Spider-Man has united us before, and we need him to do it again.
Almost 20 years ago, in Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man," the hero is on the ropes in a battle with Green Goblin — and then the people of New York rescue Spidey for a change.
As they come to his defense, one New Yorker yells out to the villain, “You mess with Spidey, you mess with New York.” Another says, “You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.”
That Spider-Man film hit theaters in May 2002, just months after the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001. It was no accident that one of the biggest movies of that year had an inspiring moment in a time of fear and division.
More Marvel coverage from NBCLX
Now, the new "Spider-Man: No Way Home" is set to bring in the biggest audience since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. And we need it to deliver moments like these, to remind us that dark times should bring us together, not drive us apart.
“It's something that we've all needed,” said JuJu Green, better known as @straw_hat_goofy by his 2.5 million followers on TikTok. “You know, being in the pandemic ... being isolated from so many fans, the thing that Marvel fans, or just superhero movie fans need, is ... that human interaction.”
Green has already seen "No Way Home" twice, including at the premiere in Hollywood. He told NBCLX this movie delivers some culturally resonant moments and a sense of community at a very important time.
Spider-Man was always meant to be a relatable, human hero. Or as Miles Morales put it in "Into the Spiderverse": “Anyone can wear the mask. ... You could wear the mask. If you didn’t know that before, I hope you do now.”
And before you tell me I’m reading too much into a movie, I was lucky enough to get to interview Stan Lee, the creator of the character, before he died.
Among the things we talked about is how Spider-Man was one of the first superheroes to break the mold of the infallible champion. When the character burst on the scene in the '60s, he wasn’t a billionaire detective or an overpowered alien. He was a regular kid juggling neighborhood heroism with homework, crushes, friends and jobs.
He lives in New York City, not Gotham, Metropolis or any other made up place, but in the real world, with you and me. That’s by design.
Peter Parker is a scientist and a journalist, two professions that used to be so respected that even children paying 12 cents for a comic book in 1966 knew their value.
Over the years Spider-Man has evolved. Now there’s Spider-Gwen the female version of the hero, Miles Morales, the Afro-Latino Spider-Man, Miguel O’Hara, the Mexican-Irish Spider-Man.
The upcoming Marvel movie opens the door for infinite universes full of different Spider-Men, Spider-Women, even Spider-Pigs.
And yet there are people out there up in arms that Spider-Man, the character created to be any one of us, is starting to look a little different.
And that says more about the people than it does about Spider-Man.
With great power comes great responsibility. It’s a simple yet powerful phrase, yet so many of us who’ve known it since we were kids, have forgotten the second part, because we’re so focused on the first. We’ve become so consumed with what we can do that it’s blinded us to what we should do, not for ourselves, but to protect our loved ones and our neighborhoods.
"Spider-Man: No Way Home" reminds us.
“Obviously there are people who just go to the movies to have a good time,” JuJu said. “But there are ... millions of us who go to these movies because Spider-Man is like an old friend, Peter Parker. I do believe that 'Spider-Man: No Way Home' has the power to just bring us all together.”
"Spider-Man: No Way Home" has great power, drawing millions to the big screens across the country. It also has great responsibility in delivering something meaningful, to unite us even if it’s only for a moment.
“After everything we've been through, being in the pandemic, we need a chance to escape," Juju continued. "And Marvel, as Stan Lee said, is a chance to escape, go to a different world with a character that we love with the story that we can all relate to. And I think people underestimate the power of film in that way.”