambles his life has become. As Spiderman despairs of himself, he realizes that he must choose to begin making amends with those he has hurt. Thus, begins his long road back to redemption.

Not everything in this movie is compatible with the Christian worldview, of course. For instance, Aunt May tells Peter he must "forgive himself." Even though I know what she meant, I think forgiveness is something that can only take place when there are 2 or more parties involved. Forgiveness (humanly speaking) is the admission of wrongdoing on the part of one party against another. With the admission, the guilty party seeks reconciliation with the victim and promises to do whatever is necessary to make restitution for damages done. It is a lot more than saying "I'm sorry." This movie isn't so much an illustration of Christian soteriology as it is a lesson in Christian anthropology. All men have sinned (indeed all men are wicked in nature) and fall short of the glory of God, the only Holy One who alone is worthy to judge the hearts of men.

In conclusion, I think Spiderman 3 has a great message that Christians can appreciate, even if it doesn't quite succeed in its character development. For Spidey fans, I think the movie wraps up the loose ends from the previous movies nicely. If nothing else, it is a heck of a lot better resolution to the series than X-Men: The Last Stand's blood crazy martyr-fest of iconic characters. I recommend this movie to a mature audience, but just use some discretion about buying a soda pop at the concession stand.


  1. Your blog don't get no respect!!!

  2. That's what I'm sayn'!

    Thanks for the shout-out, homie. But I know it takes one disrespected blogger to know another!

  3. Adam Embry5:00 PM

    old man winters - don't forget about the value of true friendship that runs through the movie...

  4. very nice, very nice. really good point about Christian anthro rather than Xian soter. you're an engaging and humorous writer--I enjoyed it.