The classic Marvel character Uncle Ben has been one of the cornerstones of the Spider-Man story for decades, tracing all the way back to early comic lines establishing the stories of Peter Parker. Ben has been seen in both Sam Raimi and Marc Webb's Spider-Man films, and just like the comics, has been a mentor for Peter until his tragic death.
With Spider-Man: No Way Home now officially wrapping up Tom Holland's trilogy of Spider-Man movies in the MCU, it appears as though Marvel Studios wanted to take a different approach when it came to Ben, as he isn't seen in any of the three films.
The parental figure for Holland's Peter has been his Aunt May, portrayed by Marisa Tomei. The MCU's version of May has boasted many of the qualities that Uncle Ben had in Raimi and Webb's films, always encouraging Peter and offering bits of wisdom on how to make himself better.
In No Way Home, May was tragically killed at the hands of Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin. In her last moments, she finally delivered the "great power, great responsibility" line that is famously associated with Uncle Ben and Peter.
Since Holland and Tomei made their debuts in Civil War, many fans have wondered why the MCU didn't include Uncle Ben in their family. The mystery of what happened to Ben has been present ever since 2016, but recently, the writers of No Way Home revealed why they chose the path they did for the character.
Spider-Man: No Way Home's Uncle Ben Reference Explained
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Spider-Man: No Way Home screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers talked about their decision to not include Uncle Ben in the MCU.
McKenna mentioned that they have heard confused fans ask questions about why Uncle Ben hasn't been in the MCU, and why he hasn't even been discussed between Peter and May. The writer stated that they went through many scenarios when writing the script, but ultimately came back to May being Peter's "mentor:"
"Some people [ask], 'Oh, did Uncle Ben die? Was he guilty [of Ben’s death]? Are we losing that gravitas as part of that character?' I think that’s something we’ve always discussed. 'What is the deal with his Uncle Ben? Is it a total parity — is it one to one? Is it absolutely the same way?' We started thinking, 'Well maybe it’s not. Maybe his mentor is May and she’s instilled this thing in him.'"
McKenna also praised the creators of Captain America: Civil War for not "rehashing the origin story" and including an already semi-established Spider-Man into the film:
"[screenwriters Christopher] Markus and [Stephen] McFeely and the Russos were so smart with Civil War to side step rehashing the origin story. You just leap over it, but it leaves so many questions and gaps."
The writer also went on to quote one of the many pieces of wisdom that the MCU has incorporated into the franchise over the past decade, speaking about how May has been the one to "instill" a "moral guide" in him instead of Uncle Ben:
"He doesn’t say, 'With great power comes great responsibility,' but he says something to that effect in Civil War, which is, 'When you can do the things that I can do and you don’t do anything, then you are responsible.' It’s that same sentiment that I think has been instilled in him from May, but you start realizing that May really is the moral guide of his life and he’s had a father-figure."
The other half of the writing duo, Sommers, talked about how this iteration of Spider-Man's story "started at a different place" than with Uncle Ben, and that there originally wasn't a "natural place" for someone to tell Peter the "great power, great responsibility" line:
"I don’t think there was much impetus to put it into the other two movies. This iteration of Spider-Man didn’t start by telling the story of losing Uncle Ben. We started at a different place with Peter. Those words are so tied to Uncle Ben, there didn’t seem to be a natural place for it. We weren’t even thinking necessarily, 'Oh, we have to do it in this one.'”
Sommers then touched on two of the biggest scenes in Spider-Man: No Way Home - where the three Peter Parkers meet for the first time on the rooftop of the school and the heartbreaking scene where May is killed:
"As the story started to develop, and as we got to the scene with May, we realized, 'This is going to be Peter’s Uncle Ben,' and the words are going to come out. For the scene on the rooftop, where the three Peters meet, we felt pretty strongly that we need something to really, finally crystalize it for these three guys that they are the same, that they are brothers. And that they are bound in a cosmic way by something and having them share those words in common seemed like the thing to do."
Aunt May's Impact
Due to the absence of Peter's parents, Aunt May and Uncle Ben have really been the only role models and figures that Peter has been able to look up to. With the MCU, it seems that Peter has only ever had May, which makes her death in No Way Home much more impactful and meaningful to Peter's future.
Fans eagerly waited for two films to hear the famous line of dialogue that Uncle Ben usually says, and many people were even disappointed that it hadn't been said for so long. However, with May imparting that wisdom unto Peter in her final moments immediately before seeing him talk to Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield's Spider-Men to help him cope and to prove that they are all connected made it as impactful as it could have been.
Even though May's final conversation with Peter was meaningful, many viewers still wish that Uncle Ben could have at least been mentioned more between the two characters. It hasn't been revealed what happened to him, and when Peter visits May's grave at the end of the movie, she isn't buried beside Ben. This alludes to Ben either still being alive, but not a part of their lives, or he and May had grown apart before he died.
Whatever the case, it is welcoming to hear the writers talk about what went through their heads when developing the script for the movie, specifically one of the most important scenes.