When we first meet Tom Holland’s Peter Parker in Captain America: Civil War, he’s already been bitten by a radioactive spider and is actively working as Spider-Man. In particular, while the time is never shown, it is referenced and confirmed that Peter’s uncle, Ben Parker, has already died as well.
As a result, many Marvel fans and comic book readers jumped into Holland’s first Spider-Man trilogy thinking he had already become the legendary web-slinger they knew from the comics. Spider-Man: No Way Home, however, reveals that Marvel and Sony have been telling a new version of Peter Parker’s origin story, one that began in Civil War and reaches its climax in the second half of No Way. home.
In this retelling, it’s Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May who ultimately plays the biggest role in her nephew’s journey to becoming the Spider-Man comic book fans have loved for decades. but how does that change this classic origin story? And is it for better or for worse? let’s dive in.
major spider-man: spoilers with no way home ahead.
great power, great responsibility
at the end of the second act of spider-man: no way home, peter suffers a devastating loss: the death of his aunt at the hands of the green goblin (willem dafoe). Understandably, her death sends Peter into an emotional tailspin that sees him nearly kill Dafoe’s Norman Osborn in retaliation; luckily he was stopped by tobey maguire’s peter parker).
But before you die, you can impart some important words of wisdom to your nephew. She tells him that she doesn’t regret trying to help Norman and the other multiversal villains in the film, and urges him to maintain empathy for him, even with his most dangerous and evil foes. “With great power, must also come great responsibility,” she tells May, moments before collapsing to the ground.
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It’s a heartbreaking scene, one that largely informs peter’s arc throughout the rest of the film: he decides to “cure” the villains of no way home in honor of may, and helps him bond with the maguire spider men and andrew garfield. It’s also the moment that cements Tomei’s Aunt May as the figure whose death teaches Holland’s Peter Parker, once and for all, about the responsibility he must bear as a superhero, as well as the sacrifices he must make to remain one. .
In other words, by no means does the household give Aunt May the same role in the MCU that Uncle Ben traditionally played in both the comics and Sony’s previous Spider-Man movie franchises.
peter parker’s origin story, remixed
On its own, May’s death scene is extremely effective. Not only do Tom Holland and Marisa Tomei play all the emotions in the scene beautifully, but May’s death also benefits from something that Uncle Ben’s scenes in previous Spider-Man movies haven’t had: time.
Given the role his death often plays in Peter’s origin story, Uncle Ben always has to die in the first half of any Spider-Man movie he appears in. The Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield movies can’t spend as much time building Uncle Ben and Peter’s bond, for example, because Ben has to die quickly to complete Peter’s transformation into Spider-Man.
By introducing Holland’s Peter Parker after his spider bite and Uncle Ben’s death, Marvel and Sony earned the opportunity to really explore the relationship between him and the person whose death ultimately marks him most.
in this case, it’s marisa tomei’s aunt may, whose death in no way hits harder than any of uncle ben’s death scenes in previous spider-man movies precisely because of the amount of time we’ve had to invest in her and peter’s relationship. Homecoming, Far From Home, and No Way Home May’s gradual and subtle positioning as Peter’s moral center also makes her delivery of the line “with great power…” feel like an organic, satisfying, and cathartic moment when arrives.
The Reverse Analysis: Marvel fans will no doubt have a number of different opinions about how No Road Home serves as the surprise conclusion to an origin story they probably didn’t even know they were watching. Knowing that Holland’s Peter Parker isn’t really Spider-Man until the end of No Way Home doesn’t really erase some of the issues with the way the character behaves on Homecoming and Far From Home as well.
But after two movies in which Holland’s Spider-Man essentially avoids facing dire consequences for his many reckless actions, it’s nice to see that No Way Home finally forces him to understand the weight of his decisions. Aunt May’s death is central to that aspect of the film and it works surprisingly well.
By making Tomei’s aunt Uncle Ben the figure of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, Marvel and Sony have pulled off one of their most startlingly subversive and emotionally effective twists to date. Now, all that remains to be seen is how the two studios plan to continue to remix established spider-man lore in their future collaborations.
spider-man: no way home is playing in theaters now.