(Notes from my notebook on Spider-Man Homecoming.)
When I watch something, I don’t just sit there passively taking on the entertainment—unless I’m in the movie theater. Using this post as a guideline, I use this to outline the beats of a movie, book, or comic book. So when I recently re-watched Spider-Man Homecoming, I decided to take notes on the plot points. The movie is directed by Jon Watts, written by Jonathan Goldstein and Jon Francis Daley, and stars Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr, Marissa Tomei, and Michael Keaton. What I liked most about this movie was the little John Hughesian shout-outs to it like the chase scene through the neighborhood during Liz’s party and the car scene with Keaton just before the Homecoming dance.
WARNING: Spoilers if you haven’t seen this movie or have not seen Avengers: Infinity War, because there’s a neat character moment between Downey and Holland.
So here are my beat sheet notes:
Opening Image: Michael Keaton and his crew are contracted to salvage the alien wreckage after the battle of New York in the first Avengers movie. They get dumped by Damage Control and they decide to start stealing stuff because of the ruined contract.
Setup: Peter’s new suit and Stark’s introduction as a mentor. Peter’s video diary is a neat update of Parker as a photographer to being a vlogger. It also gives his perspective of the fight in Berlin from Captain America: Civil War. Doing good deeds as “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” in Queens.
Theme: Peter Parker, no matter how much good he does, is a fuck-up in both his real life and Spidey life.
Catalyst: Bank robbery using high tech gear from the Vulture’s crew. Ned finding out Peter’s secret. Plot Point #1.
Debate: Ned knowing Spidey and whether he should appear as Spider-Man at Liz’s party. Sets up a later reveal in Act 3.
B-Story: Sets up crush on Liz.
Fun: Party. Funny line: “Spider it up!” Ferris Bueller-homage scene. Falls upon a deal Shocker is trying to pull off and messes it up because of Spidey’s intervention. Spidey manages to come away with a piece of stolen tech to examine. Stark warns Parker to stay away from these guys. Vulture kills Shocker for his attitude.
Bad Guys Close In: New Shocker (Bokeem Woodbine from Fargo Season 2!) tracks the location of Spider-Man to the high school where Parker puts on a tracer on the guy’s sneaker. Follows them to DC. Disables training wheels protocol.
All is Lost: While pursuing the bad guys in a deal Spidey gets locked in a bunker after a fight with Vulture (Keaton) again. Spidey learns that the alien tech they’re using arms when passed through x-rays and Ned has the alien tech when they go to tour the Washington Monument. Spidey not only ghosts the debate team, but also disappoints Liz, and now his friends are all in danger and he’s locked in some SHIELD bunker. Ned passes through the X-Ray and arms the weapon. Spidey, somehow, saves the day in the knick of time.
Dark Night: Fun scene with Donald Glover. Ferry scene. Mac Gargan deal (Scorpion). He screws up again and Iron Man has to bail him out. Plot point #2: He takes the Spidey suit back. STARK: “I want you to be better. But if you died that’s on me and I don’t think I could live with myself.” Alludes to Infinity War. May flips out at him for detention and is disappointed in him because this is not the kid she and Ben raised. Great scene. Parker is not expelled. Michelle smiles at him. Asks Liz to homecoming. Suiting it up with May. When picking up Liz, Peter realizes that Vulture is her dad. Vulture also realizes that Spider-Man and Parker are one and the same. Threatens Parker with killing his friends and family, because he endangers Toomes’s ability to provide for his family. .
Act 3: This fires up Peter because May and Ned are really all he has right now. Plot Point #2
Final Conflict: Battle with Vulture at the Homecoming Dance wearing nothing but his street costume. Ghosts Liz for the final time. Vulture’s justification: “I’m doing all of this for my family. The rich, the powerful, they don’t care about us—we just pick up their scraps…” like a Vulture. He loses and he ceiling collapses on him. Turning point: “Come on, Spider-Man!” He’s more than just a suit—he’s a full fledged hero. Fight in Coney Island. Saves Vulture unlike the rest of the Marvel characters whose villains typically die. Sets up the idea that Spider-Man is a new kind of Avenger because he’s not a killer, whereas the original Avengers are and is in fact better than Stark.
Final Image: “I hope you figure out what it is going on with you.” Michelle is Mary Jane. Offered a spot on the Avengers. Iron Spider costume. He turns it down but Stark gets engaged. Gets his old costume back and May flips out and cut to black.
Every movie, book, and comic has at least four emotional character plots happening in them. They’re typically referred to as Story A, B, C, and D. In this case, I think this formula fits and it looks like this:
A-Story: Spider-Man and Parker wants to be an Avenger but he’s still in “training wheels” he’s not ready and is clearly a constant screw-up in both his superhero and personal life. The entire arc of the movie is about Parker and Spider-Man becoming an Avenger and he eventually does in Infinity War.
B-Story: Parker has a crush on Liz Toomes (Laura Harrier) who it turns out is the Vulture’s daughter (Keaton).
C-Story: Keaton’s Vulture is nuanced in the sense that he performs these crimes—picking up the scraps of the Avengers—to support his family. He risks himself and others to provide for his family. Also plays another bird based character.
D-Story: That Parker is more than just a suit, that he is just as capable of heroism using his natural gifts, and he successfully brings down Toomes. And doesn’t kill him, showing Stark that he is, in fact, better than him as a hero.
The C and D-stories may be interchangeable. I debated that a lot. What do you think? If this is something you like, you may want to subscribe to my newsletter where I do some of my early thinking on posts like these. In the future I’ll be doing this for Black Panther and the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
Hope you like it!