Does the MCU’s Spider-Man Have an Uncle Ben? Jon Watts Says Yes
The following post contains SPOILERS for Spider-Man: Far From Home; not so much what it has, but what it doesn’t have.
Tom Holland’s Peter Parker has appeared in five different Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to date. And the most important person in Peter Parker’s life in pretty much every other iteration of Spider-Man until now hasn’t appeared in any of them.
That’s Uncle Ben, the man who raised an orphaned Peter from birth with his Aunt May, and who taught Peter the lesson that inspires him to be a hero: With great power comes great responsibility. More than half a century after his death in the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15, comic-book Peter Parker is still haunted and driven by Ben’s death. Ben has been fundamental to each of the previous Spider-Man franchises; he was played by Cliff Robertson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, and by Martin Sheen in Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man films. In the MCU, he’s played by ... no one.
The choice to completely forgo one of the most fundamental elements of Spider-Man’s mythos is an interesting one. I think most viewers assume Tom Holland’s Peter did have an Uncle Ben that he just doesn’t talk about. But when I asked Spider-Man: Homecoming director Jon Watts if Tom Holland ever even had an Uncle Ben back in the summer of 2017, he gave me a surprising answer: “It’s not something we really talked about that much.” He even described himself as “curious” as to whether Uncle Ben existed in the MCU.
Now Spidey is back in Far From Home and so is Watts. Once again, Uncle Ben does not appear. Apart from a single shot that makes an oblique reference to him, there’s no mention of him either. So when I got to interview Watts again, I decided would ask him the exact same question again: Did Tom Holland’s Peter Parker have an Uncle Ben? This time, Watts gave me a much more concrete, much more detailed answer.
“Yes. Definitely. Did you notice his initials on Peter’s suitcase?”
I had, because I am an incredibly large dork. But I wanted to know why Watts was so reticent about Uncle Ben the first time around and so assured this time, so I asked if anything had changed between Homecoming and Far From Home.
“We knew we weren’t going to tell an origin story, so we just avoided talking about that in too much detail,” Watts explained. “I didn’t want to reveal too much. It was a lot more sensitive of an issue to not be doing an origin story when we were talking about Homecoming ... back then, people were saying ‘Why are you making another Spider-Man movie?’ The focus was on showing people things that they had never seen before, not retelling that origin.”
So Uncle Ben definitely existed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But Watts was quick to add a little unsolicited ambiguity into the equation. When I noted that he is now willing to say “Yes, Uncle Ben did exist in the MCU,” he replied “Yeah. I mean, we don’t know,” and then he took a long pause before adding “We never specifically say anything about him. So whether or not he’s around or not.”
My response to that comment was probably best described as stunned silence. I didn’t ask a follow-up so much as I let out a confused “Huhhhhhh” as I pondered the possibility that Watts seemed to be implying: That Uncle Ben might not be dead in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At that point, Watts added “Yeah. Everything’s on the table, is how I like to say it.”
Will Watts himself be back to see how this story plays out? When I asked him if he wanted to make a third Spider-Man film, his answer was almost identical to when I asked him if he wanted to make a second Spidey film after Homecoming. “Yeah,” he replied without hesitation. “I think that would be a lot of fun.” Whether or not Uncle Ben would make an appearance in the film remains to be seen.
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