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The Amazing Spider Man 2: Our culture’s fascination with super heroes

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Local News: First Presbyterian Church of Jackson will host a PROS meeting (Presbyterian Retired Organization) on Thursday, May 15 from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM in Miller Hall. Those wishing to attend are asked to make a reservation, as there is a small fee for the meal. For more information, contact Caroline Jackson at receptionist@fpcjackson.org or call 601-353-8316.

Plugged In Magazine theorizes that super hero movies are popular because people, regardless of religious affiliation, know instinctively that life is a battle between good and evil. Super hero movies have changed a lot over the years, with 2014 offering more special effects than could’ve been dreamt of five or six decades ago. Still, the underlying appeal of such stories is, as Plugged In suggests, something more timeless, transcending Hollywood technology.

Hollywood’s most recent super hero film, The Amazing Spider Man 2, released on May 2, provides what movie goers, especially fans of the super hero genre, pay to see—suspenseful, action-packed entertainment. The film picks up where The Amazing Spider Man (2012) left off, with Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider Man) in a relationship with Gwen Stacy, but torn over whether he should pursue her. Gwen’s father, as he died, made Peter—whom he had discovered was Spider Man—promise to stay away from Gwen; her being in a relationship with such a figure was just too dangerous. Much of the film’s angst revolves around Peter’s and Gwen’s off and on relationship.

A similar type of angst existed in the Super Man and Batman story line. Living the life of a larger than life crime fighter is dangerous, and it’s understandable why someone in such a position would have second thoughts about a serious romantic relationship. Unlike Batman’s villains, who usually are just greedy, Spider Man has to face monsters who, usually due to futuristic mutations or risky genetic experiments are hardly even human any more. The Amazing Spider Man 2 features Electro, portrayed by Jamie Foxx, and the Green Goblin, portrayed by Dane DaHaan.

Peter Parker, though deeply in love with Gwen Stacy, really does want to honor her father’s dying wish by keeping his distance from her. Though it would be “easier” for him to just forget the promise and be with Gwen, he does fear for Gwen’s safety and far from giving her up because he no longer loves her, he feels he must give her up because he loves her. Such maturity isn’t always easy to find among adults, much less high school kids.

Peter Parker’s whole life illustrates altruism. His Spider Man alter ego doesn’t really bring him any wealth or acclaim since it’s imperative to keep it secret. He doesn’t rescue people from burning buildings and muggings for personal glory, but because he feels a responsibility to help.

The villains, on the other hand, are not villainous simply because they have mutated and have super human strength. What makes them bad is that they are motivated by selfishness. Max Dylan, before he morphs in the monstrous Electro, is simply an eccentric loner who resents how nobody ever seems to notice him. When he acquires super human powers, he wants to use them more than anything else to make people finally notice him. Harry Osborne, before he even becomes the Green Goblin, has already shown his monstrous side. He is deathly sick and in need of a cure and shows that he will stop at nothing, no matter how risky and no matter who he has to hurt, to get what he needs.

As Plugged In suggests, the Spider Man story is compelling because it is a classic re-telling of the good vs. evil stories that have been captivating humanity for millennia now. Life doesn’t always present us with black and white good and evil quite as blatantly as super hero stories do, but if we look at the universe we see that there is plenty of evil out there. Postmodernism has made it easier to see terms like “good” and “evil” as relative, but occasionally we are confronted with unmasked evil to such an extent that we can’t but call it what it is. Rwanda’s genocide which happened 20 years ago this spring, wherein a million people were slaughtered in 100 days, is a prime example. The Holocaust of World War II is another example.

C.S. Lewis explained in Mere Christianity that when he was an atheist his biggest argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. Lewis said that he came to see that from his atheistic outlook he had no frame of reference, though, for calling anything good or bad; he could only speak of his own opinions. That undercut his argument though, for, as he explained, his objection wasn’t that the state of the universe didn’t personally suit him, but that it was objectively bad.

The reality of good and evil is written on our hearts. As an atheist, Lewis said he attempted to suppress this, but eventually this innate recognition of right and wrong prevailed. It is difficult to understand how an all-good, all-powerful God could allow the universe to go on as it does with so much tragedy. But what is arguably more difficult to understand is why, if there is no actual absolute standard of good and evil, practically everyone, regardless of religious or philosophical background, agrees that the world is not as it ought to be, that something has gone “wrong”. Where does this sense of misplacement come from? The Christian answer is that our conscience supplies it because God has so fashioned our conscience. Humanity may go wrong, but never without the voice of God whispering to us in our conscience, reminding us that all is not as it should be.

In conclusion, The Amazing Spider Man 2 will not disappoint fans who enjoyed the first film. Fans may debate whether Andrew Garfield is as good or better than Toby McGuire in the role of Peter Parker, but at the end of the day both film series are well done and Spider Man fans can embrace them both, with no need to choose between the two. Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker does an excellent job coming across as a “typical” high school kid, making his Spider Man alter ego all the more interesting. Emma Stone brings depth to her character, making Gwen Stacy a dramatic, but never melodramatic, girl. It’s wonderful to see a veteran actress like Sally Field portray Aunt Mae. She shows that even at an age when many actresses are contemplating retirement she is still deserving of high profile roles.

Thankfully, amid all of the explosions and 21st century special effects, The Amazing Spider Man 2 also invites us to pause and reflect upon the nature of the world we live in, the nature of good and evil, what makes a person become a hero or villain, etc. For more information about the film, click here.

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