Oedipus Rex and Spiderman 2 bring forward the concept of a tragic hero through the characters Oedipus and Dr. Octavius. Spiderman 2, based of the original comic books by Stan Lee and directed by Sam Raimi, was released in 2004 and became very popular raising over 200 million dollars box-office worldwide. Similarly, Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex was considered a masterpiece by the Greek audience. The traditional tragic hero, as constructed by Aristotle was an individual whose fatal flaw also known as hamartia, ultimately causes catastrophic tragedy leading to the hero’s death soon after his/her realisation of fate as a result of their own actions. While Oedipus is the epitome of the image this traditional tragic hero, Octavius is the representation of a more modern tragic hero. There are differences between Oedipus Rex and Spiderman 2 in regards to the power of fate, the belief in gods, and socio-cultural context but as a whole, their similarities far exceed their differences.
The audience is introduced to Dr. Octavius as an intelligent and kind-hearted man. He was well admired for his work on nuclear fusion. In a conversation with Peter Parker, he explains that ‘intelligence is not a privilege, but instead a gift, to be used for the good of mankind’. Dr. Octavius supports his claim explaining how his work would be able to provide ‘safe and renewable energy’ as well as cheap electricity for the whole world. Through his lecturing, but compassionate tone as well as morally righteous ambitions, the audience is compelled to view Dr. Octavius through esteeming eyes as he positions himself a man who acts for the good of others. Correspondingly, Oedipus initially exemplifies himself as a noble protagonist. Upon entering Thebes, Oedipus was able to solve the Sphinx’s riddle and free Thebes from its terror. Oedipus was welcomed into the hands of the people where he was given the position of King of Thebes and praised as their ‘master and greatest power’ (p.2). Being a man of swift action with excellent insight and confidence, Oedipus was great King who, similarly to Dr. Octavius, anticipates and acts for the needs of others.
Dr. Octavius’ confidence, and high ego was a part of his fatal flaw. While his intelligence and perseverance enabled him to achieve break-throughs in fusion research, he was unable to sustain the reaction that he had initiated. It was this same over-confidence, ego and perseverance that blinded him from seeing his miscalculations and the immaturity of fusion technology. However, his most significant fatal flaw was his development of the four artificially intelligent mechanical arms. With the damage to the inhibitor chip responsible for protecting his higher brain function, the arms took over a large part of his nervous system. These voices jumpstarted many of Dr. Octavius’ criminal undertakings, with the greatest being the larger rebuild of the fusion machine. In many scenes, Dr. Octavius almost seems powerless against the will of the arms. This can be viewed as a connection to the ‘power of fate’ found in Oedipus Rex. Unlike Oedipus, where the idea of fate is omnipotent, towards the end Dr. Octavius regains control of the mechanical arms and utilised them to drown his second machine at the cost of his own life. In this scene, the audience is reminded of the Doctor they witnessed initially and thus, his death elicits sympathy from the audience as he suffers a death that he may have not deserved.
Oedipus’ tragic flaw lay in his hubris, inability to be pragmatic, his temper, and obsession with truth and justice. Fate and free will are two opposing ideas that Sophocles seamlessly blends into the play. Oedipus is presented with a series of choices throughout the play, but his arrogant and stubborn nature push him to impulsively make the wrong decisions. Sophocles is able to drive this message about the pitfalls of human arrogance through Oedipus' fatal flaws and the use of metaphorical and