If there is one mission statement to Spider-Man: Homecoming, it’s to make it as different from all the Spider-films that came before it, while still staying true to the character’s roots.
Marvel Studios’ first standalone Spider-Man film faced the challenge of being the third Spider-Man franchise in 16 years, with a lot of ground already covered. The Spider-Man origin story is so well-known that at this point, it’s likely that if aliens landed on Earth and someone told them about a superhero named Spider-Man, the response would be, “Oh, yeah, the guy who gets bit by the radioactive spider and watches his uncle die.”
In Homecoming, director Jon Watts and a half-dozen credited screenwriters tackled the origin story by mostly ignoring it. Peter Parker already had his powers by the time he appears in Captain America: Civil War, and Homecoming simply moves the story forward.
Here are a few areas of Spider-Man’s past, from either comics or on screen, that Homecoming alters, tweaks or ignores. Reader beware, as spoilers follow:
Where’s Uncle Ben?
Peter’s dear old uncle doesn’t even get a name-drop in Homecoming. The closest we get is when Ned discovers Peter’s secret identity and asks why he hasn’t told Aunt May. Peter responds that she wouldn’t want him risking his life and “she’s been through so much lately.” Unless Peter is referring to Tony Stark’s hitting on his unusually attractive aunt, it seems the line hints at Uncle Ben’s demise.
Homecoming also replaces Uncle Ben with Tony as the primary mentor for the 15-year-old Peter. In Civil War, Peter gave a variation of Ben’s “With great power must also come great responsibility” line when Tony comes to recruit him, but that isn’t mentioned in Homecoming. Peter’s arc here is not defined as his yo-yoing between whether he should help other people, as it is in nearly other Spider-movie. The willingness to help others is already baked into Peter and there’s no angst about it. Peter never seriously considers giving up as Spider-Man; instead, his arc is about figuring out how to be a hero and proving that he is worthy of the Avengers.
At Peter’s lowest moment — when the Vulture has buried him under a collapsed roof — Peter doesn’t think about Uncle Ben’s words of wisdom. Instead, he is motivated by Tony’s words from earlier in the film: “If you’re nothing without the suit, then you shouldn’t have it.” It’s safe to assume that Uncle Ben existed in this world, but his impact isn’t as powerful as fans are used to.
Roll with the Spider-powers
In Homecoming‘s first act, Peter leaves Midtown High and hops into his Spider-suit. He starts doing all the things a Spider-Man can: back-flips, swinging through the streets, standing up along the side of a fire escape.
If you didn’t know what Spider-Man’s power set is, too bad. The film never stops to explain them all in the way the first Raimi and Webb films did. You’re expected to get it at this point — Spider-Man is a man who can do a lot of things that spiders can.
And that goes for spider-sense too. The wall-crawler seemed to know attacks were coming in the Civil War airport scene, and he jumps out of the way of Shocker’s attack-from-behind in Homecoming. Watts’ film doesn’t go out of its way to explain that to viewers though.
And as for the spider that bit Peter? That happened off-screen, and all we know is that the poor spider is dead, as Peter tells Ned. The conversation does lead Ned to ask the fantastic question of whether Peter can summon an army of spiders, which hopefully Hank Pym can find a way to make happen later.
Stay close to the ground
Previous Spider-films made a big deal of Spider-Man swinging through the streets of Manhattan. It’s a distinctly Spider-Man thing to do — plenty of Marvel characters reside in New York, but it’s Spider-Man who is defined by the city — and Raimi in particular played up Spidey swinging down the streets of Manhattan. He even ended 2002’s Spider-Man with an iconic shot of Peter whipping between NYC taxis and spinning his way off a crane to the top of a skyscraper.
Yet there is barely a building over six stories to be found in Homecoming. Sure, Spidey swings around New York, but it’s in Queens, with its low-rise apartment buildings. It’s a big deal when Spidey climbs to the top of the Washington Monument; he’s never been this high off the ground and gets, well, jumpy. Keeping the wall-crawler out of Manhattan differentiates Homecoming from its big screen predecessors, yes, but more importantly, it serves the theme of the film — the borough is the home of the Avengers (or at least it was), and Spider-Man has to earn his way there.
Watts uses the lack of skyscrapers to get a good laugh that’s also an homage to a classic Spider-Man comic. In Queens, Spidey chases down some weapons dealers, but he needs to cut across a golf course. He shoots his webs off into the distance with nothing to attach to, a nod to The Amazing Spider-Man #267, when Peter does some crime-fighting in the suburbs and has many of his powers nullified.
Homecoming does what no other Spider-Man movie has done before: leave the Osborns completely on the sidelines. Even The Amazing Spider-Man used Oscorp as Dr. Curt Connors’ employer.
MCU head honcho Kevin Feige has said this franchise plans to avoid repeating villains we’ve seen before, so don’t count on seeing Norman or Harry Osborn in Homecoming’s 2019 sequel, or maybe even beyond that.