The Power Of Responsibility — A ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Spoiler-Filled Analysis

by Frank Martin

The following examination of a moment in Spider-Man: No Way Home contains a HUGE spoiler. If you haven’t seen the film yet, we strongly suggest waiting until you can safely do do. No, seriously, this is a big one. Possibly the biggest — although some other spoilers are also discussed in connection to one of the major shocks. But it all revolves around one of the big thematic elements of the film. As mentioned in last week’s spoiler-free review, it is a wonder that the film can contain so many characters and ideas while still maintaining a strong throughline for Spider-Man. But to learn more, read on …

This is your last spoiler warning!

Out of all the shocking surprises that came from Spider-Man: No Way Home, the biggest is probably the death of Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). It wasn’t just that Aunt May died that was shocking, she died in the comics before. It was the manner of her death and the implications it has for Spider-Man (Tom Holland) as a character.

First off, it’s only fitting that Willem Dafoe‘s Green Goblin is the one responsible for her demise as he also attacked Aunt May (xx) in his original Spider-Man film appearance. The filmmakers also went about her death in a wise way. She didn’t pass right away, which many in the audience were expecting. Once Aunt May got up following the Goblin attack, I, along with everybody I was watching the movie with, thought she would survive. This was only a bit of misdirection, though, which allowed May and Peter to have some very important dialogue before she finally let go.

The parallels were obvious. Aunt May was to be Peter’s Uncle Ben in the MCU; a fact solidified when she delivered the iconic “responsibility” line. It was hinted that there may be an Uncle Ben in the MCU when Peter delivered his own version of a “responsibility” line to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in Captain America: Civil War, but Ben’s existence in the MCU was never really solidified. Also, Peter never mentioned Ben when Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Men we’re talking about him.

But the Aunt May/Uncle Ben comparison isn’t entirely equal. For one thing, May died when Peter was already firmly established as Spider-Man. Her death didn’t occur in some origin story. It occurred while Peter was helping his doppelgangers’ villains. The whole point of Uncle Ben dying is for Peter to see the error in his ways and learn responsibility. What does it mean if Peter is already being responsible and May dies anyway?

The lesson May teaches Peter is even more important: in the face of tragedy, when everything is going wrong, it’s still important to do the right thing and live by your ideals. May essentially sacrifices herself (in terms of the story) so that Peter can continue to live a responsible life. But Peter doesn’t learn this lesson right away. If anything, May’s words have little effect on his desire for vengeance. It’s only when the other versions of Peter talk with him does he learn just how important it is to keep going and stay the path he believes in. This is one of the developments which makes No Way Home so unique and compelling in regard to Spider-Man. It teaches us that even when everything is going wrong and the world is falling apart around us, that is the moment our ideals, values, and responsibilities are more important than ever.

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