The movie opens with a mini-movie—really more of a video diary—by Peter himself, briefly recounting the character’s reintroduction as a temporary Avenger in Captain America: Civil War. (“No one has actually told me what I’m doing in Berlin,” he narrates to his smartphone. “Something about Captain America going crazy.”) But when it’s over, it’s over. And Peter, having had a taste of full-on superheroism, is back to being an ordinary, not terribly popular high-schooler in Queens.
Well, not quite ordinary. He still has his superpowers, the high-tech suit with which Stark outfitted him, and an abiding desire to fight crime. If he can find any, that is. To the brilliant accompaniment of the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” (Hey! Ho! Let’s go!), Peter confronts an apparent car thief who turns out to be the owner of the vehicle in question, and recovers a stolen bike that may or may not have actually been stolen. But finally he spots a genuine ATM heist being carried out by goons wielding super-high-tech weaponry.
Did you ever wonder what happened to all the futuristic alien gear with which the Chitauri attacked New York in the first Avengers movie? Well in theory, it wound up in the hands of a joint venture between the government and Stark Industries called the Department of Damage Control. But given that 1,500 tons of the stuff was scattered throughout the tri-state area, inevitably some of it fell into the wrong hands. And two of those hands belonged to Adrian Toomes, a construction engineer with a decidedly Trumpian sense of aggrievement at the rich elites (looking at you, Tony Stark) who he believes have looked down at him all his life. To compel them to start looking up, he equips himself with giant turbo-powered wings and goes into business quietly selling weapons constructed from Chitauri technology: black hole grenades, anti-gravity guns, and the world’s nastiest joy buzzer.
Thus, even as it reinvents the typical Marvel hero as a shy kid with a severe high-school crush, Homecoming also reinvents the typical Marvel villain: Toomes—occasionally people refer to him as “Vulture,” though he doesn’t seem to bother with the moniker himself—is not bent on global dominion or destroying the Avengers or any such grandiose endeavor. All he wants is to stay below the radar and make a few bucks selling contraband arms. Needless to say, Spider-Man wants to stop him and, given that he isn’t able to get the Avengers interested, decides to go it alone.
Homecoming gets so many things right that it’s almost difficult to catalog them. For starters, there’s no origin story: no radioactive spider and Uncle Ben getting shot and “with great power comes great responsibility” speech and on and on. If you really don’t know how Peter Parker became Spider-Man, look up one of the earlier movies. Peter does still live with his Aunt May, but she’s been reconceived from an elderly widow to younger surrogate-mom played by a very good Marisa Tomei. (A less successful reconception involves Spidey’s gadget-laden suit, which even talks to him; Stark product or no, it can’t help but feel just a little too Iron Man-y.)