Choosing Hope: ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ Reminds Us What Remains When All Seems Lost
By Ruth Anderson
Peter Parker and his alter ego, Spider-Man, have always been dear to my heart. Not only was Spider-Man the first superhero I fell in love with as a child, but also, there has always been something in Peter’s journey that’s analogous to the Christian faith.
At a very elemental level, Spider-Man has always been a hero of the people. He is gifted, extraordinary, and capable of feats of greatness beyond our wildest imaginings—but beyond that, Spider-Man is one of us. Peter is not supernaturally invulnerable, with endless wealth at his disposal. He is prone to error, and filled with doubts, questions, and fears, as well as heroic potential. Yet as Spider-Man, he illustrates the power of our choices and the gift of a life lived with hope.
As “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” the latest installment in Peter’s cinematic adventures opens, he is en route to his high school graduation—with a little detour to foil a Russian gangster’s attempt to steal plutonium along the way. Despite the chaos on the streets, there is an infectious joy and energy to these scenes when viewed from Spider-Man’s perspective. The web-slinging crimefighter (played here by Andrew Garfield) has become an unstoppable force. But his bravado masks deep-seated fears. Peter is graduating, yes, but also faced with a choice of what to do with his relatively new abilities—a responsibility with a tremendous potential cost that he isn’t sure he’s willing or able to pay.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is an astonishing big-screen spectacle. A veritable feast of special effects, this installment in the rebooted franchise sees Spider-Man face off against no less than three villains. And while the comic book violence and action are an integral and expected part of the formula, where this film shines is in the quiet, relational, reflective moments.
Peter has one foil in this film whose journey is of particular interest when contrasted with Peter’s hero arc. His childhood best friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), has returned to Manhattan to take control of OsCorp following his estranged father’s death. Peter and Harry are, in many respects, two sides of the same coin. Both are sons of brilliant bio-engineers, both abandoned—Peter was left with no explanation on the doorstep of his Uncle Ben and Aunt May (Sally Field), his parents never to return, while Harry was shunted off to boarding school.
Both young men are left with the scars of emotional abandonment, both with its attendant anger and questions, both with a choice about what to do with that pain. Each is also the recipient of a legacy from his father, which becomes the focal point of their respective struggles to establish an identity and critical in determining the type of man each will become…
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