July 7 is a historic day in the world of superhero movies because it is the day Spider-Man: Homecoming arrives in theaters. Why so historic? Well, this new, rebooted version of Spider-Man is the first to be produced by Marvel Studios (The Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America) in conjunction with two other studios. As producer Amy Pascal put it, “I don't think it will ever happen again in the history of the movie business: you have three studios that came together to have this movie being made. And no studio likes to share anything with anyone, let alone three studios.”
Fandango was lucky enough to swing onto the set of the newest Spider-Man movie last year, and what we learned was that those involved in making it went to painstaking lengths to make sure everything – from the characters to the story to the action to the humor – was unlike anything we’ve seen in a Spider-Man movie yet.
But let’s break it down a bit more for you…
Spider-Man: Homecoming picks up a few months after the events of Captain America: Civil War.
Yes, Homecoming will hit theaters two years after Civil War hit theaters, but Marvel is playing like there are only a few months between them, storywise. The reason for doing that was so they could tell stories about Peter Parker in high school.
“If we say that it was actually two years after Civil War then he’s moving on, he’s a senior, and when the next movie comes out, it’s his sophomore year of college, and we really wanted to do multiple movies where he’s in high school,” Homecoming producer Eric Hauserman Carroll said, adding that in this film Parker will be a sophomore in high school.
This Spider-Man is different from the other Spidey movies in a number of ways.
The word used most often on set was “grounded,” in that this isn’t a movie about gods or space raccoons – it’s one about a kid in high school who’s just trying to fit in… and be a hero at the same time.
“We’ve seen the Norse god, we’ve seen the billionaire, we’ve seen the soldier – now we get to see the kid,” Tom Holland said. “And one of the themes of the movie is what would a 15-year-old boy do with superpowers.”
A 15-year-old boy with superpowers is a little awkward…
The Spider-Man we meet in Homecoming is awkward around his school crushes, and also his part-time hobby. This is not a slick, smooth Spider-Man – in fact, he’s anything but.
“This is a guy who grew up in a world where all these [superhero] characters are real," Carroll said. “Seeing it from the ground, what is that like? How is that different? One, he doesn't get his sexy close-up shots of him getting dressed [all] badass, like Batman or Iron Man. It's kind of clumsy. It's kind of awkward, and when he's in the alley changing into his suit, it's more like a guy trying to pull on long johns, than it is [some] awesome thing.”
Making Spider-Man an awkward, clumsy teenager is a new direction for the entire franchise and one that really was never explored in the previous movies starring Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.
“What's great about Spider-Man is that he's a regular kid, and so by showing his story you also get to show what the ground level is like in a world where the Avengers exist,” director Jon Watts said. “By having Peter Parker be a kid it also opens up a lot of possibilities that are only really explored at the beginning of the other two versions of the [Spider-Man] films.”
He’s also afraid of heights.
Yes, Spider-Man is afraid of heights! This is only the beginning of Spider-Man’s story, and since he hasn’t spent much time actually being Spider-Man – swinging atop skyscrapers and down the canyons of New York City -- he has a fairly common fear of being very high off the ground.
“His is a ground-level version of Spider-Man,” Carroll said. “Starting out, he's not irrationally afraid of heights but he has the fear of heights I think all well-balanced people do. So we're going to see him around Queens. We're going to see him around high-rises, not skyscrapers. We’re going to see him four to six stories off the ground, and handling it OK, and anytime he gets a little higher than that, there's a moment of pause.”
But he’s got a really cool suit!
That’s what happens when Tony Stark is responsible for creating the new Spidey suit. We got a brief taste of Spidey’s Stark-ified suit in Captain America: Civil War, but there’s a lot more it can do, too. Peter realizes the suit comes with a bunch of other features after he uses something Stark called the “training-wheels protocol.”
In addition to its own JARVIS-like voice assistant, some of the other features include:
- A heater
- It lights up
- The Spider logo on the chest can float off and assist in providing “surveillance data,” according to Carroll.
- An airbag
- Different sorts of webs that can be unlocked
“We tried to look through the comics and pull out all of the sort of fun and wacky things that Steve [Ditko] did, which seemed even harder to explain when he built it in his own bedroom,” Carroll said.
And he has a pretty cool aunt!
Marisa Tomei returns as a much younger version of Peter’s Aunt May, and a much hipper version, too.
“They have a really cool relationship in this movie where we tried to reenvision that as well,” Carroll said. “So instead of this grand matronly aunt, who for some reason is twice the age of Peter's parents, it's almost like the big sister. She's a little older than him, of course, but they're just different people. She's a little more rock 'n' roll and he's a little more home robotics club. “
But he’s not cool enough to hang out in Manhattan… yet.
Of all the Spider-Man movies, Homecoming will probably spend the most time outside of Manhattan, as Peter Parker’s life at this point is very much rooted in Queens.
“If you think of New York, you usually think of Manhattan. So it's a very conscious choice to say he is not in Manhattan,” production designer Oliver Scholl said. “Manhattan stands for the big guys. It's always across the river. That's what he aspires to. That's where the Avengers Tower is – looming in the sunset. But he's not there… yet.”
Aside from Queens, the film will also include an action sequence at the Washington Monument, as well as one on the Staten Island ferry.
You remember Spider-Man’s brief flirtation with being an Avenger, right?
When Homecoming picks up, it’s shortly after the events of Captain America: Civil War, and we meet up with a Peter Parker who essentially went on this unbelievably awesome Avengers vacation and then was tossed back into the cold, harsh reality of being a teenager and having to go to school.
We will get to see a little bit more of what Parker’s Avengers experience was like shortly after the film begins.
“Tony Stark grants him the new high-tech version of the spider-suit. The one that we saw him use in Civil War,” producer Carroll said. “And what we'll see is a quick little flashback, which sorta shows his whirlwind tour; [how he] gets plucked out of Queens and pulled into the events of Civil War.”
But Spider-Man: Homecoming also connects to the very first Avengers movie.
The great thing about Homecoming for longtime fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will come in seeing all the big (and small) ways they connect Spider-Man to the other Marvel Studios movies. In fact, the opening of the film takes place shortly after the events of the first Avengers movie, as crews attempt to clean up all of the immense wreckage born out of the Battle of New York.
This is where we first meet the film’s central villain, Adrian Toomes, aka the Vulture.
“He thinks he's landed this giant contract to help clean up after the Battle of New York,” Carroll said. “He's brought on extra men. He bought extra trucks. He's all in. A day into his work, this new organization no one’s ever heard of called the Department of Damage Control shows up and says, 'We got this. You guys go home.'”
And yes, that is the same Department of Damage Control from the comics.
In the comics, Tony Stark was one of the original owners of the Department of Damage Control, which is a company meant to clean up after big superhero battles and assist in restoring things back to normal. In Homecoming, the company will be used as a way to both bring Stark back into Spider-Man’s universe, but also as an instigator for Toomes, a hard-working, blue-collar guy who watches the promise of a great gig stripped from him by Stark’s company.
“He runs salvage. He's a working guy,” Michael Keaton said. “He's built this business, this company. He works hard. And they took it from him.”
Before Toomes and his crew get the boot, however, they’re able to swipe some of the alien tech left over from the Battle of New York, and that weaponry opens up a whole new side business.
“He takes things in that he feels like a victim, and some of it is justified, actually,” Keaton said. “He believes that there's an upper echelon of a society of people who are getting away with a lot and have everything. And there's a whole lot of folks who are working hard, and don't have much.
“He had scavenged a bit of this high-tech alien stuff,” Carroll added. “And along with some of the guys on his team, who are also very smart, they build this wing suit.”
Speaking of Vulture’s wing suit…
Michael Keaton’s Vulture is very much that, a vulture. He’s a scavenger, swiping more and more tech from the Department of Damage Control. Much of that tech is also built into his tricked-out wing suit.
“We wanted to make sure it wasn't just evil Falcon, or another guy with a backpack with wings on it,” Carroll said. “So we felt one of the cool ways to do that was to make this more of a vehicle than a costume. This thing is something like 32 to 36 feet wide. It's a small plane. It's not a backpack he puts on and wings pop out. It's a thing that rests on a gantry that he has to step and clip into, and it is massive and supercool.”
“The Vulture is definitely a formidable opponent, and he is terrifying,” Holland said. “His suit is absolutely terrifying.
And Toomes has other guys on his team, like Shocker and the Tinkerer.
Adrian Toomes recruits guys from his old crew to assist him in this nefarious weapon-gathering side hustle.
Two of the more prominent ones are named Shocker and the Tinkerer, with the latter acting as the brains of the operation, and the former utilizing a more evolved weapon left over from Captain America: Civil War to wreak a little havoc.
“[Shocker’s] got these insulated yellow arms, like the Shocker in the comics,” Carroll said. “And that gauntlet, you'll recognize from the beginning of Civil War, it's what's Crossbones is using to kick the s**t out of Cap in that prologue. They scavenged it from the battle in Lagos and made a couple of upgrades, so that it's not a pneumatic punch machine, it also delivers a pretty hefty jolt when it connects as well.”
“They're his boys, and they are like-minded,” Keaton added. “I really like the relationship with the Tinkerer--with Michael (Chernus)'s character--it's great. He's real funny, so we goof around a lot and make up very, very funny backstories.”
All of them will battle in one massive action sequence on board the Staten Island ferry.
The production re-created a portion of the Staten Island ferry for a sequence that finds Spider-Man in over his head, as his attempt to stop Toomes results in the tables being turned on Spidey.
“Toomes uses one particularly big weapon which Spider-Man tries to yank away from him, but not before it can cut a giant slice in the top half of the Staten Island ferry, causing it to start to split,” Carroll explained. “So Spider-Man desperately does everything he can; now it’s not about stopping the Vulture -- it’s about trying to save as many lives as he can and/or not letting this boat sink.”
Plus, there’s another action sequence that’s inspired by Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
John Hughes was a big inspiration on this film. Director Jon Watts told us in a separate interview that there are many references to Hughes’ movies, including Weird Science, as well as an entire action scene inspired by the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
“They go through this great Ferris Bueller-inspired chase through this neighborhood, Carroll revealed. “It’s a lot of fun, he's running through people’s backyards, he’s encountering friendly dogs, things like that. We think it’s going to be one of the signature sequences in the film.”
In the end, Spider-Man: Homecoming is essentially about finding a place and discovering one’s true self.
"It’s that acceptance of my place,” Carroll said when asked what the main theme of the film is. “Who am I? It’s a coming-of-age story. It’s [Peter Parker] wanting desperately to be accepted by the cool kids, but then realizing that he is cool.”
“We really pushed Spider-Man to new limits, and there are things we definitely have not seen before,” Holland added.
Spider-Man: Homecoming hits theaters on July 7.