Will Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May Return to the MCU in the Multiverse?
So many possibilities!
(This post contains spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home.)
Aunt May has never been one of Marvel’s main characters. She usually doesn’t have any superpowers or advanced technology. She’s not part of any team-ups or events. But no matter which universe she appears in, or which actress plays her, or which writer and artist team puts her to paper, May is consistently one of the most beloved characters in the world of Marvel. Now, with her latest incarnation is gone—and the multiverse blown open—you might be wondering: will Aunt May ever return to the MCU?
A Brief History of May
Aunt May has always been integral to Peter’s journey as a superhero. Spider-Man’s origin story is legendary: Peter is orphaned as a child and goes to live with his elderly aunt and uncle, May and Ben Parker. Peter gets bitten by a radioactive (or genetically modified) spider, gaining his powers. At first, Peter uses them irresponsibly, prompting Ben to give him the iconic line: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Then, Ben is ironically killed by the very criminal that Peter let escape, even though he could have stopped him. That leaves May as Peter’s sole parental figure, and the two of them form an even tighter bond—especially when May eventually finds out that Peter is Spider-Man, and has to wrestle with her conflicting feelings of fear and pride.
May has gone through several evolutions in the Spider-Man movies of the past twenty years. In Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man trilogy, she’s portrayed as a gentle and frail old woman who has several near-death experiences with Spidey’s villains. In Into the Spider-Verse, which focuses on Miles Morales instead of Peter Parker, she’s still elderly, but much savvier, with in-depth knowledge of the late Peter’s technology. By the time we get to the Tom Holland era, May has been aged down to the witty and energetic middle-aged aunt played by Marisa Tomei. Tomei’s May is notable in that she finds out about Peter’s secret identity pretty early on, allowing her to act as a mentor and supporter. She’s also the first May to have a romantic interest, starting a relationship with Happy Hogan (to Peter’s horror and embarrassment, of course).
May’s Tragic End
Spider-Man: No Way Home was a poignant movie for many reasons. We got to be reunited with Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Mans (Spider-Men? Spiders-Man?) and see them hug. We were devastated when Peter had to start a new life, with his existence erased from the minds of everyone in the universe. And we were absolutely gutted by the death of Aunt May.
In case you forcibly blocked it from your memory and need a quick refresher: while Peter is trying to cure the five villains he and Doctor Strange accidentally sucked out of their respective universes, Norman Osborn succumbs to the Green Goblin’s influence and injures May by ramming her with his glider. At first, May seems like she’ll miraculously be okay, but then she stumbles and it becomes clear that she’s dying. Peter isn’t able to save her and wrestles with the guilt of having caused her death by bringing the Green Goblin into their universe—and then refusing to immediately send him back.
May’s death was particularly upsetting to see because it was so unexpected. Those of us who were familiar with the comics when we saw Maguire’s Spider-Man knew that Ben was doomed from the start, so while the movie’s interpretation of his death made for some interesting character development, it was never a surprise. But killing May? May was always supposed to be Peter’s rock! She was supposed to be the one who lived! Many of us never considered the possibility that May might die in battle, and the moment in No Way Home, when it becomes clear that she’s a goner, was nothing short of shocking.
Not that it wasn’t excellent storytelling, because it was. Many viewers and critics have pointed out that while many superhero trilogies function as a complete character arc, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man movies are actually one gigantic origin story. All that wild stuff with the Avengers and the space battles? That’s all just part of Spidey’s origin! At the end of No Way Home, we see Peter in his own apartment, studying for the GED, without any of the fancy tech that he got from Tony Stark and the Avengers. Instead, he has a basic cloth Spider-Man suit and a police scanner, and when he jumps out his bedroom window to go to work, he’s not fighting Thanos—he’s just dealing with criminals as a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
What that means is that, in this Spidey’s origin story, May’s death performs the same function as Ben’s: it spurs Peter on to stand up for what’s right and become the best version of himself.
May and Peter’s Future
At first blush, it might seem like May’s return wouldn’t make much sense. After all, the emotional gut-punch of her death relies on her, well, staying dead, and it seems like Peter’s post-May journey as a wiser, sadder superhero would lose some of its emotional depth if she popped up again.
But wait a minute. What the hell am I talking about? This is Marvel! People come back from the dead all the time! The afterlife is just one big revolving door! And from Loki’s continual fake-outs to Vision’s moving final moments in WandaVison, Marvel has consistently proven that it can still pull our heartstrings even when characters refuse to stay dead.
In terms of logistics, it wouldn’t be the least bit complicated to bring May back. At the end of No Way Home, Doctor Strange seemed to seal up all the rifts in the multiverse. However, as we know from the trailers for the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the problems with the multiverse are far from over. There will be plenty of multiversal antics in that movie and the MCU movies that follow it, so a May from another universe has plenty of opportunities to make an appearance.
And that’s not even taking into consideration the future Spider-Man movies that might be in the pipeline. In an interview with Fandango shortly before No Way Home‘s release, producer Amy Pascal said that Sony and Marvel’s partnership is far from over.
“This is not the last movie that we are going to make with Marvel—[this is not] the last Spider-Man movie,” Pascal revealed. “We are getting ready to make the next Spider-Man movie with Tom Holland and Marvel. We’re thinking of this as three films, and now we’re going to go onto the next three. This is not the last of our MCU movies.”
Of course, Pascal’s comments later turned out to be a bit of an overreach, with Tom Holland himself walking them back in an interview with EW. According to Holland, “We’ve had conversations about the potential future of Spider-Man, but at the moment they are conversations. We don’t know what the future looks like.”
Marisa Tomei on May’s Future
Even if Spider-Man’s future is currently unwritten, we at least know how Marisa Tomei feels about the matter. In fact, Tomei has explicitly said that she’d be down for taking on the role again. Here’s what she said in an appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show:
“I would love to come back and be a part of [MCU’s multiverse]. There’s history there, too. May Parker hooks up with Ant-Man. Well, I mean, she’s a standalone character, of course, but there are more avenues to explore.”
The Ant-Man connection Tomei is referring to might be a reference to What If…? #34 from 1982, in which the May Parker of Earth-82804 is secretly Ant-Man. Would we love to see that in the MCU? Yes, we would absolutely love to see that. We would like Ant-May pumped directly into our veins, please.
Of course, Aunt May’s return wouldn’t even need to necessarily involve Tomei (although any reasonable person will agree that she’s the best May). The MCU has already established that one person can inhabit different bodies across the multiverse, with different actors playing Peter Parker in No Way Home and Loki in Loki. There’s even a rumor that Tom Cruise will play a variant of Iron Man in Multiverse of Madness. There’s also a new season of What If…? coming soon, which will explore more alternate universes in the Marvel world. That would be a great opportunity for May to return in animated form.
Plus, with Sony apparently building a (admittedly not that exciting) Sinister Six franchise in a universe separate from the main events of the MCU, it seems likely that some version of Spider-Man will make an appearance in that neck of the woods. Really, the sky’s the limit in terms of how Marvel can portray one of its characters, and which actors can take on the part.
With that said, though, if May does come back, it really should be Marisa Tomei. I mean, come on! She larbs this role, and we larb her.
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