Spider-Man: Homecoming does a lot of things with the web-slinger differently than previous Spider-Man movies did. Now, he’s actually a believable teenager, going to a smarty-pants high school and raised by a much younger Aunt May. There’s no Uncle Ben origin story. He gets to be pals with Tony Stark and operate in a wider Marvel Extended Universe. But, there’s one moment at the very end of the film that really highlights how different — and improved — the MCU’s Spider-Man is compared to previous flicks. It occurs when Aunt May drops an F-bomb when she discovers Peter Parker’s secret superhero identity.
Just like that, a core tenant of Spider-Man lore is gone. It’s a good thing, because let’s face it: Secret identities are boooorrrrrrrriiiinnngggg.
Speaking of secrets being boring, here’s a heads up: There are Spider-Man: Homecoming spoilers below.
Aunt May’s discovery of Peter’s identity doesn’t have much bearing on the actual plot of Homecoming. It is, not counting post-credit scenes, literally the last thing that happens in the movie. But it’s emblematic of the film’s understanding that the “I can’t let them know who I really am” song and dance is as tired as Uncle Ben is dead.
See, hiding your secret identity makes for solid melodrama, but we’ve seen it before at this point. It took several movies for Sam Rami’s Spider-Man to let anybody know who he really was (villains finding out in the third act doesn’t count) and it’s no coincidence that the best part of the Amazing series was Gwen Stacy and Peter’s relationship once the truth was out. Going through the motions of hiding the truth is, at this point, just depriving audiences of the fun banter and moments that characters can have once they’re out in the open.
If nobody knows who Peter really is, as was especially the case in the Rami movies, then he’s isolated. He doesn’t have peers or anyone he can confide in. And, while loneliness can make for some solid pathos, it’s not especially fun.
In Homecoming, meanwhile, the only person Peter really has to hide his superhero identity from is his crush, Liz. This secrecy mostly works, because it highlights the divide between his Avengers exploits and his vulnerable high school antics. It also helps that Peter has tons of other people (and in one case, an A.I.) that he can openly confide in. Tony and Happy know who he is, obviously, and Ned hilariously finds out the truth pretty early into the movie. Can you imagine Homecoming if Peter didn’t have Ned as his eager friend and “Guy in the Chair” helping him out?
Peter got to have friends and banter instead of a tired plot where he had to shut out all the important people in his life. The end of Homecoming adds a new wrinkle to this, as now Aunt May knows the truth going into Avengers: Infinity War and the eventual Homecoming 2. That’s going to be a much fresher, more interesting dynamic than keeping Aunt May in the dark yet again.
Sure, keeping some secrets is always going to be part of Spider-Man’s DNA. But, it’s nice that the cinematic universe that ended its first movie with the “I am Iron Man” bombshell still knows that the truth is a blast.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is now in theaters.