July 02, 2019

Vocation, responsibility, and 'Spider-Man: Far From Home'

By Tim Hruszkewycz *
Spiderman: Far From Home. Credit: Marvel
Spiderman: Far From Home. Credit: Marvel

There are lots of things I want to do that I’m just not allowed to do anymore. I am several seasons behind on my superhero shows. I have been reading the fifth “Dark Tower” book for about three years. I still haven’t beaten “Super Mario Sunshine” from 2002. My fun-list is getting a bit out of control. But as a Catholic father, I’m continually reminded that I have responsibilities, primarily to my wife and children.

“Spider-Man: Far From Home” acts not only as a fun epilogue to Marvel’s Infinity Saga, but also is a poignant reminder about the importance of taking a vocation seriously.

Besides being an intense film fan, I have also been seriously reading comics for as long as I can remember. The collection in the basement has overtaken a whole room. Considering that this column is named “True Believers,” you can imagine that I’ve “Made Mine Marvel.” As much as I adore “Daredevil” and his attachment to angsty Catholicism, “Spider-Man” has always been the book that I’ve grafted onto. My daughter has gained a similar appreciation for the character.

With the release of eight separate “Spider-Man” films, not including his appearance in other movies, cartoons, and video games, people have now latched onto the mantra Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben bequeathed his nephew -- “With great power, there must also come -- great responsibility!”

These are actually the words of the late Stan Lee posing as the narrator to vocalize this on the last page of Amazing Fantasy # 15. But, still we get that these words act as the theme of the story.

Sam Raimi’s original film trilogy returned often to these words, no more so than in “Spider-Man 2”, where Peter chose to abandon his superhero persona in an attempt to lead a normal life.
    
“Far From Home”, continuing the tradition of its predecessor “Homecoming”, distances itself from saying the actual words. Kevin Feige and the people at Marvel enjoy when characters dance around their catchphrases.

But “Far From Home” understands the words that Stan Lee built his character around.

Like “Spider-Man 2” and its loose adaptation of the comics’ storyline, “Spider-Man: No More!”, Peter in “Far From Home” feels like he deserves something better. He helped save the world. Without trying to spoil “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” too much, Peter, for all intents and purposes, died. He came back and helped save the world. This makes sense in the world of comic books.

Thinking himself a “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man,” Peter felt like he achieved his quest. He stopped the bad guys and helped out the people he cared for. But I’d like to admit, for a guy who has read every Spider-Man comic, I rarely put together the connection between Lee’s foundation for his character and a tie to vocations.

Spider-Man in “Far From Home” is always Spider-Man. He doesn’t do anything as dramatic as throw his costume in the trash while renouncing his vocation. It’s just that he wants to take control of his vocation. He wants Spider-Man to be whatever he, Peter Parker, chooses him to be. From a secular perspective, this means taking a vacation from Spider-Man and hoping that there won’t be problems. But from a Catholic perspective, this means listening to one’s vocation and to God’s plan.

While I rarely have notes from God or Tony Stark telling me what to do, there are so many times in my faith that I just want my faith to be one thing. I often feel like I have a handle on what my faith life and my vocation as a father. I often think that I know best what being a Catholic dad entails. When I choose to fight against what God wants me to do, that’s when I get frustrated.

While I would love to have a vocation that involves web-swinging around the city, or in “Far From Home’s” case, the world, I also know that there are things that I should be doing for my family. I should continue to strive for holiness and bringing my children deeper into the faith. I should continue to put on the outfit, even when I really don’t want to.

I can’t claim to have a vacation from my vocation.

As a film, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is a great movie. I wish that the film avoided some minor language. Some of the scenes in the film can be quite scary. The film is appropriately rated PG-13, for these reasons. But considering that the Avengers just dealt with time travel and potential alternate universes, it is refreshing to see a character like Peter Parker, a regular guy, having to deal with things that are outside of his control or choices.

The “Spider-Man” movies in the MCU are genuinely fun. I laughed a lot at this one. I lost myself in the action and in the characters. But most refreshing is that I emotionally attached to the film as a whole. Jon Watts and his team made a film that not only understands the core concepts of Spider-Man, but they did so without using its theme like a sledgehammer.

“Spider-Man: Far From Home” never outright gets religious, as the first film by Sam Raimi did. I love that Aunt May was a prayerful woman in Sam Raimi’s trilogy. But “Far From Home” still has a powerful message about stepping out of our comfort zone and listening to God’s plan. Just because the movie never says, “God’s plan”, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Peter’s vocation may entail stepping up to bigger and badder threats when the world needs him.  My vocation doesn’t mean fighting elemental monsters.  But it does mean that I have to grow through the problems that I don’t want to deal with, and refuse to let God go to voicemail.

Tim Hruszkewycz is a high school English and film teacher at Villa Madonna Academy in Villa Hills, KY. He also co-hosts the Literally Anything podcast at literallyanything.net and blogs about film

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.