Posted on Monday, April 3rd, 2017 by Peter Sciretta
On August 22, 2016, I traveled to Atlanta to visit the set of Spider-man: Homecoming and learned a lot about the first solo adventure of Tom Holland’s wall-crawling superhero. Let’s run through everything you could possibly want to know.
Even though this movie is set to come out a year after the release of Captain America: Civil War, the film’s opening takes place during the events of that film. In the movie’s opening montage, Peter Parker goes on a whirlwind tour of Berlin, discovers the first class life, and has a lot of fun with his new suit.
The movie’s actually story begins just under five months later, with Parker as a high school sophomore. Tom Holland explained that for Peter Parker, “It’s almost like he went to summer camp and now he’s back at school again.” He elaborated:
“Here’s this kid who goes on this adventure with Iron Man and all of the Avengers, and then suddenly he’s stuck on the subway going back to school. It’s a very fun thing to play; that sort of stroppy teenager after having the best time of his life. But there’s definitely light at the end of the tunnel for Peter Parker.”
When the film begins, Peter Parker has been Spider-Man for less than a year. There’s a line in Civil War that got cut where he says, “the last four or six months, or something, crime had dropped by four or six percent” which implies when he started. Aside from the airport battle in Berlin, Spider-Man has not come up against any super-villains…until now.
Peter attends Midtown Technical High School, a public high school in Queens which requires a certain level of test scores to get into it. However, the kids at school make fun of Peter Parker (one of them calls him “Penis Parker”). They shot the exteriors at a school in Brooklyn (Franklin K. Lane), and the interiors were shot at a school in Atlanta (Grady High School).
Director Jon Watts wanted the world to look like a modern day high school and not like a movie high school. Producer Amy Pascal said that “He brought a modern day sensibility to it that I think was really fresh.” Watts himself said that the high school atmosphere was “a big part” of his pitch for the movie:
“The very first thing I made was a look book of what I wanted the world to look like and what the kids should look like and the high school should look like. I lived in New York for thirteen years and it should look like a school in New York, it shouldn’t look like a school in the Midwest in the 50s. So I pulled a bunch of pictures of kids and documentary photos of kids in schools, and that was part of my pitch and everyone was really into that and followed through with the casting, which is so, so cool. I love the kids.”
One of the goals was to make it look like a real high school in Queens, and that meant casting a class full of diverse students. Pascal said it was really important “because it’s the world that we live in. And we don’t live in that other world anymore. And we needed to catch up with the way the world really is, and people who go to the movies and people want to see themselves and…it was too long. Too long. But, we did.”
The Story Approach
Co-Producer Eric Hauserman Carroll explained how the story was developed:
“We at Marvel start with something called the Discussion Document, where it’s sort of like a Mission Statement. It’s a 20 to 30-page document where we just go, ‘This is what we think it is! This is what we think will be fun! Here’s some cool characters!’ We laid them all out and put all of the ones who had been in the movies before and Vulture just felt compatible with the MCU. When we sort of struck on the fun thematic thing of the Vulture being somebody who scavenges what the Avengers and their enemies leave behind, we all just got really excited by that. But we told all of the writers and all of the directors who came in, ‘Pitch us anything. It’s one of these best-idea types of scenarios.’ If someone came in with the greatest Doc Ock pitch of all time, then we were like, ‘This is it! It feels new, it feels different, it feels MCU specific, we would have done it. But frankly, I think all but two people came in and pitched the Vulture to us. And we were excited. We were leaning that way anyway, but then we heard that idea that [Jonathan] Goldstein and [John Francis] Daley pitched, and we were like, ‘Yeah, this is cool. It feels MCU. It feels unique. It feels like you haven’t seen it before.’”
Spider-Man’s origin story will not be explored in this movie, although the film will reference it. Uncle Ben is mentioned. The producers assured us that Spider-Man’s origin story has not been changed in this new incarnation. They wanted to avoid retelling the story because they felt it would lock them into a structure of a movie that has already been made a couple of times. They won’t even show a flashback to his origin because the audience already knows it well.
Spider-Man: Homecoming has been described as a real high school story – they want Spider-Man to be this complicated small world soap opera. This will be a story told from the ground-level. Even Peter Parker has a fear of heights, like anyone would standing on a multi-story building. We will not see him swing down 5th avenue in this movie or jump off a 40-story building. There is a bit of reluctance and we see him taking it in small steps, working his way up to the Spider-Man we know.
Peter Parker doesn’t want to be Peter Parker. He knows that people love Spider-Man and would rather be him. But as he invests himself more into his alter ego, he leaves a lot of people in his personal life angry that he has abandoned them. As described to us, the theme of the film is Peter Parker having to come to acceptance of his place: “Who am I?” It’s a coming of age story. It’s him wanting desperately to be accepted by the cool kids, but then realizing that he is cool.
They have made a conscious decision not to include or mention anyone who has been in the past Spider-Man films outside of Peter, Flash and Aunt May. So don’t expect to meet Harry Osborn or hear a mention of Oscorp. Their goal is for every frame of this to feel different from the previous incarnations.
Also, don’t expect to see The Daily Bugle for this and a more logistical reason. As Eric Hauserman Carroll explained:
“We toyed with it for a while, but again, we didn’t want to go down that road right away, and if we do do a Daily Bugle, we want to do it in a way that feels contemporary. Working in a newspaper while fighting crime and overachieving, it just felt like one of those things where like… maybe it’s in his future? Maybe it’s what he does in college or something like that. But for now, no.”
Production designer Oliver Scholl says most of the film is set in Queens, with Manhattan looming in the background:
“It’s a very conscious choice to say he is not in Manhattan. Manhattan stands for the big guys. It’s always across the river. That’s what he aspires to. That’s where the Avengers Tower is across the river. Looming in the sunset. But he’s not there. Yet.”
The Spider-Man Suit
As indicated by the most recent trailer, we will see Peter Parker in his homemade suit that we saw balled up in Civil War. The suit is really simple: goggles, sweatpants, a red hoody with a logo made in sharpie. Peter doesn’t get his sexy close-up shots of getting in costume. Instead, it’s super clumsy, as you’d expect from someone trying to put on a onesie in an ally.
The advanced Spider-Man suit that Tony Stark created is filled with cool technology that we didn’t see in Civil War. As you saw in the trailer, the Spider-Man logo on the chest can be deployed as a remote drone. Most of the cool tech has been disabled as part of some safety systems, and Tony can track the suit via GPS.
There’s a lot of practical Spider-Man in this movie, more than even the producers had expected going in. The suit plays very well in medium-to-wide shots, as well as close-ups that don’t involve the moving eyes (which require CG). The filmmakers realized they can get away with more than they initially thought.
After Parker is able to deactivate the “Training Wheels” protocol, he discovers the suit has a voice operating system like Jarvis, although voice casting was not decided at the time we were on set. The suit also has a holographic interface. Says Carroll:
“Probably most notably, it starts talking to him, and he goes, ‘Oh, this is weird.’ And he starts asking it stuff, but he’s not super slick or Tony Stark smart, who invented the OS and did all this. He’s a kid. So he’s like, ‘Um, how do I get to where that thing is?’ And it’s like, ‘Um, I don’t know. Pretty much drive? How are you going to get there?’ And he’s like, ‘Um, if I didn’t have a car, let’s just say, how would I get there?’ And it’s like, ‘Well, if you walk…’ And he’s like, ‘No, OK, alright… I guess just give me directions and I’ll figure out the HOW I’m getting there.’”
One of the many differences in this version of Spider-Man is that the suit has a bunch of technological improvements, where the previous versions were more based in the result of the scientific accident of Spidey’s origin. Carroll explained:
“Scientific accidents gave almost everyone their powers in all five of the previous ones. So when we looked to reinvent the movie, we looked at what sort of tact we could take. And one was that all of the MCU movies try to have this quasi-plausibility, you know what I mean? As much as we can… we try to make it feel like the world we live in. And we felt like if a kid is running around in a skin-tight suit with all of these cool features, it’s probably going to be pretty high tech.”
We will see Peter Parker inventing his web fluid, a scene we saw in the first teaser trailer. “That’s a practical effect, by the way. A chemist helped us figure out what would melt good together to give us that length of [Laughter] webby fluid liquid. So that was something we actually shot,” Carroll said.
The hologram we saw on the ceiling in the Civil War post-credits scene is part of the interface for his web shooters. Carroll explained:
“One of the ideas is that when he does this [movement] he can adjust the spray, and he can even scroll through different web settings, like spinning web, web ball, ricochet web… you know, all of the stuff we can see him do in the comics, Tony has built into this. That was sort of unlocked for him. So when he shines that, it will go [boom noise], and if he wants to shoot just the one swinging web, it will go down really small. And if he wants to web a guy to the wall, it goes [makes noise] and goes like that. It’s kind of like a DSLR camera. He can shoot without it, or he can hold that thing a second, get his aiming right, and really choose a web to shoot.”
Tom Holland’s favorite new gadget in the tech suit involves augmented reality:
“My favorite gizmo that the suit has… there’s a very funny sequence in the movie because of something he can do with his vision in the suit… he can sort of alter what he sees and how he sees things, and it’s really funny to see. It’s almost like the first time you play a video game and the controls are all funny, and it’s really funny seeing him look like a badass, but inside panic and not know what to do.”
As for how any of the tech works, don’t ask Robert Downey Jr. Holland recalls that he was “doing that scene with Robert and I asked one of the prop guys, Can you walk me through what we’re doing here? Because I was unscrewing a DVD player, and Robert was like, Dude, I don’t know what Tony Stark does… [laughter] He’s like, just act dude, you got this. It was great.”