The upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming is smartly shying away from depicting anything to do with Peter’s origin story — especially his deceased Uncle Ben. Director Jon Watts hinted this week that even though Homecoming glosses over this part of Spider-Man’s backstory, the canon explanation of Ben Parker’s death in the MCU could be different from what fans might expect — and that’s a very good thing.
Watts told Uproxx this week, “I wanted to make sure that nothing like [Uncle Ben’s death] was dwelled on, because I did want to focus on just the excitement of what it would be like to be 15 and to have those powers.” This take on Peter Parker seemingly finds it easy to get over the death of Uncle Ben after less than two years’ time, perhaps because he’s assuming less guilt over what happened; what little he does feel is outweighed by his excitement at being a superhero.
Fans will remember during the character’s debut in Captain America: Civil War, Peter told Tony Stark, “When you can do the things I can, but then you don’t, and then the bad things happen, they happen because of you.” It was an obvious nod to whatever might’ve happened to Uncle Ben, but it doesn’t explicitly imply that Ben’s death was directly Peter’s fault at all. Did Peter feel guilty, or did he just want to live up to his uncle’s mantra?
When it comes to precisely what happened to Uncle Ben, Watts said, “I don’t want to say anything because we haven’t necessarily figured anything out.” But, the wider implication of Peter not having to dwell on Ben’s death could mean that Peter isn’t as directly responsible for it as he has been in previous versions of the character’s origin story.
In the 2002 Sam Raimi Spider-Man film starring Tobey Maguire, a wrestling promoter cheats Peter out of money so Peter ignores a burglar that steals the promoter’s money — that same burglar goes on to kill Uncle Ben in a carjacking. In The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), Peter again neglects to stop a robbery in progress, this time in a bodega late at night. That armed robber then shoots Uncle Ben dead in the street.
In every iteration of the character, it’s Peter’s selfishness and neglect that ultimately leads to Uncle Ben’s death, a dramatization of the “with great power comes great responsibility” ethos.
Watts said of Ben’s death in Homecoming, “It’s such a heavy story that it was nice to just not dwell on that.” Peter may have had his powers when Uncle Ben died, and if he had actively tried, maybe he could have saved him. But that doesn’t mean the MCU version of Peter Parker opened the door for a gun-toting mugger to shoot his uncle in the street.
That makes all the difference for Peter in Spider-Man: Homecoming, due out in theaters July 7.