Ending Explained is a recurring series in which we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old.
Affirmation as a panacea for shame is the crux of Spider-Man: Homecoming. Upon receiving incredible physical abilities after being bit by a radioactive spider, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) behaved the way any nerdy teenager would behave. He went mad with power, using his gifts to score quick cash and raise his esteem in the eyes of others. As a result, he did not act against a criminal in flight from a heist, and his Uncle Ben was murdered by the very same thug mere minutes, hours, or days later.
We don’t have the details, at least as how they pertain to the Marvel Cinematic Universe iteration. We have to infer most of Spider-Man’s backstory from the comic books or the previous two cinematic adaptations or the cartoons or the short-lived live-action television series. It’s common knowledge at this point. While we give credit to Marvel Studios for doing the due diligence of constructing their universe one superhero solo film at a time, when it came to Spider-Man, we just wanted to skip to the good stuff.
Eager to please, Peter Parker happily bounded into Captain America: Civil War and got to work pleasing his new surrogate father figure, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Was he on the right side of the conflict? He’s a kid. How the hell should he know? Parker just wants a dad to be proud.
Throughout Spider-Man: Homecoming, humoring Tony Stark is challenging. For one thing, Stark is not Uncle Ben. For another, Parker can no longer sit back and watch the world pass by. The last time he did that, his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) was widowed. The Vulture (Michael Keaton) and his black market Chitauri arms dealing must be thwarted, and if Stark refuses to let Parker peek behind the scenes of his (maybe-in-progress) operation, then Spider-Man is compelled to get in on the action.
Without the aid of Stark or his fancy-schmancy spider-suit, Parker takes down the Vulture wearing nothing but his Long Johns, plus a little assistance from his man in the chair (Jacob Batalon). Of course, there is a cost to this heroism. Parker was crushing hard on Liz (Laura Harrier), the Vulture’s daughter, and with papa behind bars, she is forced to flee the state. Parker ditched her during the Homecoming dance, and all he can do is accept her rightful disdain and confusion. The life of a costumed crime-fighter contains very little room for romance.
Having saved the day, Spider-Man is welcomed into the Avengers, with Stark going as far as to assemble a press conference in the kid’s honor. Parker believes it to be one more test from Stark and elects to return to his high school life and attempt to juggle his vigilante duties with homework. He cannot be swayed even when presented with a spider suit upgrade.
The suit is a spin on the Iron Spider costume first worn by the character in the comic book version of Civil War, written by Mark Millar and illustrated by Steve McNiven. However, the suit itself was designed by Joe Quesada based on an initial sketch by Chris Bachalo. The MCU version relies on Tony’s ever-increasing love for nano-technology. As far as the billionaire playboy philanthropist is concerned, no Avenger should be bothered with the grueling task of putting their pants on one leg at a time when the press of the button can do the job for them.
Parker could dominate the five boroughs in this shiny new armor, but he’s barely adapted to his previous Stark upgrade. Having finally struck a friendly dynamic with Karen, his suit’s AI program (voiced by Jennifer Connelly and cousin to J.A.R.V.I.S./Vision, who is voiced/played by Connelly’s real-life husband, Paul Bettany), Parker desires to master the 1.0 version before jumping over to the 2.0. He’ll get his chance to do that in Avengers: Infinity War.
Stark pivots quickly enough from Parker’s rejection, finding a little pride in the kid’s desire to make it on his own. Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is aghast with Parker slinking away, as she’s the one responsible for corralling the press. Stark sees his moment, catching an engagement ring tossed by Happy (Jon Favreau), who has been holding onto that rock for the last several years (a clever nudge-nudge-wink-wink to the director’s shepherding of the Marvel Cinematic Universe).
We don’t see it happen, but we can infer the engagement between Stark and Potts occurs in front of a few dozen flashing lightbulbs. Making an event out of a proposal tracks with Stark’s ego. Potts scoffs at such behavior, but she still sticks with the recovering letch. Iron Man needs more than Happy while he recovers from the multiple Civil War tragedies. He needs Potts and Peter to drive his fight.
Spider-Man: Homecoming concludes with our Avenger friends feeling fairly cheery. There’s no reason to fret. All the bad guys are in jail. Thanos? What’s a Thanos? Another name for another day.
During the mid-credits stinger, we see the Vulture in prison behaving like the cock of the walk. He’s confronted by fellow inmate Mac Gargan, aka the Scorpion (Michael Mando), who has heard rumors that the Vulture knows the secret identity of Spider-Man. The Vulture tells Gargan that if he knew who he was, he’d already be dead. As he walks away, a smile splits his face.
The Vulture is not going to let some other punk have his way with his boy. If anyone is going to slap some pain into Parker, it will be him. The villain has garnered a little respect for the teenager. Parker bested him at his game. The Vulture won’t die behind bars. He’ll get out and eventually find his way to Peter Parker (after a quick side-quest into Morbius).
Peter Parker may recognize the possibility of a father-figure in Tony Stark, but he’s also picked up one in the Vulture. With no Green Goblin/Norman Osborn in this realm, the Vulture operates as his blue-collar doppelganger, protecting Parker from the horrors of the world so that he can bend the kid to his will. Cold, cynical logic will eventually open Parker’s eyes to the truth of the world. Give the Vulture time, he’s got more lessons to impart.
The final post-credits scene ends Spider-Man: Homecoming on a laugh. We see another chunk of Coach Wilson (Hannibal Buress)’s governmentally required video featuring the wanted criminal and boy scout dope Captain America (Chris Evans). The super-soldier is fulfilling his duty as a civil servant, instructing the youth of America about the power of patience. Sometimes its the key to victory, sometimes it amounts to very little. Think on that, fanboys.
Cap gets the last word of the film with a question, “How many more of these?” The answer is simple. As many as the Disney/Sony partnership can sustain. You keep showing up and they’ll keep coming. The Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel, Spider-Man: Far From Home, marked the 23rd entry in the MCU and it scored a billion dollars at the box office. They’ll play house, or Home, for at least one more flick.