Marvel's superhero movies are known for three things: bringing iconic comic characters to life on the big screen, causing tons of collateral damage to fictional versions of New York City, and being full of gratifying Easter Eggs. There's nothing quite like the feeling of watching a superhero film and pointing to all your friends that, like Captain America, you understood the reference.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is no exception to the Easter Egg rule. From the Battle of New York in the Avengers, to the airport fight in Civil War, to the always epic Stan Lee cameo appearance, Homecoming is full of clear and clever nods to past films set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Of course, the best references are those that make you work for them, the ones that take some serious thinking to get the reference, and always end up satisfying eagle-eyed fans in the end. Homecoming has an #EasterEgg like this in a form you'd never imagine. But first, a little history for the uninitiated.
'Go Get 'Em, Tiger!'
One of the most memorable lines in Spider-Man's history is spoken by his most prominent love interest, #MaryJaneWatson. When Peter Parker first laid eyes on MJ (at the same time as readers), he was instantly smitten. She could tell, too, hitting him with a line that would ring true for several generations of comic book storylines: "Face it, Tiger...you just hit the jackpot!"
That classic Spider-Man panel, and MJ's regular use of the nickname "Tiger" for Parker, cemented that line in Spider-history for decades to come, with later comic books continuing to reference it and later, movies. The first live-action film to reference the line was 2004's Spider-Man 2, where MJ said to a costume-clad Peter Parker, "Go get 'em, Tiger." Spider-Man: Homecoming also pays tribute to MJ's playful beginnings, but rather than use a verbal reference, director #JonWatts decided instead to show it with a visual gag.
Warning: Mild spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming are ahead.
In Homecoming, we see both the lives of Peter Parker, average high-school student, and Spider-Man, friendly neighborhood crime-fighter. We travel between the streets of Queens and the hallways of Parker's school, the latter of which is where the clever Easter Egg can be found.
In certain scenes, a student in a tiger mascot costume can be seen sprinting frantically around in the background. At first, it seems to be nothing but a (literal) running gag, until you realize the connection it has with the aforementioned Mary Jane line.
The tiger is always running toward something in a hurry, a visual play on "Go get 'em, Tiger" in the most literal way possible. The cleverness is even more evident when you realize that the tiger mascot mostly shows up in scenes that feature #PeterParker about to suit up and get down to his usual heroics. Add to that the fact that Midtown High, the school in which Peter Parker and his friends go to, didn't really have a mascot in the comics—so the choice of a tiger mascot was a deliberate one by Watts.
In case you think this was just a one-off, think again: Even though he's a relative newcomer to movies, the visual reference is already a trick that is becoming a Jon Watts trademark. While not quite as specific as the tiger, Watts employed various visual references in his previous movie, Cop Car. The 2015 action thriller starring Kevin Bacon was full of classic '80s action movie tropes: an '80s-style musical score in spots, and wide panning shots, especially during car chase scenes, used in classic action films. The entire movie was one big visual Easter Egg for fans of '80s action and thrillers. This time around, Watts decided to make his throwback to the past a simple tiger mascot—but it's just as respectful a nod honoring our webslinger.The Easter Egg has yet to be officially confirmed, but if it truly is a play on the iconic MJ quote, then Jon Watts has really outdone himself in paying tribute to #SpiderMan's origins.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is in theaters on July 7.