Despite being mostly about Tom Holland’s Peter Parker figuring out what it means to be a superhero in the present day, Spider-Man: Homecoming actually starts with a conflict that happens when Peter is only about 10 years old. (No, it has nothing to do with Uncle Ben!) Instead, the film opens with the origin story behind Homecoming’s principal villain, Vulture.
In Homecoming, Spider-Man spends his time stopping bike thieves and harassing Happy Hogan about the next Avengers mission, but Spidey’s overarching conflict with Vulture has everything to do with Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) and his crew salvaging Chitauri technology and selling it on the streets to make money. The Chitauri were, of course, the technologically advanced alien race that invaded Earth during the Battle of New York in Joss Whedon’s first Avengers movie.
At the start of Homecoming, Toomes is leading a salvage crew in 2012 that’s been privately hired to clean up some of the mess left behind by the Avengers from their fight against the Chitauri in the Battle of New York. Toomes invests his life’s savings into buying equipment and hiring a crew to work the massive contract job. But, on what appears to be their very first day, Tony Stark’s new Department of Damage Control swoops in and kicks them out.
Other wreckage from the Battle of New York showed up previously in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and though we’ve heard only a little about New York’s recuperation after the battle in Netflix shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, this is the first glimpse we really get of the blue-collar workers that actually participated in the reconstruction efforts. They feel as though they’ve been taken advantage of and are being neglected by the wealthy and the powerful.
Partly out of spite after having his job essentially stolen by Tony Stark and partly out of economic desperation, Adrian Toomes and his crew spend years stealing and tinkering with various kinds of Chitauri salvage so they can sell it. Toomes utilizes various pieces of Chitauri technology for his Vulture suit, which allows him to fly around with massive wings and lift a great deal of weight. The crew uses Chitauri tech (and eventually high-tech devices from other sources in the MCU) in all their heists.
While Toomes’s crew isn’t “big league” enough to attract the attention of the Avengers, they’re causing enough problems in New York City that Peter discovers what they’re up to, and he makes a point to get these weapons off the street. Especially after a piece of Chitauri technology demolishes Peter’s favorite bodega, it gets a little bit personal.
Peter’s journey as a hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe may have started in Captain America: Civil War, but the core conflict of Spider-Man: Homecoming started way back in May 2012 following the Battle of New York. How many times will Tony Stark’s arrogance and lack of concern for the “little guy” lead to problems in the future?
Spider-Man: Homecoming is out now in theaters.