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On Objectivity -- The Method
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Date: Tue, 07 May 2002
Movie Review: Spider-man
Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.
I've just come back from seeing the movie "Spider-man," and I have to tell
you that in my assessment it is one of the greatest literary tragedies ever
to be put to the big screen.
The screen-writer, the director, and the actors have managed to transform a
comic book level of good versus evil story-line into a excellent work of
art that has extremely well done concretizations of abstractions suitable
for emphasizing real-life conflicts of value.
What is most impressive is that these conflicts are plot-driven and stem
from the nature of the characters themselves. It emphasizes free-will and
self-actualization in a manner one does not find in supposedly more serious
studies of human nature -- and it's theme is justice.
I've seen the movie twice now, and I am equally impressed at the tightness
of the story-line -- I don't think there is one line of dialog or one scene
that I would cut. I also think one can see the influence of great writers
of the past in the story-line; such as the fatal flaw from Shakespeare, the
self-rivalry from "Cyrano de Bergerac," and the tragic endings of Victor Hugo.
*** WARNING: THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS PLOT SPOILERS ***
The tragic nature of the story comes about precisely because Peter Parker
is meek, that is he doesn't ardently pursue his values -- especially the
love of his life since first grade, Mary Jane. By not pursuing her while he
is a normal human being, he is placed into a position at the end of the
story whereby he can never tell her that he is in love with her, because it
would put her life at great risk.
Furthermore, the same series of events prevents him from ever telling his
best friend, Harry Osborn, about his super-hero identity, because Harry has
sworn a vengeance oath to kill Spider-man on sight, since Spider-man has
killed Harry's father -- AKA the Green Goblin, the arch-villain of
Spider-man (though Harry doesn't know this).
That level of conflict of value would be enough for most story tellers,
which would make it a melodrama. However, this story goes a step further,
lifting it up to the level of real drama, a conflict of value within the
character himself based upon the conscious conclusion he draws from the
events of the story.
As the story progresses, Peter as Spider-man concludes that *every evil
that is brought upon his loved ones occurs because Peter is trying to be a
hero.* **That** is the tragic conclusion that I think elevates this story
into a real feat of drama. In other words, on at least some level, he
concludes that it is his own good deeds that lead to his personal values
being threatened with harm and annihilation.
When I realized this was his conclusion, tears welled up in my eyes.
The movie certainly left room for a sequel, as all the conflicts were not
fully resolved in this episode, but let's hope that Spider-man changes his
Being good does not encourage evil.