Movie review: ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2′

(Rated PG-13; directed by Marc Web; stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Sally Field; run time: 142 minutes.)

Analogy of David and Goliath, with missing piece

By Ted Giese

The first words heard as the closing credits roll following “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” are from rap singer Kendrick Lamar: “And everyone knows the story of David and Goliath.” These are also the opening words of the Alisha Keys song “It’s On Again.” It seems these lyrics were placed at the end of the movie in case the David and Goliath theme had not been obvious enough.

David and Goliath is a perennial Hollywood theme, and some might wonder how many times Hollywood can tell the story of the little guy facing incredible odds and, against all hope, surviving and winning the day. Or at least that’s the way Hollywood tells it. Like the young David, the movie’s hero, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), is really just a kid and comes off as rather cocky. But also like David, Peter Parker is willing to stand toe-to-toe with a larger-than-life villain to save people in danger. In David’s case he was, in part, willing to face Goliath because the Philistine army was threatening to overrun Israel and rule them. In Peter Parker’s case New York City is threatened by three villains, the chief of whom is Electro (Jamie Foxx), a man who eventually becomes “electricity” and, as electricity, is a giant of a villain.

Knowing about the Bible's David and Goliath makes watching "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" more enjoyable and provides an opportunity to compare and contrast the biblical David with Marvel’s Peter Parker. (lamlam — Imaginechina)

Knowing about the Bible’s David and Goliath makes watching “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ more enjoyable and provides an opportunity to compare and contrast the biblical David with Marvel’s Peter Parker, writes reviewer Rev. Ted Giese. (lamlam — Imaginechina)

At one point in the film, Electro, in his electrical form, lights up an office tower making the windows into a gigantic grotesque image of his face as he taunts Spider-Man. Standing against the enormous face of Electro, Spider-Man looks small, like David standing before Goliath. On one level Electro fits the bill of Goliath; on another level he is more of a Satan figure wanting to plunge New York City into his darkness. He says, “I will cut the light and soon everyone in this city will know how it feels to live in my world … a world without power … a world without mercy … a world without Spider-Man.”

Anyone planning to see this film, or anyone who has already, would be wise to crack open a Bible and read 1 Samuel, Chapters 16 and 17 — the part of Scripture containing the account of David and Goliath. After reading it, you will easily see that Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the writers of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” are not so much retelling this biblical narrative as much as appropriating elements of it to tell their story.

Unlike the recent movie “Noah,” which was specifically about the biblical Noah but then deviated all over the place, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” doesn’t say it’s a movie about the biblical David. What is it then? It’s an analogy. In this way the relationship between David and Spider-Man is metaphorical. Clearly the biblical David didn’t shoot spider webs and crawl on the side of buildings, and Peter Parker doesn’t use a sling and five smooth stones to take down Electro.

Still, knowing about David and Goliath makes watching the film more enjoyable and provides an opportunity to compare and contrast the biblical David with Marvel’s Peter Parker. Having a good grasp on the story of David and Goliath also will provide an opportunity to share it with others in relation to this film. Knowing it well will be the key because there is one big element of the Bible’s account missing from Kurtzman and Orci’s analogy.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” tells the unfolding story of Peter Parker as Spider-Man, whose fight becomes not simply against one villain or even a string of villains, but rather against a corporation. Lurking behind all these villains is OsCorp, and ultimately OsCorp is the Goliath Spider-Man is squared up against. When comparing and contrasting David and Goliath with “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” the thing readers of the Scriptural account will notice is that it’s the Lord, not David, who defeats Goliath. David is God’s instrument. This is the big missing part of the analogy.

Christian viewers may wish to consider how Hollywood rightly retains elements of David’s part in the story and cuts the Lord’s involvement out, both in this film and others using this same analogy. In many ways this is to be expected, as this particular film is largely secular. However, there is one additional interesting concept woven into the fabric of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” that may be worth thinking about.

Peter Parker as Spider-Man literally becomes the embodiment of hope for the people of New York City. He is merciful and kind, saving people in trouble and danger, and the people embrace him as the embodiment of hope. Keeping this in mind, remember that scripturally there are things about David that point forward to Jesus.

So in a similar way there may be things about Spider-Man that also point to Jesus. In the film, hope may be that thing. Jesus, for the Christian, is the embodiment of things like Truth and Life and in the book of Hebrews, Chapter 6, Jesus is described as Hope — “the Hope set before us,” Hope in the face of life’s troubles and dangers, and Hope in the face of death.

Is “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” an amazing super-hero movie? Overall this sequel is an improvement on the first film, but often it feels a little unbalanced, mostly because the action sequences have a video-game feel, and yet some of the dramatic scenes are unusually strong.

One that comes to mind is a touching scene between Garfield’s Peter Parker and Aunt May, played by Sally Field, where she shares her feelings about Peter’s parents, particularly his father. And while focusing on the romance between Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and Peter Parker was a good move, the film could have used that same sort of sharp focus overall. An example is in the number of villains: The film suffers from the classic super-hero-sequel trouble of having one too many villains. Two villains with OsCorp looming in the background would have been sufficient.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” would benefit from more editing and balance. Somewhere within its 2-hour-22-minutes running time there is a good, solid movie, maybe even one that is amazing.

The Rev. Ted Giese is associate pastor of Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina, Saskatchewan; a contributor to The Canadian Lutheran; and the movie reviewer for the “Issues, Etc.” radio program.

Posted May 12, 2014

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