But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die;
for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes
will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing
good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the
tree was good for food, and that it was a delight
to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to
make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she
also gave some to her husband, who was with her,
and he ate.
I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live,
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven seventy times seven’ Matthew 18:21-22
The physics of the comic book world of Spider-Man is preposterous, but the human emotions and values of the main characters are true to life. Many critics have been less than kind to the third film of the series, but fans have still flocked to see it. What should intrigue VP readers is the filmmakers’ attempt to show a darker side of Peter Parker /Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire), adding a new dimension to an already well defined character.
Taking up where the 2nd film left off, Peter is satisfied with his life. He is doing well at school, and his relationship with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) has deepened, now that she knows that he is Spider-Man, so that he plans to propose marriage to her. He is at the front row of the theater when she makes her singing debut in a new Broadway musical. However, there is a dark cloud hovering over him. Up in a box seat sits former friend Harry Osborn (James Franco). scowling down at him. Harry is still seething with a desire to hurt Peter because he blames him for the death of his father, who, as the super villain the Green Goblin, had fought against Spider-Man.
The dark cloud will expand, so that it will consist not only of Harry, who has been conducting experiments that give him powers to become a new Green Goblin. Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), one of the two men involved in killing Peter’s Uncle Ben, has escaped from prison. He visits his sick daughter briefly (it is for her costly operation that he had robbed a bank), and then is pursued by the police into a marshy area near the city. Flint climbs a wire fence and falls into a deep pit which is part of a science complex, just at the moment when the scientists are conducting a molecular fusion experiment. Flint, bombarded by high energy and atomic particles, becomes the Sandman, his body at times dissolving into particles of sand with super human strength and size, and then, at will, changing back to his normal body. (Great special effects here!)
There will be two more dark elements to what will become a storm cloud in Peter’s life. One night while he and Mary Jane are in the country watching the stars and meteors, a meteor lands nearby, although they do not see it. From the fiery pit, black, slimy, spidery creatures emerge and attach themselves to the rear of Peter’s motorbike as the lovers head back to the city. In Peter’s apartment the black creatures attach themselves to his costume, turning it black. When Peter puts it on, he feels his already considerable powers enhanced. He declares that it feels good.
Peter already has been puffed up by all the public adulation rendered at a large ceremony at which Spider-Man is given the key to the city for saving the police commissioner’s daughter from an out of control construction crane. This leads to a breakup with Mary Jane, partly due to his inability to sympathies with her when she is replaced in the play because of the critics’ adverse reaction to her singing, and even more so by his public kiss with the woman whom he had saved. There is a funny, but revealing sequence when Peter becomes so puffed up with pride that he walks down the street expecting all the pretty women to swoon over him, especially when he goes into a store and buys what he thinks are cool duds. More seriously, Peter becomes filled with a raging desire for revenge when the police reveal to him and Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) that the man thought to be the killer of Uncle Ben had not pulled the trigger, but that the actual killer was his accomplice, the now at large Flint Marko.
Still another contributor to the dark cloud in Peter’s life is the overly ambitious Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) who shows up at the Daily Bugle with pictures of Spider-Man that editor J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) buys. The wily editor pits Eddie against Peter in a contest for the open position of staff photographer. This leads Eddie to cheat, and then eventually through a strange set of circumstances, to become the super villain Venom.
Thus our Spidey will really have his hands full, fighting at one time Harry, then the Sandman, and eventually, when they team up, both Sandman and Venom—plus having to deal with the dark side of himself. At one point his only ally will be Aunt May, worried about her nephew’s twisted desire for vengeance, but still bestowing upon him her unconditional love. The new film has plenty of exciting action sequences for the young and several scenes with gospel parallels that provide plenty of food for thought and discussion. The second film is still my favorite of the three, but I have no qualms in recommending this one as well, especially for youth ministers looking for a theater outing with their group.
Warning: toward the end there are spoilers, so wait if you have not seen the film.
1) Why is Mary Jane upset when Peter tries to comfort her by telling her he knows how she feels? How is his referring to his own experience of disappointment a de-emphasizing of Mary Jane? Have you tried to share something only to have the listener shift the conversation to his/her own experience? How did you feel? What might Peter have said instead?
2) What do the spidery creatures in the film represent? Compare this mythology of evil with that of the Genesis temptation myth: how do both locate the origin of evil as outside ourselves, in other words declaring that humanity itself is not evil? Yet how do such passages as the above Roman passage indicate that sin is an inner affair? At what points does the film agree? (E.g., when Peter seems to be enjoying the public recognition and adulation too much?)
3) What do you think of Peter’s exclamation that it feels good when he dons the now black costume? How does doing the wrong thing often “feel good” ? See the Genesis temptation story concerning what Eve and Adam thought about the forbidden fruit: how is this typical of evil, always coming in the guise of the good and the desirable?
4) Think/talk about Aunt May’s conversation with Peter after his fight with Marko/Sandman: “Uncle Ben wouldn’t want us living with revenge in our hearts, it’s like a poison. It can take you over and turn us into something ugly.” How does it “take over” Peter? Have you been so consumed by a desire to get even—or someone you know?
5) The passage from Matthew is one of several about forgiveness: in a concordance look up the word and “vengeance” and see what the Scriptures say about them. How does forgiving an enemy bring healing? How does the film show that refusing to forgive lead to unforeseen consequences, as with Peter’s relationship with Eddie Brock.
6) What does the church/cross symbolize in the scene in which Spider-Man is perched on the spire? How does Spidey’s tearing off the black creatures from his costume underlie his later assertion to Marko/Sandman that we always have a choice? What meaning do you see in the scene in which Peter takes a shower? How do you think this is more than just a means of his washing his body? How have you seen other filmmakers refer to baptism through the use of water in some form?
7) What do you think of Eddie’s prayer in the sanctuary below while Spider-Man struggles to rid himself of the black substance/creature? “It’s Brock sir, Edward Brock Jr. I’m here humbled and humiliated to ask you for one thing… I want you to kill Peter Parker.” Did you think at first that he is having a change of heart? How is this an example of our trying to use or manipulate God for our own purposes? What examples in history do you see of this? In reaction to the bloody putdown by US troops of a Filipino rebellion against our occupation of the Philippine Islands when we seized them from Spain, Mark Twain satirized this use of God in his dark short/short story “The War Prayer.” Look up and discuss the text of the prayer at: http://www.lone-star.net/mall/literature/warpray.htm 8) What happens to Eddie when the black creatures that Peter is tearing off his costume fall on him? He also tries at first to tear them away, but quickly succumbs to them, and so is transformed into Venom. Do you think that, unlike Peter, he was unable to tear them away because his hatred of Peter and desire for vengeance was too strong to resist? For an example of a fate similar to his check out the film To End All Wars, in which some POWs in a Japanese camp are able to forgive their brutal captors, whereas a British officer clings to his bitter hatred and desire for vengeance, with disastrous results. Two other films dealing with the cost of vengeance are The Count of Monte Cristo and Munich.
9) What are the fates of the three who fight against Spider-Man? How does Harry find redemption? What is the result of Peter’s forgiving Flint Marko? How does director/co-writer Sam Raimi leave the film wide open for a sequel? How does the fantasy film make you feel in regard to the real world? What insights does it offer?