No doubt about it — Spider-Man: Homecoming is a triumphant return of the character to the big screen, bringing a breath of fresh air to both the character and to the tried-and-tested formula that we have come to expect from the MCU universe. A likable hero, a menacing villain and a very enjoyable story makes Homecoming a genuine comic book film success.
But you guys already know this. You don't need to read yet another article praising the film or trying to break down all the Easter Eggs found throughout the film. No, I want to talk about an overlooked character who means so much to the development of this new Spider-Man: Aunt May.
As of today, most (if not all) are aware of the inexplicable decision to leave out a scene that showed the importance of this new iteration of the character. Marisa Tomei, understandably disappointed, explained the scene in question:
There was something going on in the neighborhood, and there was a little girl in distress, and I saved her, and Peter saw me save her, so you kind of saw that he got part of his ethics from her. Then I come home, and I don’t even tell him that that’s what happened, and, of course, there’s all this stuff that he’s not telling me. So he’s like, ‘How was your day?’ And I’m like, ‘It was fine,’ but really I was shaking inside because of this whole crisis that had happened in the city. I’m kind of fibbing to him, and he’s fibbing to me, and we’re living in this house together, and it was a very interesting setup. I was quite disappointed that wasn’t in there.
Why would Sony leave that out of the movie?!
When Iron Man was included in the movie, I was a little afraid that Marvel / Sony would use Tony as the surrogate Uncle Ben. I was so relieved when it didn't end up like that and Iron Man acted as the bridge between the new Spidey and the MCU. Even then, both Spider-Man and Peter Parker still need that moral compass and drive that Uncle Ben represents.
One of the many things that the movie did right was to give us a Spider-Man without the retelling of his tragic origin that culminates with Uncle Ben's death. It's an origin that has been told countless times, and the movie approaches a Peter Parker that is dealing with the loss without delving into this event. This is an outstanding feat in my opinion, and one that could only be accomplish with an actor like Tom Holland, who showed us why he is one of the brightest talents working in Hollywood today. We didn't get to see Uncle Ben's untimely demise, but we are aware of it because we can feel it all around Peter and Aunt May; their relationship evolving into something uncertain, trying to cope as best as they can until they can find the answer to the loss of a partner and a father figure.
This is exactly why the scene that was written out of the final script is so crucial. Spider-Man still needs that "Uncle Ben factor" to make him the hero that we all know and love. We need that "with great power, comes great responsibility" moment, and I strongly believe Aunt May can fill that void, especially with such a young version of the character. She is not the wise and experienced Aunt May that we are used to from the comic books. She is a blank slate with the potential of rewriting her character into someone entirely different while still retaining the essence of the original.
The fact that Peter could've learned to be a real hero from Aunt May and not from Iron Man or any other Avenger was an opportunity missed but not entirely lost, thanks to the ending of the movie when Peter realizes the true meaning of being a hero. I honestly hope that the filmmakers keep that momentum and give this Aunt May the credit she deserves by giving her character a new purpose while still keeping her essence intact.
There's so much potential in the cinematic universes for both #Marvel and DC to reinvent the characters that it would be a shame if the powers that be don't capitalize on these characters' potential.
Unfortunately, Aunt May is the second time I saw such a waste of character development. The first is none other than Suicide Squad's Harley Quinn.
Margot Robbie did a great job with what was given to her and, although I am not a fan of this particular version, I appreciated the effort the actress put in to the character. However, the fact that her character didn't actually have a defined role was the one thing that bugged me the most. Maybe it was the distracting presence of the Joker that didn't allow her to develop, but just like with Aunt May, Harley could have accomplished so much.
I could have bought Harley as the leader of the Suicide Squad if it wouldn't have felt so forced and rushed. One moment she is leaving the team behind for her puddin' and the next moment she is giving tough love to the team and rallying them to "own that shit." I'm sorry, but I wasn't convinced.
Yes, her relationship with the Joker is important, but one that didn't have to be explored in this movie. It ended up being an unnecessary distraction and it did a disservice to both characters and the film itself.
Harley's fixation with the Joker is fueled by her love of madness, and the Joker is the physical representation of madness. However, Harley is more than "his crazy girlfriend" and sidekick. Harley is special because deep down there's a caring and loving person, especially when it comes to underdogs — the bullied and the abused.
If she would have decided to help the Squad over the Joker, that would have shown an incredible evolution of the character. Let's remember that the DCEU is introducing these characters in a time where they have been around for a while, and we are witnessing a version of them where their origins and best stories are already behind them.
This Harley Quinn felt (at times) lost and without a defined purpose. Being an accomplished psychologist and skilled combatant should have been the connection between every single character of the Squad. However, one of Harley's greatest attributes is empathy. That should have been the driving force of the narrative and one that could have definitely helped the story. Obviously, the studio wanted Harley front and center, but it didn't give her enough to make her truly stand out, just like Aunt May.
Both characters still have the chance to evolve in to something truly special.
A perfect example of character development is Hawkeye. Once the butt of all jokes throughout the first phase of the MCU, we saw how important he had become during the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. That's what I want for all the Aunt Mays and Harley Quinns of both cinematic universes.
As a fan of comic books, my greatest desire is to go to my local theater and see my favorite characters on full display, but I want to leave the theater talking about them. I already know what Batman, Spider-Man, Superman and Captain America are capable of. Studios are not quite ready to stray too far from the path well traveled — and I completely understand that. However, the untapped potential of other characters is there for the taking.
Harley Quinn and Aunt May do not need to be defined by their relationships with the Joker and Uncle Ben. These two have the ability to become so much more. It is time to see these characters as defining factors and not the product of causality.