After witnessing the death of Uncle Ben in both Sam Raimi’s original 2002 Spider-Man film and Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man reboot in 2012, audiences will not be treated to a third rendition of the tragedy in this summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. Much like Superman and Batman, Your Friendly Neighborhood’s origin is one of the best known in all of comics. The murder of Peter Parker’s beloved Uncle Ben (something Peter himself could have stopped) was what spurred the high school student to use his powers for good, and he vowed to be a protector of New York City. The mantra “With great power comes great responsibility” is one of Spider-Man’s calling cards, highlighting the importance of being a selfless hero.
When Sony and Marvel Studios struck the deal that allowed the web head to become a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it meant a new actor would be stepping into the iconic role. Tom Holland is the third big screen Spider-Man in 15 years, so the filmmakers placed an onus on changing things up a bit to make Homecoming feel fresh. For the character’s MCU introduction in Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man’s beginnings were largely bypassed, and Homecoming follows suit. However, that doesn’t mean there will not be any reference to Peter’s past.
In August 2016, Screen Rant visited the set of Spider-Man: Homecoming in Atlanta, where we spoke with co-producer Eric Carroll. One of the topics of conversation was how Ben Parker fit into this new film, but it sounds like he will only be spoken about and not seen:
“They talk about that, absolutely. It’s not… it’s not a huge thing that I want to go into too much, but there is an acknowledgment that there was a Ben.”
As for why the creative team went in this direction, in addition to being repetitive, featuring Uncle Ben again would have run the risk of clashing with the tone director Jon Watts established:
“I mean, we’re implying he’s dead. We have not at all, again, gone into trying to change his origin story as far as I have been envisioning it. But we, just again, we thought that to keep this fun, light tone, as soon as they have to have their, like, ‘Let’s remember our dearly departed father figure’ – it derails that a little. And again, what we’re trying to tell is this sort of fun story of the kid who is doing all the wrong things for the right reasons. And once you do that, it stops becoming a sort of sun movie about a kid trying to be a kid. He’s mourning the loss of a parent.”
Dating back to the San Diego Comic-Con 2016 sizzle reel, many of the marketing materials for Homecoming have highlighted a light-hearted, breezy tone that looks to capture the spirit of being a young kid in a big city. Granted, Sam Raimi was able to balance the seriousness of Ben’s death with more colorfully campy moments, but that’s still a fine line to walk and can come across as jarring if executed poorly. Director Jon Watts and company had an advantage because just about everyone knows what happened to Peter before he truly became the Spider-Man, so there was no real need to rehash this particular plot point. Making reference to what happened (like in Civil War) should get the job done.
It’s encouraging that Sony and Marvel are committed to keeping the Homecoming series different, which is also illustrated through their villain selections. The Amazing Spider-Man duology was heavily criticized for simply repeating many of the similar beats of the original trilogy without bringing much new to the table, so this approach is definitely appreciated. Holland would like to do battle against the likes of Venom and Doc Ock at some point, but for now, fans will be treated to things they haven’t seen before.