While the out-and-out best thing about Marvel and Sony’s deal to share Spider-Man and bring him over to the MCU was that the powerhouse Marvel Studios would have input in future Spidey movies and hopefully turn the character’s fortunes around after a serious misfire, it also enabled something more knee-jerkingly cool: cameos. Obviously Spider-Man can now appear in team-up movies like Captain America: Civil War and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, but Marvel icons can also come visit him in Queens. From very early on in Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s development we knew that Robert Downey Jr. would be back for an 8th go around as Tony Stark, serving as an unconventional mentor to the 15-year-old vigilante. However, the new trailer revealed that another Avenger will make an appearance.
In a short sequence showing Ned Leeds quizzing best buddy Peter Parker on his recently revealed superheroic alter ego, we get a scene of the pair and the rest of their class in gym class, watching a video called Captain America’s Workout Challenge hosted by none other than Steve Rogers. Yup, Cap’s back and it’s in a rather odd way. But how does it work? Let’s break it down.
What is Captain America’s Workout Challenge?
Captain America’s Workout Challenge is pretty self-explanatory – it’s a made-for-schools video that uses a legendary hero to motivate students in gym class. What’s so striking is how out-of-character it is for the modern-day Rogers to be doing; the whole thing is rather reminiscent of the propaganda publicity that Cap originally starred in during World War II but later ditched. So how on Earth did this happen?
Steve is wearing the version of his costume from The Avengers, implying that it was produced around the events of that movie (by Captain America: The Winter Soldier two years later he had a different, more muted suit). The most likely explanation is that, after he was thawed out from his date-missing nap, S.H.I.E.L.D. weren’t quite sure what to do with their super soldier and, like the US military seventy years earlier, used him as a promotional piece – it’s like how sports stars sell their image and is in the same ballpark as The Winter Soldier‘s Smithsonian exhibit.
The irony, of course, is that Steve is the product of extreme experimentation – his powers come from a serum, basically meaning his real fitness regime is taking steroids.
What Impact Will The Video Have On The Film?
Ostensibly the workout video is a cool little easter egg – a way for Homecoming to further show off how it’s a part of the MCU and can casually include Avengers elements (in stark contrast to how The Amazing Spider-Man failed to jump through enough hoops to get its Oscorp tower in The Avengers) – that plays the part of one of the John Hughes-ian scenes in the movie. Hopefully there’s be a little more of the video, which looks to be a humorous send-up of classic corny school tapes – the sort of thing that is awkward for all involved.
However, it does have a little more weight than that. While watching the video, Ned asks Peter “Do you know him too?” to which Peter excitedly whips back “I stole his shield”. It’s a neat little reference to the show-stopping introduction of Spidey in Captain America: Civil War, but also one that works into the film’s wider exploration of Peter’s come down from being a part of the Avengers conflict. The way he talks about the event is with total, cool confidence, yet in practice he was as awkward as a teenager meeting their heroes would be – after the shield catch, he dissected his landing, commented on his new suit and even gushed over Cap. The video is, then, a way to highlight the difference between his two lives; who Spider-Man is and what Peter perceives himself to be.
Will There Be Any More Cap In Homecoming?
Now the big question; we know Captain America has a part to play in Spider-Man: Homecoming, so, after a hopefully extended fitness video cameo, will he be in it more?
Logistically, that may not be likely. When we last saw Steve Rogers at the end of Civil War he was a fugitive, breaking his team out of the Raft prison before – per his letter to Tony – going underground. At this point it’d be strange for him to just pop up randomly in another hero’s adventure, especially in the middle of New York City; there’d be no way to do it without having it directly impact a lot of Avengers politics that are surely being saved for exploration in Infinity War.
Something more substantial is further unlikely based on the little word we have had on the topic from those involved. Speaking around the release of Captain America 3, Chris Evans said he was interested in having a “pop up” cameo in Homecoming, probably surreptitiously hinting at the Workout Challenge. Crucially, though, he didn’t seem too set on anything more, making actually narrative involvement a stretch. In fact, this isn’t the first time we’ve had Evans do this sort of trick; he also had a brief appearance in Thor: The Dark World when Loki briefly transformed into Cap to mock Thor’s new Earth-based friends.
If Captain America’s Workout Challenge, even in an extended form, is the total of Steve Rogers’ presence in Spider-Man: Homecoming, then it’s something of a shame that Sony have revealed it so blatantly in the marketing; this is the exact sort of surprise fans would go wild over. That said, it’s still a creative piece of world-building that hopefully will provide a few laughs while further integrating Spider-Man into the MCU and establishing Peter’s view of his recent flirtation with The Avengers.