Spider-Man Comes Alive in New Ways, Coupling Grace With Good Works

The latest Spider-Man film, in theaters now, focuses on new characters that take power and responsibility to new dimensions.

In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Miles Morales (center) is joined by “spider-people” from alternate universes including Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), and Spider-Man Noir (Nicholas Cage).

By Aaron Welty Published on December 17, 2018

The oft-quoted phrase “with great power comes great responsibility” is a legacy of the late Stan Lee, who passed away on November 12. In 1962, Lee and Marvel comics artist Steve Ditko created a character who became a cultural icon: Spider-Man.

That character takes on new dimensions in Sony’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which debuted at the top of the box office this past weekend. Unlike other Spider-Man films to grace the silver screen since 2002, this one embraces animation. It’s a risk the film is better for, as it feels like a comic book come to life.

Instead of focusing on Peter Parker (whose cameo of sorts is voiced by Chris Pine), audiences meet a new wall-crawler: Miles Morales (Shameik Moore). The son of an African-American father and Puerto Rican mother, he’s trying to navigate adolescence and high school in Brooklyn, New York City. Note: this review contains some minor spoilers.

 


Stan Lee’s Legacy Lives On

Similar to Peter, Miles comes in contact with an altered arachnid. Scared of his new abilities, Miles freezes in a moment of crisis and his hero dies. Peter’s death leaves Miles to assume his mantle.

It’s here that the story goes where no other Spider-Man film has gone before: other dimensions. A long-time villain accesses other worlds in an attempt to restore the family he lost. Along the way, Miles meets “spider-people” from parallel earths who come together to save their worlds.

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A recent character creation from Marvel Comics, Miles Morales continues the legacy left by the great Stan Lee. He created characters that feel like actual people, individuals who struggle and don’t have it all figured out.

We identify with his characters, who wrestle with challenges and choices we’re thankful to watch and learn from.

Heroic Mantles and Holy Musings

All of these spider-heroes suffer loss that catalyzes who they become. They accept the power manifest in them and the responsibility of it. In doing so, their lives echo the words of Paul. They understand how “suffering produces perseverance, which leads to character” (Romans 5).

The unpopular choices these characters make are what forge them. Miles and Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) both suffer great loss as teens. Those losses lead to a heroic mantle that requires keeping secret identities from fathers in law enforcement. 

Because the power of grace is great, the responsibility is also great: to be active agents for good around the globe.

That is the path they walk as heroes, redeeming loss instead of regressing from it. Woven through all these spider-stories is a biblical echo of saving grace and doing good. The Spider-verse speaks of it as “great power” and “great responsibility.”

In Ephesians 2, this manifests though Paul’s words: “for it is by grace we are saved, through faith it is the gift of God so that no one can boast.”

Power, Responsibility, and Advent

There is great power in the grace shown on Calvary’s cross, but also a responsibility to do good as a result.

Because the power of grace is great, the responsibility is also great: to be active agents of good around the globe. Great power can elevate us to become who we wish to be, but great responsibility elevates us to embrace who Christ wants us to be: like Him.

The ultimate incarnation of “with great power comes great responsibility” came on the scene 2,000 years ago. Billions celebrate His birth this month. Could it be that this new Spider-Man story can serve as a reminder of the heroic mantle that has been passed to us?

 

Rated PG for action sequences and mild language, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is currently in theatres. Watch below to learn about the legacy of comics legend Stan Lee (1922-2018). Explore The Stream’s complete films coverage, and sign up to receive top stories every week.

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