Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures found themselves with the smash-hit movie of 2021 in Spider-Man: No Way Home, the MCU's last entry of the year. Featuring everything from heartbreaking deaths (RIP Aunt May) to internet-breaking character introductions (see Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire), the threequel had everything a Marvel fan could ever ask for.
Tom Holland's Peter Parker had already been through plenty of emotional moments in his MCU tenure, experiencing the lows in moments like Tony Stark's death and the terrors of having his identity revealed to the world. However, nothing hurt him the way he was broken when Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin murdered Peter's last family member in cold blood.
Even for a movie that ended with Peter Parker having to restart his entire life, which was sad in itself, Aunt May's death came as the emotional gut-punch right before the third act got underway. In a recent chat with the film's screenwriters, fans found out that this particular scene went through numerous variations and changes before they settled on the end result.
No Way Home Writer's on May's Death Scene
In an interview on the Gold Derby YouTube channel, Spider-Man: No Way Home writer Erik Sommers explained how he and co-writer Chris McKenna worked out the scene featuring Aunt May's death.
When asked how hard it was to write that scene, Sommers touched on how they wanted to bring "the emotion of it" into play while making sure to get it "just right."
This included having May give the "great power...great responsibility" line, which they didn't want to "just use for its own sake." That impactful moment had to fit in with the death and everything else happening in the scene, especially coming right after such an intense fight between Peter and the Green Goblin:
"It was. It was for a few reasons. One was of course just the emotion of it, and you want to do a death and you want to do something like that, you don’t want it to be sad but you don’t want it to be maudlin or too much, and so we wanted to get the emotion just right. Also, we had decided at some point in the process that that was a scene where she was gonna say ‘with great power’ and, you know, ‘there must also come great responsibility,’ and that’s such a loaded term and that’s one that we had not used thus far. And we didn’t want to just use it for its own sake. When we finally decided that this was the time and this is the place, then it was also a matter of ‘how do we do the emotion of the death and how do we get this line out in a way that fits in with everything.’ And so there were some technical, just technically how to organize the scene and modulate the tone and the build and the flow and all those things. So it was tricky."
In the early stages of production, there was an idea to have the scene take place in an ambulance, but that turned out to be impractical to shoot due to difficulties with COVID-19. This forced the team to "move the scene physically to another place" while making sure the other parts of the scene still stayed intact.
In the end, Sommers and the team were happy that scene turned out the way it did, especially with the emotions it brought out of fans. May's death seemed to resonate with viewers since it was "so important to Peter's story and... journey," making it evident that Sommers and the movie's team did the scene the right way:
"It was also tricky production-wise because we had different ideas for where the scene could take place, but because of COVID, we had one idea that it was going to be inside an ambulance and we had a whole version that was constructed around that, but that was not practical for shooting during COVID. So then that’s the kind of thing that happened, so then we had to move the scene physically to another place while trying to keep all the other elements working and we had to make adjustments. That’s the kind of thing that happens in production, and so it was, but I’m glad that it turned out the way it did and that people, I want to say that people started crying. I’m not glad that people started crying, but I’m glad it affected people the way we wanted, that it resonated because it’s so important to Peter’s story and to his journey. So I’m glad that people feel that it worked.
May's Death Having the Right Impact on Spidey Story
For a movie that has dozens of memorable scenes and moments, Aunt May's death is one that resonates with viewers even weeks after No Way Home's debut. This almost seems like a given considering May gave Peter the all too familiar "great power...great responsibility" speech moments before Spidey lost his last living relative.
In the film's final cut, this last interaction between Peter and May took place in the rubble on the first floor of Happy's apartment building after Peter's duel with Norman Osborn. As May fought to stay alive for her nephew in the aftermath of that fight, Peter didn't even have a chance to get her the medical attention she needed before she met her end.
Not having the scene take place in an ambulance helped focus the moment even more on the aunt and her nephew in their last moments together. Although there would have been plenty of depth to the moment on the way to the hospital, the final results made May's fate feel much more definitive, especially with her fighting for so long to be there for Peter.
As is the case with any blockbuster movie, moments like this seem to go through various changes before the final results premiere in theaters. It seems only right that this happened for May's death since it was the first time any live-action Spidey movie took that direction, especially with how big of a turning point it was for the story as a whole.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is now playing in theaters worldwide.