This is one of those movies gloriously spoiled by its trailer.
We normally explain the plot with a lot of trepidation – as no one wants key plot points that they don’t know ruined, especially when it comes to highly anticipated releases as Spider-Man. But Spider-Man: Homecoming’s promotional material’s done it all for us, with trailers that literally summarise the entire plot. With lazy posters and terrible trailers, this is one of the worst publicity campaigns we’ve seen from Marvel, and in fact, any studio.
If you’re lucky enough to have missed all of that, good for you and we truly envy you. We’ll go on to explain the plot with our kind of caution. You’re welcome, Marvel.
A new spin
Thankfully, the spoiler-filled trailer couldn’t take away the joyous approach of the narrative, although it does rob it of surprise - what this genre is desperately in search of.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is essentially a high school, coming-of-age kind of movie. Everything from its stakes, tone and aesthetic is nostalgically Disney. Even some its characters look like they’re taken straight out of a High School Musical instalment. But I mean this in a good way, because a Spider-Man film has never felt so refreshing.
After the events of Captain America: Civil War (which audiences are reminded of in a hilarious montage filmed by Peter himself), Peter Parker returns to Queens sort of an Avenger, but on trial – till further notice. Like any kid longing for presents, Peter keeps his hopes high for the day the Avengers recruit him, and finds every crime-fighting opportunity as a chance to prove himself. This is Spider-Man in his early days; he’s still discovering the full extent powers as well as the high-tech suit that Tony Stark has designed for him, which does provide for some really funny scenes.
In no time, Peter inevitably gets his nose in deep into some criminal activity – he uncovers the Vulture and his team planning heists to steal the Avengers’ weapons. It provides valuable insight into the inefficiency of the way the Avengers operate too – they’ve become so big that smaller crooks like these are “below their paygrade”, according to Stark, rather dismissively. “There are people to handle this stuff”, he says – this “stuff” being the smaller crimes that don’t necessary concern the whole world.
It’s delightfully scaled down
That’s where Homecoming finds much of its plot – with Spidey dealing with neighbourhood crimes and “rooting for the little guy”. It’s a new angle that revels in an indy spirit that we’ve not seen from the MCU – it’s always some intergalactic threat and every hero has to deal with.
Sometimes you wonder why everyone had to come together to stop Ultron when single heroes can seemingly put an end to beings like Dormammu and some of Thanos’ almighty plans. Homecoming is almost uninterested in the other stuff happening in the MCU, Spider-Man here deals with issues almost mundane - neighbourhood crooks, ATM robberies – he even stops to give directions to people who are lost.
It’s a nice complement to fill in the ineffectiveness of the Avengers machine, and its humble approach to super-heroism reaffirms Spider-Man as pretty much the most relatable superhero of the generation. The film goes all out with “neighbourhood-ness”, as there’s even a running gag on the lack of tall buildings to swing on – so we often find Peter hitching rides on trains, or desperately running across fields. This is the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.
As with any Spider-Man instalment, Peter needs to find balance between superhero duties and daily life – he’s a school boy after all. There’s an interesting dynamic in Homecoming, where Peter seems hell bent on ditching school entirely, since he’s probably an Avenger and life is sorted out. But then again, what if Stark bails on him? We feel a real sense of loss and risk whenever he skips classes, misses social events and even time with the girl he fancies. The film is punctuated with moments of indecision like these, which fall perfectly in line with this being a high school movie.