Monday, October 16, 2017

What would Uncle Ben say?

With great power there must also come, great responsibility.

Peter Parker’s biggest regret and therefore the greatest lesson about having powers is what made the above arguably the most famous quote of Spider-man. 

First read from the debut issue Amazing Fantasy No. 15 of August, 1962based from the panel above, the quote was a narration rather than popular perception that Uncle Ben said it. 

An underappreciated teenager looking for a place in the world would have naturally turned to abuse once he came into power. 

Peter wanted money and respect; he wanted to be those who were more popular than him in school. Uncle Ben Parker, who has been a second father to him, was the price. His death and the fact that he could have stopped it was what drove Peter to become Spider-man.


Directed by Sam Raimi and led by Tobey Maguire, the movie Spider-man had the best approach.

Unlike the comics which had it in narration, for dramatic effect Ben Parker said the lines – with great power comes great responsibility – in what turned out to be his last talk with Peter. The result was organically brilliant. 

Peter wanted to have fun with his power and his last talk with Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) conveniently had the lessons packaged quite nicely. With the emotional reinforcement of having the character that said it die and being catchy, the quote became unforgettable for Peter and to fans in general.

Amazing Spider-man

In the Amazing Spider-man directed by Marc Webb and led by Andrew Garfield, Martin Sheen who played Uncle Ben ended up with a mouthful:

If you could do good things for other people, you had a moral obligation to do those things! That's what's at stake here. Not choice. Responsibility.

The least Ben Parker can do when giving a lecture was make something up that can be mentioned in one breath. I find that line forgettable if only because I had to look it up. It’s so long and unimpressive. Plus the way it was written feels unnatural, as if Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) was deliberately avoiding lines of the other movie version while retaining literally all of that other line’s ideas.

Sam Raimi’s Spider-man had the encounter between Peter and Flash Thompson as the reason that led Ben Parker and his lecture. Peter showed capability of beating Flash in fight, Uncle Ben was on point.

Peter in the Marc Webb’s version missed an all important duty of accompanying his aunt home at night. Responsibility is the idea but referencing to ‘do good things’ feels like charity work. Why did the have to be different? 

It is interesting to note that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ almost made Amazing Spider-man 2 only it was deleted. Why did they try to bring the line back?

Captain America Civil War


In the reintroduction of Spider-man into MCU that’s not a Spider-man movie; the Russo brothers came up with lines that were easier on the tongue:

When you can do the things that I can, but you don't, and then the bad things happen, they happen because of you.

Tony Stark was in recruitment mode against Team Cap and went to Queens, New York to sniff out Peter Parker whom he had figured out off screen to be Spider-man. Peter answered with the above when asked for his motivation. 

I like that it’s natural. Peter was authentically answering a question rather than – if he had repeated the classical lines – sound like he’s reciting a movie. 

It’s a beautiful line in that it still retained the classical quote’s meaning while sounding fresh and unforced. But Ben Parker is missing; a fact that I only noted in Spider-man Homecoming.

Peter’s conversation with Tony Stark makes it appear that he came up with his calling all his own; that nothing tragic, personal or a public event such as the Incident – which the New York heroes of Netflix alludes to – caught his eye and changed his life. Sounds too good to be true for a teenager that is. 

I understand not opening up to Iron Man on private life (strange than Tony didn’t mention Ben Parker too) but in his own movie shouldn’t Ben Parker be in there? Did Marvel just write him off of the MCU?

When Peter answered Tony he talks about the ‘bad things’ and that they happened or can happen because of personal inaction. Peter said it with some hint of sadness. It’s an opening left unfilled because Ben Parker was nowhere to be seen. 

That line and the allusion to a personal tragedy to at least Aunt May, I watched Spider-man Homecoming feeling like I’ve been left hanging.

Absent a hint of a dearly departed male figure it feels like Tony Stark is replacing Uncle Ben which is just so wrong. Granted that Stark has matured since that first movie in 2008 how can a young hero to learn anything if he’s left to the driver?

A picture in Homecoming would have been enough and the character can move on to things rather than dwell on tragedies and repeat origin stories. 

Peter Parker became what he is because he was raised by a good man who died because of a mistake and that left a scar. Uncle Ben had one thing to say about powers (for cinema at least) and Peter remembered.

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