I went to see Spider-man the movie last Saturday. Now I must tell you that I am a Spider-man fan from way back, from a galaxy far, far away where comics used to cost 40sens (US 12 cents). I liked Spider-man because he wasn’t a superman. He was like any normal teenager struggling with all the pains and ecstasies of adolescence. The movie portrayed this part of the Spider-man ethos well. All the archetypes from teenager land were there – the nerd, the bully, the rich kid, the unattainable beauty, the loyal friend, the well meaning loving adults. I could put names to the equivalent characters in my past. I am sure you could to. And of course there are the painful crises that serve as rites de passage to adulthood. The murder of Uncle Ben and its sequelae was particularly well done. As was the glee and joy of Peter Parker when he first discovers his new powers.
I was worried that the Green Goblin in the movie would not be as demonic and evil as the comic original. When I saw the earlier publicity shots he reminded me of some character from a Japanese Ultraman type TV series. The movie Green Goblin didn’t look much like the comic version but he was spooky enough. Mary Jane’s confession of love for Peter Parker towards the end of the movie sounded a bit corny but we could all feel with Peter Parker in his realization that though he tries to do the right thing he always ends up being misunderstood. The whole movie cried out for a sequel and its box office success to date almost guarantees it. So, an A- for entertainment.
But a D- for theology? The only time in the movie that God is portrayed seriously is when we see Aunt May praying the Lord’s Prayer before she turns in. The Green Goblin chooses that time to attack her and indeed the movie takes pains to point out the ineffectiveness of the Lord’s Prayer (and the Lord?) to protect her from evil. As in many modern movies, Christianity and Christ serve only as part of the cultural backdrop with no reality and no relevance for daily life. In fact the implication is that Christianity is only for nice old ladies, and not for cool young people.
The message from much of Hollywood continues to be that materialistic science defines what is really true. We cannot expect any supernatural help. The best we have going for us is the heroic human spirit. If materialistic science and the heroic human spirit is all that we are to hope in, we are all in deep doo doo.
Science and heroism as our only sources of salvation? Tell that to the people in Palestine or Pakistan or Afghanistan. Tell that to the victims of the recent school shootings in Germany. Tell that to my friend who just discovered that she has cancer. Science may help her some and will probably save her physical life. But the Lord holds her in His hand. The Lord will hold off her fear. The Lord will bless her with wholeness. The Lord gives her hope and purpose for this life and the next. (And her children are cool young people who are serious Christians living full and vital lives.)
So shame, Hollywood. You continue to perpetuate the lie that there is no God or that He is irrelevant. (I am sure I am coming on too strong here but name me one movie made in recent times where God is taken seriously.)
Indeed with great power comes great responsibility. Moviemakers and comic writers should create worlds through their art that are more representative of what people really believe.
With great power comes great responsibility. And the Lord of the universe has exercised that responsibility. By coming to earth. By dying on the cross for the deepest needs of mankind. And by rising again to now be the source of true life.
So go see Spider-man for some great entertainment. But don’t disable your spiritual discernment while you are watching it.