THE PROBLEM WITH SPIDER-MAN IN THE MCUApril 15, 2020
In Captain America: Civil War, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) introduces us to its version of Spider-Man. The friendly neighborhood web-slinger immediately steals every scene he is in.
Tom Holland brings the nerdy awkwardness of Peter Parker and the quippy confidence of Spider-Man together in a blend that is a delight to behold.
His subsequent appearances in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home just keep on cementing his status as one of the best on-screen versions of Spider-Man.
However, the MCU keeps making a few big mistakes with this Spider-Man.
SPIDER-MAN AND THE IRON MAN CONNECTION IN THE MCU
In Civil War, Peter joins the fight after Tony Stark asks him to help.
With the established MCU continuity and their relationship in the comics, this makes perfect sense.
However, that connection is sufficient as his introduction. Instead of giving Spider-Man his own separate stories, the MCU hitches his wagon to Tony Stark. The Spider-Man movies in the MCU position Spider-Man to be Tony’s successor.
His story in Homecoming is, ostensibly, about Spidey becoming his own hero. This is difficult to understand when his main goal is trying to impress Iron Man.
Surprisingly enough, Tony actually wants Peter to be better than him. His disappointment that Peter isn’t striving for that is part of the reason he takes away the suit.
In Far From Home, Nick Fury literally hands Spider-Man the keys to the Iron Man kingdom. Then he wrestles with whether or not he deserves it for the rest of the movie. Spoiler alert…he decides that he does.
A big part of Spider-Man’s comic book lore is his solitude. Peter Parker is a socially awkward person with very few friends. That extends to the beginning of his work as a hero.
Later on, he develops relationships with other heroes. The Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Iron Man, etc. learn to connect with him. These connections then lead him to join teams.
Spider-Man in the MCU is very different in that regard. Peter Parker is part of a social circle with friends and rivals. His need to disconnect from it and pursue superheroics (in Homecoming) is a fantastic adaptation of the comic book lore. But turning that around into him pursuing a spot on the Avengers and Tony Stark’s approval was a misstep.
MCU’S INTERPRETATION OF SPIDER-MAN’S ROGUES
That connection also extends to the villains he faces.
The Vulture (Adrian Toomes) and Mysterio (Quentin Beck) are more Iron Man adversaries in the movies. But they are long-standing Spider-Man nemeses, having served in numerous incarnations of the Sinister Six.
Their depiction in the MCU continuity is that of people slighted by Tony Stark. As compelling as it makes them, they have no adequate reason to be Spider-Man antagonists. They only do so because he’s Tony Stark’s protégé.
That’s a disservice to the character that we all know and love.
SPIDER-MAN AND THE BEN PARKER DISCONNECTION IN THE MCU
“With great power comes great responsibility” is almost as well known as the man we credit with its saying.
Ben Parker serves as the reason Peter Parker makes most of his choices as Spider-Man. The guilt of failing his uncle has been his motivation in the comics. A trait that carried over into Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies and in The Amazing Spider-Man movies.
The MCU makes the choice of only hinting at this with Easter Eggs and obscure references in dialogue. But, for the most part, Uncle Ben doesn’t get a mention.
Peter doesn’t reminisce about the time they spent together. Aunt May doesn’t miss or mourn him. Ned and Tony do not bring him up, even though they should know what happened to him.
The biggest indication that Ben Parker existed is Peter’s suitcase in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Skipping the integral backstory because it’s as popular as Bruce Wayne’s tragedy is one thing. Ignoring the crucial character beats and just replacing them with a surrogate is a different issue altogether.
Once again, Tony Stark (after his sacrifice in Endgame) takes the role of Ben Parker. Peter grieves his loss the way he should mourn his uncle.
Having that grief serve as an additional weight for Spidey is a stronger narrative choice. Also, it gives more weight to his struggle to take up Iron Man’s mantle. Instead, Tony Stark just replaces Ben Parker.
Spider-Man is a great character, no matter the medium he is portrayed in. His lore and character are often retooled and rewritten to serve the needs of where he needs to fit in. While some nail it on all fronts (like Marvel’s Spider-Man for PS4), the MCU’s choices leave much to be desired. Thankfully, they still have the opportunity to correct the course and give us Spider-Man the way he should be.