As Spider-Man: Homecoming enters its third act, our web-slinging hero (Tom Holland) is at his lowest ebb. In his zeal to prove himself worthy to be an Avenger by catching the Vulture (Michael Keaton) and putting an end to his arms dealing operation, Spider-Man’s inexperience causes an incident where the Staten Island Ferry is torn in half, threatening the lives of the many people aboard. Despite his best efforts to web the ferry together, Spider-Man’s bungle is saved by the timely arrival of Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.). Tony Stark then scolds Peter Parker for his mishaps and takes back the high-tech Spidey suit he gifted Peter. When Peter admits he disobeyed Stark’s orders because “I just wanted to be like you,” Tony retorts, “I wanted you to be better.”
Tony Stark was the first in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to see the potential of Peter Parker. He even admits to Peter that the other Avengers on #TeamIronMan thought he was crazy to bring a teenager to fight alongside them in Captain America: Civil War. But Tony was onto something about Peter Parker even then, By the conclusion of Spider-Man: Homecoming, he’s even more impressed with his protégé, who responded positively to Tony’s “tough love” and took down the Vulture on his own. Tony offered Spider-Man full membership in the Avengers and is surprised (though not disappointed) when Peter declines.
Peter learned a valuable lesson about his limits and how much more he needs to learn in Homecoming. He accepts that he’s better off heeding Tony’s earlier words to stay “close to the ground” and be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. For his part, Tony is tickled by Peter’s “Bruce Springsteen working man vibe you’ve got going on,” and though he’s a man unaccustomed to hearing no, he was proud of Peter’s choice to defer his destiny. After all, Tony Stark is a futurist and Tony sees clear as day what the audience sees as well: Spider-Man is the future of the MCU.
There’s never been a superhero like Peter Parker in the MCU before. He embodies the purest superhero values since Captain America, but with thoroughly modern sensibilities. Though Peter himself fought in the Civil War against Captain America, Peter is untainted by the hard feelings and political infighting that led to the schism within the Avengers. He was #TeamIronMan because Iron Man sought him out, but, as we find out via Homecoming‘s opening vlog, Peter didn’t even know why Tony Stark brought him to Berlin. For Peter, fighting in the Civil War was one of the greatest moments of his life. As Spider-Man, he got to fight alongside and against the Avengers. There was no animosity towards anyone from Peter, nor was there any animosity for Peter. He was just a kid from Queens who had an amazing weekend with the superheroes he’s admired his whole life.
Spider-Man is not just the youngest superhero in the MCU that we know of – he’s the first superhero born in the 21st century. He grew up in a world where the Avengers exist as fact, with all the wonder and danger their presence in the world has wrought. Marvel has even retconned Iron Man 2 so that it was a very young Peter wearing an Iron Man mask whom Tony saved when the Stark Expo was attacked by the Iron Drones of Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke). Peter grew up hero-worshipping the Avengers and Iron Man in particular, so it was a dream come true when Tony Stark himself suddenly showed up in his apartment and revealed he knew all about Peter’s exploits as “the Spider-Man of YouTube.”
What was it about Peter Parker that impressed Tony Stark so much? At first, it was just the YouTube footage of Peter in his garish homemade Spider-Man suit stopping a 3 ton car with his bare hands. Tony also saw some of himself in Peter, a very smart science nerd who invented his own web fluid. But there was something else that left a powerful impression on Tony: Peter’s altruism. This 15 year old kid was spending his days and nights swinging around Queens, placing himself in danger and using his powers to help people, not for reward or to boost his ego or on the orders of an authority figure, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. This was reaffirmed when Tony heard Peter articulate his belief system in his own words: “When you can do the things that I can, but you don’t, and then the bad things happen, they happen because of you.”
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