Spiderman is arguably one of the most iconic superheroes. And the third recent reimagining of the character hitting theaters is yet another reminder of his primary theme: with great power comes great responsibility.
This theme is explained most memorably in the 2002 Spiderman film precursor to the current superhero craze. It was also explained in the Amazing Spiderman movies, and then in the current Spiderman’s first appearance in Captain America: Civil War.
The theme is similar to the idea of the “brother’s keeper,” (Genesis 4:9, Matthew 25:35, James 5:16, etc.) this idea that we are responsible for other people, not just ourselves. But the Spiderman franchise is relating it directly to superheroes, as superheroes are the main characters of all these films.
As Peter Parker (Spiderman) explains in Captain America: Civil War, if something bad happens before you have super powers so you cannot physically stop the bad thing from happening, you are not culpable. But if the bad thing happens after you get your powers, you are.
Given that this idea has been explained and re-explained in so many installments of the franchise, I was thankful that they did not directly explain it yet again in Spiderman: Homecoming. Instead, it was just something that the protagonist struggled with. Towards the end of the film, the villain, Vulture, gives Spiderman an ultimatum, like villains often do. If Spiderman will attend the homecoming dance, have a good old time, and stay out of the Vulture’s business, Vulture will not kill everyone he loves. In the alternative, he can risk everything by attacking Vulture with a sub par Spiderman suit.
As I watched Vulture offering this ultimatum, I, personally, thought it would have been funny if it had cut to the wedding between Parker and his girlfriend, and the movie had ended there. But superhero movies are still not yet ready to do anything the least bit risky. Although there was a plot twist that I did not see coming, which is a rare thing for me, regardless if the movie is well-written or terribly-written.
As most people would imagine, Spiderman chooses the high road and fights the villain. He chose to be his brother’s keeper: not only in saving those Vulture might harm, but also in trying to save Vulture from himself.
It is a secular movie, so nobody used any religious language that I remember, but Spiderman basically tried to save Vulture from perdition. He saved his life, saving him from falling into eternal damnation and providing some time that might be used for the betterment of the villain, to possibly bring him towards God.
That is not to say that the writers of these films will go that route, although it is implied that Vulture has grown as a person by the end credit scene. But the Marvel Cinematic Universe is essentially a Godless world. There are gods, such as Thor and Loki, but there is no God. In fact, the only Marvel properties that have ever acknowledged the existence of God, that I can remember, are Daredevil and the X-men, since Matthew Murdock and Nightcrawler/Kurt Wagner both consider themselves Catholic.
However, I cannot say definitively that the absence of references to God makes Spiderman: Homecoming a terrible film. Plenty of films I like are just as Godless. But the idea of the Brother’s Keeper is hollow without God since there is no ultimate goal other than simply surviving and “being a good person.” And that is not easily definable in a Godless way. Being a good person is not synonymous with being a nice person. It is not to say that “goodness” means always obeying the law. Without the concept of Christian virtue, goodness can be quite a relative concept.
And surviving is an okay goal to have, but it should not be the end-all-be-all. There are plenty of times when sacrificing one’s life is important, such as in the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe. And considering what Jesus sacrificed for us, dying in the most painful and humiliating way possible, most of what we go through from day to day is a small price to pay to be with Him eternally.
But all of this is not to say that Spiderman: Homecoming is not a good movie, as far as superhero movies go. I do think that it handled many things better than prior Spiderman movies. There are other Spiderman movies that seem to be defeatist when it comes to the idea of the Brother’s Keeper, that it is mostly a lost cause, given the success rate of converting villains to the side of the good guys.
But in conclusion, the movie was entertaining and, like I said earlier, I did not see the plot twist coming towards the end, which is a rarity.