It was 2002. The atmosphere was stirring and ripe for a heroic storm. After the epic failure of “Batman and Robin,” superhero films were considered toxic property, but “The X-Men” changed that. Superhero movies began to be of great interest to studios again. Naturally, the attention turned to the other Marvel Comics mega-property, Spiderman.
On September 11, 2001, the World Trade Centers were destroyed as terrorists flew planes into the buildings. The impending “Spiderman” film felt the tremors of this horrific day. The initial movie poster had the World Trade Centers in Spiderman’s eye, and it was pulled. The teaser trailer featured Spiderman capturing a helicopter between the towers just using his webbing. They pulled the trailer. Contrary to popular belief, this did not delay production, as the scene wasn’t actually in the movie.
Just short of seven months later, with the nation still reeling from the sucker punch of 9/11, “Spiderman” was released. I worked at a movie theater in Ankeny, Iowa, during the months leading up and the release of this movie. It was a success unlike I had ever seen. Showing after showing was sold out. “Star Wars: Episode II” was coming out in two weeks, but all anyone was talking about was “Spiderman.”
The movie wasn’t perfect. Its CGI doesn’t hold up to the test of time well. The Green Goblin still looks like a Power Ranger villain (although Willem Dafoe had a great performance). However, it still is a movie of hope for a city and a nation that was deeply hurting. It showed New Yorkers fighting back saying, “You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.”
The heart of the Spiderman mythos is “with great power comes great responsibility.” Christians can appreciate this sentiment, as Jesus himself said it this way, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48).
Where Spiderman Went in the Meantime
In “Spiderman 2,” this message came out again as Peter Parker struggles between having what he wants and what his abilities ask of him. It rings similar to “Richard Donner’s Superman II.” Before he becomes the villain, Otto Octavious says to Peter, “Intelligence is not a privilege, it’s a gift. And you use it for the good of mankind.” This quote would prove central to the plot and climax of the film, and “Spiderman 2” proved to be arguably one of the best superhero movies made.
Then came the lackluster films. “Spiderman 3” was almost as disappointing as “Batman and Robin.” Andrew Garfield’s “Amazing Spiderman” films were underwhelming. All the while, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Batman and X-Men franchises were finding success financially and critically.
Meanwhile, Sony, which owned the rights to Spiderman, was finding itself in financial woes. Therefore, negotiations with Marvel Studios began to share creative rights over the character. Enter Tom Holland as the new Spiderman, making his entertaining first appearance in “Captain America: Civil War.” One year later, he made his headlining debut in “Spiderman: Homecoming.” With a new movie, would the message of “with great power comes great responsibility” disappear? Would the film have the success of those first two? The answer to both questions is “No, but…”
Tom Holland Is Not That Good, But He’s Good
No, it will not likely have the financial success that the first two Spiderman movies had, but it will likely do well, having made $117 million on the opening weekend. No, it isn’t as good as “Spiderman 2,” but “Spiderman 2” raised the bar really high. The movie is still very good.
Holland is excellent as Spiderman. You see him really struggling to become a hero. In a world that has seen the heroics of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and others, Peter Parker longs to be a hero like them. He has many failings in this endeavor.
He has close friends with whom he goofs around and gets excited about putting together the LEGO Death Star. He has a quirky classmate in Michelle “MJ” Jones, modeled after Allison Reynolds. No, she is not Mary Jane Watson. They may be pulling the Arrowverse trick of giving you one MJ before giving you the real MJ. Arrowverse did this with Deathstroke, Speedy, and others.
Marvel is still struggling to find success with their super villains. But, like other films, the strength of the other characters holds the movie up, and the movie is rather humorous at times.
So, does the film do away with Uncle Ben’s nugget of wisdom, “With great power comes great responsibility”? First, while we never hear or see Uncle Ben, his voicing of this phrase is suggested when Peter says Aunt May has experienced some type of tragedy. Uncle Ben isn’t out of the picture, he’s just not fully in view yet. It is Tony Stark who plays the role of wise mentor.
At one point, Spiderman tries to intervene in an arms deal upon a ferry. This ends badly and almost becomes tragic were it not for Iron Man’s intervention. So, Stark and Parker get into a father-son-type discussion. “I’m nothing without the suit,” Peter says. “If you’re nothing without the suit, then you shouldn’t have it,” Tony responds.
This becomes the motivation for the remainder of the movie. Parker still knows he has to do the right thing. There is clearly something else driving him, beyond just the inspiration of the Avengers. While they may be his models, like a young basketball player aspiring to be LeBron James, something else drives him. This is very likely the Uncle Ben tragedy that they kept to the background for this movie.
As the movie works its way to its climax, Spiderman is driven by responsibility to help others, and not only to help others, but to be responsible in doing so. That is why you see him actively working to shift the course of an airplane to avoid greater destruction. Stark’s demands of Peter makes much sense in light of the events of “Captain America: Civil War.” It is actually for responsibility not in just doing the right thing, but in doing what is right in the right way.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” It is the legacy of Spiderman from his very first appearance in comics to the multitude of cartoons to multiple movies. For “Spiderman: Homecoming,” it hasn’t changed.