“I believe there’s a hero in all of us that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams.”
– Rosemary Harris, “Spider-Man 2”
There comes a time in every person’s life when they decide who they want to be and what they stand for. When I saw “Spider-Man 2” for the first time in theaters I was expecting it to be an inferior follow-up to the smash hit wonder that was the first “Spider-Man” and not only was I taken aback by its actual superiority to the original but I also came to find it summed up everything I wanted to be. See the main character of Peter Parker is not an award-winning scientist who has the girl of his dreams. He is a man broken in two by the responsibilities of his two alternate lives. There is his life as the noble, yet tortured, mild-mannered student Peter Parker. He struggles in classes not because he can’t understand what he is being taught but because he struggles to balance that life and his life as the hero Spider-Man. See Peter Parker represents to me what people should be. He tries to do the right thing even at the cost of his own happiness. While that may seem dim, it is only that way because he can’t use his heroic cause as an excuse. For, like in this world, there are bad people looking for a chance to take advantage of such secrets to harm people who stand in their way. If he were to reveal himself, the people he loved would be hurt. His aunt, his friends, and, of course, the woman he loves Mary Jane Watson.
When Peter was told “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” I found the uncle wasn’t just teaching him a lesson but us as people in general a lesson.For we all have the power inside of us to do great things but we have a responsibility to not let that power hurt others. And that is where Doc Ock comes into play as not necessarily a villain, but an anti-hero who simply wishes to accomplish greatness to take great pride in. However, that becomes a corrupted ideal as he finds himself having to do worse and worse things to accomplish his dreams. What gets me the most is the film manages to be a superhero film but also manages to capture real life. For none of these characters get an easy way out. They have to fight through hell to make it like we do in real life and the film even ends on a somewhat real sense. See Peter Parker doesn’t get a great job in the end, nor does he end up at the top of his class. He simply gets the one thing he needs to survive and nothing more, the love of the girl next door. And this is life. It’s a bumpy road here and there but life does throw us a bone every once and awhile. It’s not out to get us but, as Peter showed throughout the movie, sometimes we get hit hard by life and, like us on occasion, this character begins to let life weigh him down as he slowly loses his powers by losing his will to keep fighting the harsh world. I mean he even retires from being Spider-Man and the city suffers for it. And worse, when he tries to be a hero again as just Peter Parker by saving a kid in a burning building he discovers that one person didn’t make it out. As Spider-Man he could have saved that one person. It finally takes a reminder of the force of good he is to make him realize that only through doubt can he fail which is what he has let consume him throughout the movie.
It is the simple love of his Aunt May and her wisdom, the quote that is at the beginning of this post in fact, that he finally realizes that to be something great we have to sacrifice things in this life. That there is no incredible miracle to save us. That it is only our will to thrive in hard times that we can make our lives better. See I know a lot of you just thought I loved this film for it’s action. Don’t get me wrong, I find this film best balances it’s visual and action elements with it’s character elements better than any film I’ve ever seen. I just love this film for inspiring to be great by just doing the best we can with what we have. Peter Parker may be a superhero, but he is also a man who bleeds like us and dreams like us. The villain of the story, Doctor Otto Octavious, is one who realizes as well these moments from a different perspective. That being great isn’t just about doing great as much as it not abandoning what you stood for and the reason you were trying to be great in the first place. Doc Ock sought to change the world for the better, but lost himself in his pride whereas Peter Parker let his pride wither so he couldn’t even do what he needed to do to protect the people he loved. While they were at opposite ends of this spectrum they both needed a reminder to both be great in the end.
No doubt the final point that knocks it home why this film is truly the greatest film ever in my eyes is the scene after Spider-Man stops a train from running off the end of a track WITH HIS BARE HANDS. He passes out in pure exhaustion, unable to go any further, his mask having fallen off after a short circuit lit it on fire moments earlier and he had to remove it to see. Instead of being alone as he has been the people carry him into train and he wakes up, his face exposed to the world. The people around him shocked to find he is just a kid. And yet two small kids move through the mob of people (Tobey McGuire’s real half-brothers I might add) and hand him back his mask, speaking for everyone they won’t tell anyone and that it’s good to have him back. It was that moment I realized that we struggle in our lives so hard that a simple act of kindness is all we need to realize that what we are doing for others isn’t a mistake. It brought a tear to my eye to be honest and I take pride that it did.
We go through life wondering if we will ever get the things we want but what’s the point of getting those things if we can’t look ourselves in the mirror afterwards. Like Peter, I’d rather stand for something greater and sacrifice for others then get ahead and leave others to suffer in the wake of that decision. “The Dark Knight” may be a truly dramatic and beautifully filmed psychological and analytical take on heroism, but “Spider-Man 2” approaches life not like a grand opera, but a small glimpse of life for everyday people. And you know what? I do believe there is a hero in all of us that gives us strength and keeps us honest. Sometimes we have to give up what we want the most. This is true, but what’s it matter if you end up changing the world even on a small scale. I guess it’s movies like this that continue to give me hope that people can change the world and that in the end everyone’s a hero deep down. We just need the will to find it.