Not since Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers broke up and then immediately got back together have the last few moments of a movie so unnecessarily soured what was otherwise a genuinely wonderful experience. Spider-Man: Homecoming suffers from an ‘Okay, can we just stop watching here?’ ending, and it confuses me wildly that someone thought a purposeless gag was more important than a genuinely endearing moment from a character whose entire goal in the MCU thus far has been a journey to personal redemption. Tony Stark wants to be a good man. He opines as much to Peter Parker, so it hurt me to see the moment of Tony truly turning over a metaphorical new leaf undone for a chuckle.
Spoiler alert, obviously.
In the closing moments of this generation’s pubescent spider lad’s initial outing, after the Birdman has been defeated, and everything’s on a up (web) swing, Tony Stark offers his not-actually-eight-legged protégé a gig as an avenger; full room and board, a fancy new red and gold suit (because I guess he’s taken a look at Peter’s colour scheme and decided ‘this needs a bit more me in it’), and a seat around the big round table that I assume they have. He tells Peter that there is a press conference waiting to introduce Spider-Man to the world. Peter, making a big boy decision, smiles politely and turns down the offer. He is, after all, still just a kid. As Peter turns to leave, he asks Tony if the offer was genuine, or if it was simply a test, and Tony says… okay, well, I can’t remember what he actually says, but he asserts that it was indeed just a test. They share a smile, and Peter toddles off on his merry way, presumably to lay a thousand tiny eggs or to sneak behind my head board or to do whatever it is little spiders do, and just as he does, Pepper ‘they renegotiated my contract so I’m back in the MCU’ Potts emerges into the scene like a piece of sink food that doesn’t seem to want to stay down the plug hole, telling Tony that the press conference is waiting for him.
So, it wasn’t a test. Tony wasn’t gently guiding Peter to make the choice that was in his best interest. He wasn’t being the responsible adult mentor to a fifteen year old boy, helping him reach the mature decision of beginning his own journey, instead of leaping to a finish line. He wasn’t seeing the childish nature of Peter’s desire to simply ‘become an avenger’ throughout the film as the wishes of a kid who doesn’t yet know what’s good for him. Instead, he was genuinely suggesting to a fifteen year old boy that he drop out of school, enter the super-hero limelight to face constant peril, leave his beloved and unsettlingly attractive aunt (side note: Robert Downey Jr and Marissa Tomei used to date) back home, and move in with a bunch of middle aged strangers, explicitly stating that he’d be next door to Vision, an alien-jewellery powered cyborg who doesn’t use doors.
Peter’s arc throughout this film was not only about digging deep and discovering the hero that Spider-Man could one day become, but also about taking a second to truly accept that that day was in the future, and not in the present. Peter has a long way to go, and as an adult, Tony should have known that. The tests and trials that Tony put Peter through seemed to be deliberate, in pointing him towards the journey of understanding his role as a hero. He honestly acted like kind of a dick throughout the movie, giving his typical ‘I’m kind of a dick’ performance, to fill the apparently lovable kind of a dick character quota for the movie. However, if the avengers job offer at the end of the film had simply have been a test, it would show us that beneath it all, Tony was not just trying to do the right thing, but also genuinely paying attention to this child that he recently dragged across the world into a politically subjective airport brawl. It would have shown us that he knew deep down Peter would make the right choice for a kid his age, and that Tony had been shepherding him all along in the direction of that choice.
Yeah, it’s a very typical Marvel moment to throw in a ‘Hey, Tony? The press conference is waiting!’ joke, but it totally undoes any of the perceived growth there had been in Tony’s character. He wasn’t guiding a fifteen year old kid to understand what was truly important to him, and giving him a single moment to finally assert that he had learned the difference between what he thought he wanted, and that he knew he needed. He was just offering him a job. The idiot.