standard superhero flicks and action movies tend to support a pseudo-patriotic feeling in its viewing audience. Right outdoes wrong, and the world moves back to a position of peace and quiet by the end of the film. In the meantime, overtures of swelling music, climatic action scenes with in-frame audiences (crowds of people cheering at the superhero's actions and responding as we should be responding in the theater), help us to relate to those actions on screen. And no doubt we leave the theater with a renewed sense of optimism about the order of the universe and about our fellow countrymen.
spiderman 3 took a slightly different approach, but ultimately failed to sustain its attempts to break out. Three villains left no time to formulate the "us vs. them" mentality - or good vs. evil. These villains were morally complex - not completely evil, and the sparks of humanity within them suggests that perhaps evil cannot always be easily defined. The sandman is trying to get money to save his daughter's sickness, the Topher Grace character has experienced personal humiliation and defeat. but in addition to all that Spiderman (our great hero) has killed (throughout the movie you here snippets of confused reactions, "but, spiderman doesn't KILL!?..." Yes, sometimes the superhero kills, and not only that but spiderman comes to see that he killed the wrong person as revenge for his uncle's death. So not only does a superhero kill but he also makings mistakes as he kills.
while crowds of americans watch spiderman overcome his numerous villains, there is no doubt an association to made between spiderman and our military. (in one shot even as spiderman flies to save the day he swings by an enormous american flag). the helpless civilians down below watch in awe and in terror as spiderman expunges the enemy from the city streets. but again, in this movie spiderman has to deal with an important issue: he killed the wrong person - as he sought revenge for his uncle's killing.
americans no doubt are coming to realize the great mistake that is IRAQ- and how does one cope with this? how does a country come to resolve here? While I do believe that spiderman is making great strides by downplaying the traditionally understood polarities of good and evil and perhaps even suggests that even evil is morally complex--- it also neutralizes the mistake we have made as a country - it is palatable, digestible and packaged with snazzy special effects. afterall, we are killing the wrong people in revenge for 9/11. and if spiderman makes mistakes... maybe we can understand that because we also made a mistake. but where do we go from here? spiderman learns that revenge is not always the answer. in the end, he lets the real killer of his uncle go free. as our congressmen and presidential hopefuls battle to decide where do we go from here, should we ask ourselves how a scarred superhero megapower might respond to the enormous catastrophes of the wrong war?