Warning: this story contains spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home. “With great power, there must also come a great responsibility,” says Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), before she dies in the arms of her nephew Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in Spider-Man: No Way Home. For former Peters played by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield was the word spoken directly by Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson in 2002’s Spider Man) or a lesson learned in another sentence (Martin Sheen in The amazing Spider-Man). For Spider-Man of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, May’s speech is intertwined with a scornful lecture by the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe): “No good deed goes unpunished.”
The lesson comes after Peter, after asking Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to make the world forget that Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) ever ruled out his secret identity, tries to save multiverse villains who, as Strange says, are doomed to die in battle against Spider-Man. Sending enemies back to their home world means sending them to their deaths, so Peter tries to “cure” Norman Osborn (Dafoe), Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), Lizard (Rhys Ifans) and Electro (Jamie Foxx), before Osborn’s Goblin persona takes over – hitting Aunt May and killing her.
“We were at a time when we felt there was going to be a loss, a sacrifice, that Peter had to pay a real price for this decision to try to save the villains,” Erik Sommers, who co-wrote Marvel and Sony’s Spider -Man trilogy with Chris McKenna, told Variety. “I think it became pretty clear to many of us that losing Aunt May was what would really drive the point we were trying to make: to make this the film where Peter Parker experiences the loss that as the others did in their first film. ”
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Because MCU more or less put Peter’s uncle Ben on the sidelines and skipped the origin story of a rebooted web slinger less than a year into his crime-fighting career in Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming, Sommers and McKenna knew that this Peter needed that influence to come from his beloved Aunt May.
“He was trying to do what May taught him, and it made the sacrifice so much harder because it blew up in his face and it got her killed,” McKenna said. “Then he started questioning that morality in a way that he never really questioned because he has not been put to the test that way.”
Spider-Man: No Way Home now plays exclusively in cinemas.