Spider-Man 3

The question surrounding what demons truly lie within one’s soul has been a topic of discussion in literature for many hundreds of years. Books like Heart of Darkness and films like Apocalypse Now have surveyed the topic, and with the third installation of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film series, the topic is brought up once again. Please be warned, this article contains spoilers.

Peter Parker

The film follows four characters who are tormented by demons. The first, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), undergoes a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde transformation upon receiving the alien symbiote which brings out his more aggressive and violent urges. For Parker, this desire for power and vengeance is primal and leads him to commit uncharacteristic acts at the expense of others in the film. Though this internal conflict seems to be resolved three quarters of the way through the film when he casts off the symbiote, an overarching inner conflict that has plagued Parker since the first film is not resolved until the last moments of the film.

Harry Osborne / New Goblin

The second character to grapple with his own evil is Harry Osborne, played by James Franco. Long tormented in both comics and films, Harry is haunted by the ghost of his insane father, the original Green Goblin. This madness drives him to antagonize Peter Parker/Spider-Man and pushes Peter further over the edge. Though Harry’s true nature eventually shines through, it comes at a high cost to him and his friends.

Eddie Brock / Venom

The third character is Eddie Brock, played by Topher Grace. Known famously from the comics as Venom, similarly in the film he becomes bound to the symbiote by a mutual hatred of Spider-Man and his own lust for power and success. Like all antagonistic foils, however, Brock meets a fitting outcome once all the other characters conquer their own demons.

Flint Marko / Sandman

In what is perhaps the most generous character remediation in these films, Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church) is depicted as a father trying to secure money by any means possible to provide life-saving medical treatment for his daughter. Though he is revealed to be the true killer of Peter’s Uncle Ben, he is apologetic, and regrets his past even though he feels justified in his means.

Spider-Man

Though Peter casts off the Venom symbiote, rejecting it and the seductive emotions and power that came with it, he is still troubled by the death of his uncle and by feelings of remorse, sorrow, and powerlessness over it. At the end of the film, with both friends and foes dead in the wake of the battle, Peter comes face to face with Flint Marko once again. Marko explains that he regrets that things had come this far, and wished only to save his daughter. Parker, taking a cue from his uncle’s legacy, forgives the criminal and allows him to leave the scene to find his way.

This act releases Peter from the heartache he experienced since the first film and demonstrates that unlike similar characters, his capacity to forgive is a powerful trait not born of his genetic mutation. Conversely, Batman is a character driven by vengeance and hatred. Though bound not to kill and guided by a strict code of ethics, Batman is still haunted by the traumatic act that created him. In this forgiveness, Parker establishes that he is a bigger man, able to continue striving for justice without being blinded by a need for retribution.

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