With the release of a second trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming, fans got a better look at not only Tom Holland’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man, but also the challenges he’ll face in the film. Chief among these challenges is Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes a.k.a. The Vulture. Judging from the trailer, everyone (possibly including Peter himself) seems to think that Spider-Man is out of his league when it comes to the film’s flying big bad.
What we know about the movie so far seems to back this up, since the Vulture isn’t much of a Spider-Man villain this time around. Instead, he’s geared up with the intent of taking on Peter’s mentor Tony Stark. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either; angling the Vulture as an Iron Man villain makes him that much more of a threat to overcome and sets him apart from the big-screen adaptations we’ve seen of past Spidey bad guys. It also helps to subvert one of Marvel’s biggest problems in its films: Making the villain in the first movie an “evil twin” with the same general powers as the hero.
Reimagining the Vulture
In the comics, Adrian Toomes was an inventor who turned to a life of crime after his business partner stole his company away from him. While the ability to fly set him apart from the rest of Spider-Man’s villains, the Vulture was never on the same threat level as other Spidey foes like Norman Osborne or Doctor Octopus. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, however, Toomes is a much larger threat and seems to have significantly higher aspirations than simply being a flying thief.
In the film, Toomes operates a salvage company that cleaned up after superhero battles and other major events. When Tony Stark starts stealing the company’s business with Damage Control, Toomes uses salvaged technology to ensure his fortunes and protect his family. He sees himself as a “victim” of Tony Stark, similar in some ways to Ivan Vanko/Whiplash in Iron Man 2. While Vanko’s vendetta against Stark was more personal and focused primarily on Iron Man himself, Toomes seems much more willing to let innocents be hurt as he takes on Stark and makes a grab for what he believes he deserves.
This incarnation of the Vulture would be right at home in a new Iron Man sequel, and would likely ignore Spider-Man completely if he didn’t keep getting in Toomes’ way.
The Bird and the Bug
With the Homecoming Vulture being styled more like an Iron Man villain, the threat he presents to Spider-Man is much greater than it was in the comics. He has access to salvaged technology from major events in the MCU, giving him a major technological advantage over the wall crawler. This is mitigated somewhat by the Stark tech in Spidey’s new suit, but we’ve seen in the trailers that he won’t actually have access to this new suit during every encounter with the Vulture.
Facing off against what’s essentially a superior opponent is a theme that’s been explored in Spider-Man comics time and time again, but it hasn’t been shown as well on the big screen thus far. Sony’s original Spider-Man trilogy never succeeded in making Spidey seem completely out of his league (unless he was auditioning for So You Think You Can Dance), and the Amazing Spider-Man movies had villains who were a bit too all over the place in regard to their power level. Homecoming will be the first time that Spider-Man has really seemed outclassed by his villain, which will go a long way toward making it feel like an authentic Spider-Man adventure.
The Wall of Iron
Tony Stark seems intent on protecting Peter from himself, perhaps recognizing the same sort of impulsiveness that got him into so much trouble in the Iron Man films. This is clearly not the Stark of Phase I and Phase II, and his attempts to hold Peter back may be as much about his ongoing quest for “redemption” for past sins (real and imagined) as they are about protecting his protégé. It’s clear that Stark is worried about Peter’s safety, but after the events of Iron Man 3, Age of Ultron and Civil War he’s likely doubting himself more than ever.
Of course, the harder he tries to make up for the past the worse things seem to get. Tony Stark created the Vulture by creating Damage Control, and the harder he tries to protect Peter the more likely it is that Toomes will realize that Spider-Man is important to Stark. It’s possible that being so strongly associated with Stark will paint as much of a target on Peter’s back as getting in the Vulture’s way does, especially if Toomes decides that squashing the Spider would be a good way to hurt Stark.
Whose Rogue Is It Anyway?
Given how closely his origin is tied to Tony Stark and the similarities he has to past Iron Man villains, it’s clear that Marvel and Sony want to showcase Spider-Man’s ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds in this film. Even in the Avengers crossovers we haven’t seen much in the way of heroes facing off against the villains of other heroes (not counting Loki, who was more of a puppetmaster instead of a direct adversary for most of the film). Even Hawkeye was more of a direct threat during The Avengers up until the final act, and once that act started Loki was pretty quickly overcome.
With the Vulture, things seem different. Stark is trying to protect Peter from himself by keeping him away from the flying supervillain, but the threat that Toomes presents looks like it’s only going to increase as the movie goes along. It’s unclear just what steps Stark is going to take to try and stop the Vulture, but from what we’ve seen he is clearly thinking of Toomes as his own villain and not someone that Spider-Man should get involved with. If the entire movie is framed from that point of view then we’ll see the Vulture presented as the sort of baddie that Iron Man could (and should) take on, but in the end it will be up to our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man to take him down.
Assuming, of course, that he doesn’t just give the suit to Ned Leeds and let him handle it.