Warning! Contains SPOILERS for Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Spider-Man: Far From Home deals with Tony Stark’s legacy after Avengers: Endgame, but that means the MCU ends up failing Uncle Ben – and Peter Parker along with him. Building on the events of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far From Home further explores the relationship between Tony and Peter, only this time filtered through the lens of Iron Man’s death.
That’s great for Tony Stark’s character arc, and thus the MCU as a whole, because it’s another element that helps tie together the 22-movie Infinity Saga that makes up Phases 1-3. But it’s not so great in terms of telling a Spider-Man story, because it means Marvel is ignoring one of the defining aspects of his character, especially in Spider-Man: Far From Home: Uncle Ben.
When Marvel Studios got the rights to use Spider-Man, they wisely decided not to do another origin story. With two movies this century already dedicated to showing Uncle Ben’s death, it wasn’t something that needed to be shown again. And that itself is fine, but it now means they’ve wasted the impact Uncle Ben could and should have had on Peter Parker in the MCU.
When Marvel decided to introduce an already active Spider-Man into the MCU during Captain America: Civil War, it meant that we weren’t going to be seeing Uncle Ben’s death, nor Spider-Man’s origin spinning out from it. Everyone knows who Spider-Man is by now, of course, so it wasn’t really necessary. But they’ve gone even further by avoiding Uncle Ben as much as possible.
In both Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming, there are vague references to Uncle Ben and his absence from the lives of Peter and his Aunt May. Peter keeps his secret from May because he doesn’t want to risk hurting her, since she’s been so affected by Ben’s death, but that’s more implied than it is directly spelled out. Spider-Man: Homecoming did almost have a bigger reference towards Ben, with writer John Francis Daley wanting to include a scene where May gave Peter some of Ben’s old clothes before the Homecoming dance, but it was eventually scrapped.
That’s indicative of Marvel’s entire approach to Uncle Ben in the MCU. They’re content to not properly mention him and instead allow audiences to read what they want into it, which isn’t really a fitting substitute for having an actual character.
In Spider-Man: Far From Home, we do get a more direct reference to Uncle Ben, with Peter using a suitcase bearing the initials ‘BFP’, which stand for Benjamin Franklin Parker. At first, this seems like a nice little touch, with Peter using his uncle’s old suitcase for his summer abroad. But then as Spider-Man: Far From Home goes on, and we see how it uses that suitcase contrasted to how it pays respect to Tony Stark, and it isn’t just avoiding Uncle Ben, but actively undermining him too.
When Spider-Man is battling Mysterio, we hear the villain say “maybe you could’ve saved him” before then showing Peter a tombstone. At that moment, it has a real chance to fully introduce Uncle Ben in the MCU, except, of course, Mysterio is talking about Iron Man, with the tombstone reading ‘Anthony Stark’. That itself makes sense, given who it’s coming from and the illusion, but they could have done something more powerful with it. Imagine if the illusion washed away, but we’re then left with a tombstone that really does read ‘Benjamin Parker’. It’d be a means of continuing to address Tony’s legacy, but also serve as a double-whammy because you get Ben’s as well, and there’s no reason the MCU shouldn’t be able to do both.
Instead, all we have in Spider-Man: Far From Home is the suitcase, which is then destroyed and played off as a joke. Tony Stark is the MCU’s Uncle Ben, and the real deal is cast aside like that old piece of luggage. Aunt May, too, doesn’t seem to be thinking of the loss of her husband, or much of anything really. Her role has been reduced to, well, sort of dating Happy Hogan, and although that is a problem in its own right, it also fits with how the MCU is using (or rather, not using) Uncle Ben. It’s not just that he doesn’t matter but, based on what we see in Spider-Man: Far From Home, like he never even existed.
Just because the MCU isn’t showing Uncle Ben’s death and Peter’s subsequent transformation into Spider-Man shouldn’t mean that he isn’t important to the stories they’re telling. It’s true that fans don’t need to watch him die again, but there still needs to be a certain sense of weight to that death. With great power comes great responsibility. Marvel has the great power with this version of Spider-Man, but now they need to face up to the responsibility of utilizing such an integral part of his character.
In comic book story “The Night Gwen Stacy Died”, we see Peter lose another person that is close to him, and get to see how that death weighs on him. It’s an important plotline and another key stage of Peter’s development as Spider-Man, but it doesn’t replace the death of Uncle Ben in any way. Gwen’s death shows how Peter handles another loss while being a more mature Spider-Man, and because we’ve already seen what he went through with Uncle Ben it takes on even more weight. Marvel should be able to do something similar with Tony Stark. Because of the way they established Tony as Peter’s new father figure, his death had to have a major impact upon him in Spider-Man: Far From Home, but it’s done at the expense of anything to do with Uncle Ben. Instead, the MCU should have used Tony’s death to compound the sense of loss Peter feels over his uncle.
If we were able to see Peter trying to honor Uncle Ben’s memory and take forward his lessons, and then lose Tony and have to try and live up to him as well, it puts even more weight on him as a character. It gives him more depth, and a greater range of emotional beats to hit. Because Tony came into Peter’s life after he was Spider-Man, then it means his time as the web-slinger doesn’t have the same personal drive, no matter how much they’re trying to retroactively apply it. Spider-Man: Far From Home director Jon Watts is leaving the door open for something involving Uncle Ben in the future, but by the time of Spider-Man 3 it’ll be approaching a decade since he passed away, which means the MCU’s Spider-Man has largely missed the boat on one of his most important characters, and it’s hard to see that as anything but a failure of Uncle Ben and Peter Parker.
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