We all know the Marvel formula: a superhero faces a villain who's essentially a mirror-image of themselves. It's a smart concept, and — at its best — allows the villain's identity to shine a light on the hero's character and abilities.
The problem is, though, that it's become what we're used to, and it's the mismatched fights that are truly thrilling. We love it when the hero is out of his depth, dealing with a three-dimensional, well-characterized villain. With a rogues' gallery as rich as Spider-Man's, fans are dearly hoping that Spider-Man: Homecoming will give us a truly great supervillain.
Little by little, fans are learning more about the Vulture — his nature, his reasons and his role. ScreenRant has just gone public with interviews from a set visit last year, and they've shone an intriguing light on the character...
The Vulture's Background
The Vulture is #SpiderMan's first supervillain. Everybody's favorite webhead has been a street-level hero up to now, tangling with burglars and muggers, but he's about to deal with a whole lot of shock and awe. As Tom Holland reflected:
"The Vulture is definitely a formidable opponent, and he is terrifying. His suit is absolutely terrifying."
The trailer so far has teased many awesome moments — with the Vulture proving willing to kill any number of innocents when Spider-Man gets in his way. That scene at the Staten Island ferry is shocking; the villain seems to be lashing out in rage, making a concerted attempt to kill Spider-Man, no matter how many others die as a result.
The Vulture's Motives
As I've discussed in an earlier post, we know that the Vulture ran a street-level company that cleaned up after superheroes. When Tony Stark founds Damage Control, a government agency dedicated to this, Vulture's whole livelihood is destroyed in one fell swoop. Making matters worse, Vulture has a family to support.
Michael Keaton described Vulture's attitude like this:
"He is somewhat of a victim. He takes things in that he feels like a victim, and some of it is justified actually. He believes that there’s an upper echelon of society of people who are getting away with a lot and have everything. And there’s a whole lot of folks who are working hard, and don’t have much. Does that sound familiar? To anybody, given the political climate? Which I think is an interesting way to go about this."
Vulture actually seems to be something of a risky character, reflecting current cultural issues in the way Captain America: The Winter Soldier mirrored political questions of security and freedom in the wake of the NSA hacking scandal. He doesn't see himself as a villain; rather, he's a victim who's had enough, and is simply trying to find a way to make matters right.
As co-producer Eric Carroll explained:
"He wants his shot at the good life, and he thinks it’s not fair that someone like Tony Stark can make a fortune selling weapons ... and then even worse ... gets paid to clean up the mess."
The best Spider-Man films have been as much character studies in villainy as anything else; take, for example, Alfred Molina's outstanding portrayal of Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2. This arc sounds very promising indeed; somehow we have to get from the point where Vulture doesn't see himself as really hurting anyone, to the place where he's willing to blast apart a ferry full of people.
How Will Vulture's Children Factor Into This?
The Vulture's always been something of a family man in the comics; he launched into a murderous rage when his nephew, Malachai Toomes, was murdered by a gang-lord. But the comic book Vulture is older (a grandfather, in fact), and pretty much estranged from his son and daughter. The #MCU version, it seems, is deeply connected with his kids' lives.
Now this is where it gets interesting. Michael Keaton's interview with ScreenRant is a fascinating one, with the actor very concerned about unwittingly spoiling the film. That's particularly the case when ScreenRant ask about the Vulture as a father; he admitted that he was at risk of spoiling something pretty important:
"Um, which when [director] Jon [Watts] talked about it was really interesting to me. Let me put it this way, his approach – I’m not being coy. I’m just trying to be respectful for what these guys are all making. I’m just here to do the gig, you know? But when I talked to Jon, and he started talking about the character, I found that–I found it an interesting way to go, and kind of a gutsy way to do it, instead of probably going down a path that other directors and villains have gone down before."
The children are obviously a key part of Vulture's story, and that raises one intriguing possibility — are they somehow connected to Peter Parker? Could they be his classmates? After all, Spider-Man's greatest enemies always have a tie to his personal life. What's more, the trailers included a scene where Vulture threatens everyone Spider-Man loves, suggesting he recognizes Peter's face when he rips the mask off.
- "The Dark Tony Stark": The Vulture's Role In 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' Revealed
- The 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' Trailer Reveals How Far Tony Stark Has Come In The Past 9 Years Of The MCU
- Don't Panic, Spider-Man Fans — Here's Why The Wall-Crawler's Sticking Around The MCU For A Long Time
All in all, I think the Vulture is one of the most promising villains in the MCU to date. I'm not going to say he'll solve Marvel's longstanding "villains problem" — that many of its villains are underdeveloped as characters — but these set visits at least hint that this could be the case. The Vulture may well be one of the most socially-aware, carefully-constructed baddies that we've ever seen from Marvel.
Do you like the direction Marvel's taken the Vulture?
(Sources: ScreenRant - Michael Keaton Talks Spider-Man: Homecoming Story & Villains, Spider-Man: Homecoming – Vulture’s Motivations Explained, Tom Holland Talks Spider-Man Costumes, Sequels, and Villains, Vulture is First Supervillain Spider-Man Has Faced in MCU; Poll Image Credit: Marvel Studios / Sony Pictures)