Warning: Multiple Spoilers Lie Ahead!
Is it possible to reboot a superhero franchise to the point where the main character is stripped of all the motivation and backstory that immortalized the comic?
In an ambition to avoid a repeat of past franchise mistakes, Director Jon Watts aims to bring fans an adaptation of Spider-Man that eschews the web-head’s origin story and swings straight into the action.
Yet Homecoming’s most radical and damaging change has to be the MCU’s ditching of Ben Parker along with its casual treatment of Peter’s secret identity.
With Great Power…
Fair enough, after 5 movies and 2 reboots we all know the who, what, where and when of the Spider-Man lore. But that doesn’t justify ripping out the ‘why’.
Without Ben Parker’s death, Spider-Man never learns his first and greatest lesson, the driving motivation for everything he does; that ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’
Without this key philosophy we have an MCU Peter Parker that seems more focused on the fame and glory of being Spider-Man, rather than his moral responsibility to be Spider-Man.
Ben’s death is the core of every iteration of Peter Parker. It’s why a heroic Spider-Man exists and, in the best adaptations, it brings his story full circle.
His secret identity as Spider-Man is as important to Peter as Ben’s words of wisdom. Yet by the end of Homecoming both Vulture and Shocker know that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Oh, and Aunt May just casually discovers his secret too.
As kaptainkristian’s YouTube video essay argues, it’s Peter’s struggle to maintain the balance between civilian and superhero life that makes him a relatable, human character. Too much time in costume damages his personal relationships, while too much time out of costume endangers New York.
Yes, Homecoming has Peter juggling school life with saving the city. But by the end of the movie this struggle feels redundant if his identity can be revealed so casually.
All Suit, No Soul
Homecoming received a ‘fresh’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it was saturated with cash on opening weekend, and the toys are flying off the shelves. Yet it’s still a Spider-Man movie that doesn’t do the source material justice.
Maybe one of the proposed sequels will re-inject the required backstory into the character, but until then we’re left with a Spider-Man that feels more Tony Stark than Ben Parker.
Flashy gadgets and super-powered suits with personalized AI can’t make up for lack of motivation and backstory.
The MCU doesn’t have to rehash a third iteration of Uncle Ben’s death. It just needs to let us know that his influence is there in the background, driving Peter through every super-powered struggle.