It’s hard to not get excited for the newest incarnation of Spider-Man swinging into theaters this summer. It has been a long road to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the wall-crawler, despite the fact that he and Sony have been in the blockbuster business since 2002. Now that Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures have shook hands, an entire world of characters have potentially been unlocked for both sides to play with. When it comes to Peter Parker, there may not be two more identifiable male role models for the young hero, than Uncle Ben Parker and Tony “Iron Man” Stark.
We are two trailers into Spider-Man: Homecoming’s marketing campaign and we’ve yet to see a glimpse or a mention of Uncle Ben, the motivation behind Spider-Man’s origin. In the previous Spider-Man franchises, Cliff Robertson and Martin Sheen brought the warmth and wisdom of Ben Parker from the page to the screen. His death is what teaches Peter that “with great power comes great responsibility” and propels him into his career as a teenage superhero.
This summer’s upcoming blockbuster reboot of the series is directed by Jon Watts (Cop Car) and he decided to take a different approach in an effort to make this new series stand out from the other movies. Unlike the Raimi and Webb versions, he wanted to take the focus off of Uncle Ben, as he recently explained to ScreenRant:
“They talk about that, absolutely. It’s not… it’s not a huge thing that I want to go into too much, but there is an acknowledgment that there was a Ben…I mean, we’re implying he’s dead. We have not at all, again, gone into trying to change his origin story as far as I have been envisioning it. But we, just again, we thought that to keep this fun, light tone, as soon as they have to have their, like, ‘Let’s remember our dearly departed father figure’ – it derails that a little. And again, what we’re trying to tell is this sort of fun story of the kid who is doing all the wrong things for the right reasons. And once you do that, it stops becoming a sort of fun movie about a kid trying to be a kid. He’s mourning the loss of a parent.”
At first the direction seems sacrilegious to the mythology of Spider-Man, however on further inspection it’s totally in line with the character. If you watch a random episode of the old cartoon or pick up a random issue of the Spider-Man comic, you probably won’t find Parker in the fetal position crying over the death of Ben.
Despite the fact that it’s one of the most significant moments in his life, more times than not, Spider-Man will be seen swinging high in the sky throwing quips and zingers at psychopaths. Unlike the Amazing Spider-Man series, he simply is not a brooder. He won’t be found cursing the heavens or perched on a gargoyle like Batman. No, Peter Parker is relatively well-adjusted despite his personal losses and the move away from focusing on his tragedy will certainly benefit the new franchise.
For Homecoming, Sony and Watts had the resources of the MCU at their disposal and they borrowed their most valuable possession in Robert Downey Jr. Tony Stark has been heavily marketed which would presumably indicate to audiences that the Avenger will have a huge presence in the movie. While that may be the case, Tom Holland explained how the relationship between Parker and Stark will play out in the movie:
“I think we’re seeing the beginning of a sort of father-son relationship. Obviously Tony hasn’t got any kids, and Peter at this point hasn’t got any male figures in his life, so I think there’s a really lovely dynamic that Robert and I are forming. And, no, let me take that back. I think Robert is more like a big brother than he is a father figure because he picks on him and he is down on him quite a lot. But then there is that level of him caring about him like his own, and Robert has really brought something lovely to the character. It’s a very different side of Stark than you’ve ever seen before.”
It seems that despite the presence of Iron Man in the marketing, Tony Stark will only appear in “five or six scenes” in the movie according to co-producer Eric Carroll. That should be slightly surprising since he appears in at least five scenes in the most recent trailer. Hopefully his entire role in the movie hasn’t already been spoiled and the marketing is simple a misdirection on his participation in the film. Up until this point, it seems that Watts has been taking the right approach to rebooting the series under Marvel’s Stark-like guidance. Since all signals are pointing to another huge blockbuster for Spidey.
The pair having a father and son relationship has been theorized before, however the older brother-younger brother set-up seems to be an even more dynamic angle. In Captain America: Civil War we saw the personal investment Stark is making in the next generation of young minds during his early speech. One of the consistent challenges that Parker has had in the comics, and previous movies, is to make life-altering decisions without the guidance of a mentor or even a “Team Spider-Man.” In fact, it’s one of the conventions that defines the superhero and sets him apart from other comic characters, he’s literally a kid in over his head at every turn. The uncertainty of not knowing whether Stark will assist Parker, tease him, or scold him, should add a fresh element to the film and the Spider-Man mythology overall. We can’t wait to see how it all pans out.
Spider-Man: Homecoming opens on July 7th, 2017.