The Marvel Movies Debrief: Spider-Man: Homecoming Recap, Legacy, and MCU Connections
Tom Holland's first solo outing as Spidey is a very connected MCU movie, with its own intimate stakes...
“A Film by Peter Parker”
Spider-Man: Homecoming, just like its hero in one of the film’s most memorable moments, had a lot of weight on its shoulders. It’s the 16th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a direct sequel to one of its most popular entries (see: Captain America: Civil War). Plus, it’s the second big-screen Spidey reboot in recent memory, with Tom Holland getting his first full-length chance to follow in the red and blue footprints of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.
The flick kicks off on a bit of a wobble, with a fairly unremarkable introduction for Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes that’s followed quickly by a continuity flab that claims this 2017 movie takes place “Eight Years Later” than 2012’s Avengers Assemble. But once that’s out of the way, the film finds its footing: composer Michael Giacchino’s wonderful riff on the Spider-Man cartoon theme song plays over the Marvel Studios logo, and then we cut into Peter’s home video recap of Captain America: Civil War.
Since Civil War handled the heavy lifting of introducing Tom Holland and establishing that this Spidey already has his powers, his suit and some tough times in his rearview mirror, Homecoming is freed up to take a more naturalistic approach to the character. After the phone footage of Peter’s airport battle with the Avengers, Tony Stark and Happy Hogan dump this wall-crawler in Queens, and director Jon Watts takes its foot right off the pedal.
From here, we see Peter struggling with life as a friendly neighborhood hero: his “Stark Internship” is clashing with his academic decathlon commitments, and school bully Flash Thompson isn’t helping.
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Meanwhile, all Pete wants to do is put on his Spidey suit and find some action, even if that action ends up being “grand theft bicycle” and helping old ladies cross the road in exchange for a churro. Ned drops his LEGO Death Star when he spots Pete in his Spidey suit, and an oblivious Aunt May takes her nephew out for a larb-heavy dinner. It’s a neat, measured start to the film, but, of course, these low-key heroics can’t last for long.
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The only decent crime in Peter’s neighborhood is a high-tech bank robbery (“I’m starting to think you’re not the Avengers!”) which provides a solid early action scene and puts our wall-crawling hero on a collision course with the Vulture and his alien-gear-wielding criminal gang. As the film builds to this confrontation, Jon Watts and the film’s other five screenwriters continue to showcase a realistic underbelly to the MCU – this is a lower echelon that lives in the shadows of Avengers Tower, with Donald Glover’s Aaron Davis providing a perfect example of that. This low-level crook wants a normal gun to scare someone with – he doesn’t want to “send them back in time” with Adrian Toomes’ OTT tech.
Peter plants a tracker on Toomes’ gang and rejoins the Academic Decathlon team to hitch a ride to Washington D.C. While on the trip, he sneaks off repeatedly to investigate the baddies, providing another example of the superhero/life balance that is so vital to Spidey in the comics. Peter fails in a lot of his heroic attempts, making him one of the most relatable heroes in the MCU, and ends up getting locked in the Damage Control deep storage unit overnight. Entrapped, Holland gets a chance to shine and Peter has an opportunity to chat with “suit lady” and learn more about his Stark-made suit.
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The action starts to ramp up at this point, with the Washington Monument rescue contrasting an iconic landmark with intimate personal stakes. The daylight heroics here are a nice alternative to the grim battles that dominate modern superhero films, harking back to the days of Christopher Reeve in the Superman suit saving ordinary people. This and the Staten Island Ferry sequence are probably tied as the film’s best action scene, with the climactic invisible plane battle between Spidey and Vulture lacking that personal touch by comparison.
Although the final battle isn’t the film’s best, the second half of Homecoming does pack in some great moments: Spidey’s naff interrogation of Glover’s Aaron Davis (“I like bread”), numerous Iron Men showing up to save the ferry, the sweet montage of May and Peter preparing for the dance, Ned’s moment as “the guy in the chair,” and the fun final frame where Aunt May sees Peter in the suit. All in all, this is a confident solo debut for Spidey in the MCU, which ties into the wider universe whilst also finding its own smaller segment to play in. And we haven’t even mentioned a couple of the best moments…
Standout scene(s): After disappointing Tony Stark at the ferry, Peter is back in his homemade Spider-Man suit when he faces off with Vulture. This results in Peter being buried under rubble, crushed and crying, struggling to summon the Spidey strength, shouting at himself to try and find a way out. (“Come on, Spider-Man!”) This scene is epically emotional but essentially intimate, and it has that great shot of Peter seeing his half-Spidey reflection in a puddle. It would be the best moment in almost any other superhero film.
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But Spider-Man: Homecoming has a trump card up its sleeve – the unforgettable scene where Pete goes to pick up Liz and finds out that her dad is the Vulture. The moment when Toomes opens the door packed a huge shock at the time, and Keaton is properly menacing in the resultant awkward ride. Holland, again proving that he can go toe-to-toe with any star, brings so much nervous energy to the scene and helps to make it a classic.
Best quip: This is a film with a very prominent funny bone, from the banter between Peter and Stark (“It’s not a hug, I’m just grabbing the door for you”) all the way down the school news bulletins that are edited like awkward YouTube videos (“I couldn’t bear to lose a student on a field trip… again.”) Zendaya is frequently funny, too. The most memorable laugh in the film could be Chris Evans’ cameos in the gym video (“I’m pretty sure this guy’s a war criminal now”) and the detention video (“So, you got detention. You screwed up.”) There’s a reason that the second one of those became a hugely popular meme.
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First appearances: There are lots of obvious ones here – like all of Peter’s school friends and Adrian Toomes’ entire gang, which features two versions of the Shocker and one Tinkerer – but there are some significant additions to the MCU going on in the background. Donald Glover’s Aaron Davis shares a name with The Prowler, a villain from the comics, and he even refers to his nephew – who is, in the comics, Miles Morales. Since Homecoming came out, we saw a version of Aaron and Miles’ story play out in Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. Additionally, Tony Revolori plays Flash Thompson, Peter’s school bully, who plays host to the Venom symbiote for quite some time in the comics.
So long, farewell: The stakes being so refreshingly low, and the fact that we skipped over the Uncle Ben story, means that nobody major dies in this film. The only real death of note is when Toomes accidentally incinerates Jackson Brice’s version of the Shocker. Toomes thought he was using the anti-gravity gun, but it turned out to be a disintegration gun that reduced his lackey to a pile of dust on the floor. Thanos would be proud.
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It’s all connected: It really is all connected in this case, because Spider-Man: Homecoming has the kind of MCU-adjacent connections that the early seasons of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. could only dream about. After kicking off with Toomes collecting Chitarui rubble and Peter recapping Civil War, the film’s references counter doesn’t really let up.
As well as the Chitaru tech from Avengers Assemble, Toomes’ gang has gear scavenged from Lagos (Civil War), the Triskellion (Winter Soldier) and Sokovia (Avengers: Age Of Ultron). Shocker’s arm is even established as being built with a “sub-Ultron arm,” and Peter also finds an Ultron head in the Damage Control vault.On top of the supporting role for Robert Downey Jr. and the cameos from Chris Evans, the other MCU heroes referenced in numerous ways: the crooks at the start wear Avengers masks; Flash jokes about having a date with Black Widow; Pete does an impression of Thor in the bathroom mirror; Happy Hogan mentions “Cap’s new shield” and “Thor’s magic belt” on his flight manifesto; and even Ant-Man gets a nod, when Ned asks Peter if he can telepathically control spiders. And, right at the end, Pete turns down a chance to join the Avengers and live next door to Vision, although Spidey does end up wearing that gold-tinted suit in Avengers: Infinity War anyway.
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Happy Hogan produces an engagement ring from his pocket when Tony’s press conference plans go awry, saying, “I’ve been carrying this since 2008!” This, of course, is the year that the original Iron Man came out. Tony obviously popped the question shortly after the scene ended, because he and Pepper are engaged in Infinity War.
Credit check: The mid-credits scene shows Mac Gargan (who becomes the Scorpion in the comics) meeting up with Toomes in prison, asking the Vulture about Spidey’s identity. “If I knew who he was,” Toomes improvises, “he’d already be dead.” Then, at the very end of the film’s credits, Chris Evans cameos again, with Captain America offering some words of wisdom on the topic of patience. “You wonder why you waited so long for something so disappointing…”
What are your thoughts on Spider-Man: Homecoming? Have we missed your favorite moment or reference? Let us know in the comments below…