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Most iterations of Peter Parker’s origin story contain two vital points: he gets bitten by a radioactive spider, and his uncle, Ben Parker, dies. Bruce Wayne sees his mother’s pearls hitting the pavement, Kal-El gets shot off of Krypton on a spaceship, Peter Parker loses Uncle Ben. Peter's dear Aunt May fills the void. That's simply the way it works in classic comic book stories.
The version of Peter Parker that we know and love from the Marvel Cinematic Universe definitely has an Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), but does he have an Uncle Ben? Did he ever? There had been no mention of the character at all when it came to the MCU Spidey’s backstory, and many fans thought that Spider-Man: No Way Home would finally put this piece of his origin in its proper place. Did he appear? Did he get mentioned? Does he exist in the MCU at all? Join us in asking the question… what’s the deal with Uncle Ben in the MCU?
***WARNING: From this point forward, there will be spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home. If you have not seen it yet, then sling a web and swing out of here. See ya, chump.***
The short answer is… we still don’t know. The new movie does mention a version of Uncle Ben, but the mention is not made by MCU Peter (Tom Holland). Tobey Maguire’s returning Peter Parker iteration mentions his own Uncle Ben (played in his movies by Cliff Robertson) and recounts his death when he, Holland, and Andrew Garfield’s Parker connect over respective loved ones that they’ve watched die.
When the mention is made, there is no reaction from Holland’s Peter. He doesn’t say, “Yes, I also lost my Uncle Ben.” He doesn’t even twitch at the name. Garfield’s Parker lost his Uncle Ben (played in his movies by Martin Sheen), but he talks about Gwen Stacy instead.
Holland’s Parker doesn’t yet know a Gwen Stacy, but we’d think that if he had also lost his Uncle he would have said something in this moment. Aunt May never mentions a Ben Parker that has died, and the entirety of the new movie passes without his name being mentioned by either Holland or Tomei.
What the movie does do is swap out Uncle Ben’s death with the death of Aunt May herself. Her death is a major moment in the movie, one that will almost certainly not be undone, and it galvanizes Holland’s Parker in a way that the death of Uncle Ben did for the other two Spider-Men. She even passes on a variation of the famous line, “With great power comes great responsibility” before dying, and this is the first time that Holland’s Peter has heard that. The line usually comes from Uncle Ben, but the MCU has flipped the script.
With the crown jewel of the MCU Spider-Man movies now released, we can see how the three "Home" movies directed by Jon Watts connect and form an extended Peter Parker origin story. By the end of No Way Home, Aunt May is dead. He’s heard the catchphrase. There’s no more Stark tech, he makes his own suit. He drinks from a “we are happy to serve you” cup and he is, in fact, happy to serve you.
The question remains: could there a Ben Parker in the MCU that has yet to reveal himself? An Uncle Ben who still has a pulse?
It is likely that the filmmakers didn’t give him a mention (or give Holland a reaction to play when hearing the name) because they are keeping the possibilities open. Ben Parker could still be alive in the MCU, and in Holland’s next outing, he could fill the family support vacuum left by Aunt May. In a further flipping of the mythos, Ben would be alive and supporting Peter. May would still be dead.
If he’s alive, then where the hell has he been? If he appears, we could be looking at an Uncle Ben that is quite far away from Cliff Robertson or Martin Sheen. The MCU Uncle Ben could have done the unthinkable: he ran out on both May and Peter.
Who would be dumb enough to willingly leave Marisa Tomei? He may have left, or she may have thrown him out. Whoever this guy is, we could end up seeing a Ben Parker who has no sense of responsibility at all, one who possibly has debts and enjoys “get rich quick” schemes. Maybe he never got over the deaths of Peter’s parents… who are also never mentioned in the MCU. Perhaps this Ben Parker doesn’t warrant a namedrop from May or Peter because he is not worthy of it.
This primes him to potentially re-enter and have one hell of a redemption arc, with Peter once again having to "cure some a**." In another interesting reversal, it could be Peter that ends up having to teach a delinquent Ben about responsibility. He learned all about it from May, the woman that Ben left behind.
All of that could happen, or, he could simply be dead as he usually is, and never brought up, ever. This would be odd, though. Ben Parker is a big part of Spidey’s world, and the MCU likes to take Spidey’s world and flip it around in ways that we haven’t seen before. A delinquent runaway/conman Uncle Ben is definitely something that we haven’t seen on screen before. Could Ben be a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who had to go deep undercover, and May and Peter have to pretend like he doesn’t exist to protect him? Sure, but... ehhhh. That doesn't give us a tingle.
Who would play the MCU Uncle Ben? If certain Seinfeld-crazed parts of the internet had their way, it would be Jason Alexander. If this happened, and a flashback to a happy Ben and May was shown (with Alexander and Tomei), then what a happy Festivus we’ll all have when Spider-Man 4: Something Something Home comes out. George Costanza ended up marrying Marisa Tomei in the end… only to willingly walk out of her life. Independent George killed Relationship George.
With no appearances or mentions come great opportunities. With no power comes great gambling debts? With Marisa Tomei comes Jason Alexander?
Or, as we said, he could just be as dead as he usually is and nobody talks about him. But where's the fun in that?
Spider-Man: No Way Home is in cinemas now. Have you heard about it?