Spider-Man: Homecoming serves as a homecoming in two ways; firstly, it’s Peter Parker’s return to the MCU after making his debut in Captain America: Civil War, and secondly, it returns Peter to High School, as a Sophomore. Of course, it’s not going to be easy for Peter to juggle being a regular student and keeping his superhero alias a secret from his peers, but that’s the way it’s always been with Spider-Man, and that dynamic is part of what makes Homecoming so anticipated by fans.
Directed by Jon Watts, Spider-Man: Homecoming picks up after the events of Civil War, with Peter (Tom Holland) still riding high after fighting alongside the Avengers. Peter goes back to living with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), serving as his mentor. Peter is eager to prove himself as a fully-fledged super-hero, and he’ll get the chance to do that when he comes up against The Vulture (Michael Keaton), but in the meantime, there are all the trials and tribulations that being a high school student brings.
For Holland, the American High School experience is a world away to growing up in the U.K., attending an all-boys school. It can be tough to find something to identify with when situations are so alien, so, in preparation for the role, Holland was sent undercover, to a Science and Math school in the Bronx. Speaking to Screen Rant, Holland described the experience, adding that not one student recognized him:
Tom Holland: It’s funny Marvel actually sent me to a school in the Bronx where I had a fake name and I put on an accent, and I went for like three days. I basically had to go to this science school and blend in with all the kids, and some of the teachers didn’t even know. It was a science school, and I am in no way a science student. Some of the teachers would call me up in front of the class and try to get me to do science equations and stuff – it was so embarrassing. But it was actually really informative because schools in London are so different. I would go to school every day in a suit and tie, with just boys. To be in a school where you can be free and let loose, and be with girls, it was so different. Like SO different. But yeah, it was a really great experience.
Screen Rant: And nobody knew?
Tom Holland: Nobody knew. I actually have videos on my phone of me interviewing people, and asking them what they thought of the new Spider-Man in Civil War. They were like, Oh he’s great, I love him, and then some people were like, Nah, I don’t love him, he’s not great – and I was standing right in front of them! [laughter] But yeah, no, it was fun. It was really fun.
There are vast differences between a British and American education, and Holland certainly noticed that. Watts confirmed his decision to send him undercover, pointing out the one big thing that Holland noticed during his high school experience:
Jon Watts: Oh yeah, I made him go to school, because he’d never been to a normal school not even in England. So I sent him to a math and science high school because that’s the kind of school that Peter Parker would go to like a public, magnet school you have to test into. So I made him go and he was so blown away by how hard the kids worked and how smart everyone was. The thing he remarked on which I thought was such a great takeaway was that everyone was exhausted and that’s what I remember from high school. I remember being so tired. You’re waking up so early and working so hard and then doing so much homework and any extracurricular activities and you’re just exhausted all the time. So we made sure to keep some of that spirit alive just writing about being so tired. Like you’ve just woken up…
Within the high school setting, there’s the relationships between Peter and his friends to be explored; Michelle (Zendeya) is described as very smart and intellectual, and someone who comes off as weird, and then there’s Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon), Peter’s best friend and a complete gamer, and Liz Allan (Laura Harrier), his love interest. There’s also, of course, Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori), Peter’s long-standing comic-book rival. In Homecoming, Flash is reimagined as a rich, smug kid; a change from his comic book persona of the typical jock. This dual dynamic, of Peter being a worn-down high school student and web-slinging vigilante by night, will be interesting to see played out on screen.