“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is no origin story. There’s no bug bite, no Uncle Ben, no Daily Bugle, no Mary Jane or Gwen Stacey. Aunt May is hot. (She’s played by Marisa Tomei, who spent her part of the New Spidey intro of “Captain America: Civil War” flirting with Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, though in “Homecoming” she admits she no longer trusts him.) In other words, you might not know what to expect from this latest entry. That’s doubly shocking since the last time Sony/Marvel rebooted “Spider-Man,” it was another origin story, with minor variations. This one, however, is really good.
“Homecoming” is in theaters now, but if you can’t wait till you get to the multiplex — and don’t mind spoilering — here’s what happens:
Looping in the Avengers
Tom Holland’s Peter Parker 3.0 was introduced in “Civil War,” enlisted by Stark to fight on the pro-regulations side of the Avengers-vs.-Avengers tussle. We even see this stretch of the film again, only this time from cellphone footage a beyond excitable Parker took of his adventures. He thought he was part of the team. Then they didn’t call him back.
Stark still serves as Peter’s “mentor” — or mostly passes the buck off to an unhappy Happy (Jon Favreau). Tony swoops in now and then to save Spidey’s hide when he really screws up. Eventually he gifts him with a tricked-out Spider-Man suit, which even has a J.A.R.V.I.S.-style talking OS (voiced, amusingly, by Jennifer Connelly, the wife of J.A.R.V.I.S./Vision star Paul Bettany).
Peter tries hard to go big like the Avengers, eventually trying to bust a dangerous illegal arms dealer played by Michael Keaton (see below). Stark is nonplussed, especially because Peter isn’t yet ready for prime time. But by the end (also see below), he’s offered him a spot on the Avengers line-up — only to have Peter turn him down, because he’d rather stay as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, at least for now. Also, he’s like 15.
Spidey vs. Birdman
Named Adrian Toomes, Keaton’s baddie is a blue collar schlub gone bad. In the opening of the film, we see his origin story: He’d poured his life savings into his business so he could clean up after the Battle of New York from the first “Avengers” — only to have Stark Industries swoop in and steal the gig. He swiped some alien tech before he left, and has turned it into a black market godsend, adapting it into highly deadly illegal arms, which he sells to gangs and whoever else.
One toy he keeps for himself is a metal-winged suit. He’s Vulture, one of Spider-Man’s first foes in the comics. But unlike most Marvel villains, he’s not out for world domination. He simply wants to keep his shady but lucrative business going to provide for his family, which looks to be very comfortably upper middle class. When Parker starts investigating and ruining some of his deals, Adrian/Vulture puts the hurt on him. But Spidey won’t give up. Trust us that this bring us to…
There’s the girl that he likes
Throughout the film, Peter has been nursing a boyish crush on Liz (Laura Harrier), a very pretty, very smart girl who’s very out of his league. Liz has a thing for him, too (wouldn’t you know!), and she agrees to go to homecoming with him. When Peter goes to pick her up, he learns her father is (dum dum DUM) Adrian Toomes.
Adrian cleverly susses out who Peter is on the car ride there, then threatens him to give up further inquiries or else. Peter doesn’t take the warning, and the two wind up in battle as Adrian tries to steal the Avengers gear. Peter wins out, but he doesn’t kill Adrian. He saves his life — which also means he’s going to jail and has lost his family. Liz leaves school to move across the States, and the two presumably never see each other again (except maybe on Facebook).
There is another girl: Zendaya’s Michelle Jones. She’s an antisocial, deeply sarcastic bookworm who sort of hovers around high school. She’s on the debate team with Peter and Liz, but she never takes center stage. She’s content to slip in funny business on the sidelines, like a pro scene-stealer. Crafty people will notice that her initials are “MJ” — not Mary Jane but maybe that means she’ll turn into Peter’s love interest along the line? We’re asking because we have no idea, but she definitely seems too cool for Peter.
Does the debate team win?
As mentioned, Peter is part of his high school’s debate team. But he’s not terribly committed — at least not once he’s spending most of his after school hours fighting crime. He even drops out of their big trip to the D.C. Nationals, only to rejoin after he learns Adrian/Vulture and team have gone down there for a big deal he’d like to bust. Even then he’s the opposite of useful: During his failed mission, Peter winds up trapped inside a government armory and can’t bust out till morning. He’s late for the debate. They win, by the way. But he’s just in time to save his teammates when they get trapped inside the Washington Monument and almost die in an accident. Even Stevens.
We tend to groan at Marvel bumpers. Even the funny ones in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” because, holy crap, there were five of them. This one has two. And they’re good! Which is to say they’re relevant and organic to “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” not merely setting up some future Marvel entry.
In the first, we see what happened to Adrian in jail: He’s approached by a fellow con who heard some things about Adrian maybe knowing who Spidey really is. And Adrian lies to him, saying he has no idea or else he’d be dead (or something to that effect). What a nice guy!
The second, held to the very, very end of the credits, is a legit funny bit involving Captain America that riffs on one of the film’s better running gags: that Cap has been enlisted to provide cheesy PSAs for high schools, about things like detention. This one’s about patience. Suck it, the “Ferris Bueller” nod at the end of “Deadpool.”