Spider-Man: Homecoming is the 16th movie set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it wouldn’t be an MCU movie without a dastardly supervillain. Despite the enormous success of the franchise, it’s often been said that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a villain problem. One of the aspects of the MCU that keeps audiences flocking to its movies is the way they focus on the individual foibles of their growing cast of superheroes. In turn, however, the villains often get the short end of the stick.
MCU villains are often even disposable. Compared to the superheroes who return for crossovers and multiple appearances throughout the franchise, many MCU villains – from Jeff Bridges’ Obadiah Stane in Iron Man to Corey Stoll’s Yellowjacket in Ant-Man – don’t survive their movies. There’s overall not a lot of love in fandom for past heavies like Whiplash in Iron Man 2, Malekith in Thor: The Dark World, or Helmut Zemo in Captain America: Civil War, despite Marvel’s penchant for casting fine actors like Mickey Rourke, Christopher Eccleston, and Daniel Brühl, respectively.
As Spider-Man’s latest antagonist – or his very first major antagonist in his MCU existence, depending on how you look at it – Homecoming recruited Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, also known as the Vulture (though he isn’t actually referred to by that moniker in Homecoming.) The Vulture is among the very first supervillains Spider-Man fought in the comics, but he failed to make it to the screen in the prior Spider-Man movies. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 swapped the Vulture for Venom by corporate decree, and his Spider-Man 4 with Vulture as the main antagonist never got off the ground. Nor did Sony’s attempts to feature the Vulture in the scrapped Amazing Spider-Man 3 and Sinister Six movies.
It was a very long flight for the Vulture to finally face off against Spider-Man in a movie. Was he worth the wait, and how does he compare to other MCU villains?
THE MCU’S BEST BIG BADS
The most successful Big Bads in the MCU can generally be counted on one hand, and Loki tends to be at the top of the list. By virtue of his many appearances in the MCU and as the villain who caused the Avengers to assemble for the first time, it’s hard to argue against Loki’s current status as Marvel’s number one Big Bad – so far. Tom Hiddleston’s charismatic portrayal of the seething and resentful Trickster of Asgard makes Loki hard to hate despite all the trouble he causes. Loki being Asgardian and a Frost Giant also makes him immortal, guaranteeing his ability to continually return to plague Thor and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Loki is very hard to kill off, not that audiences want Marvel to.
After Loki, Ego has recently emerged as one of the MCU’s most notable Big Bads. Kurt Russell did a fantastic job taking a truly bizarre concept and character – a planet that takes humanoid form to disseminate seeds of himself across the galaxy – and making him equal parts charming, compelling, and ultimately villainous. Fans’ mileage tend to vary on the other MCU Big Bads like the insane and genocidal android Ultron, Bucky Barnes when he was brainwashed as The Winter Soldier, the cartoonish Red Skull, and the haughty Ronan the Accuser in Guardians of the Galaxy. The TV arm of the MCU features some of the universe’s most interesting and highly praised villains, like Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Kilgrave (David Tennant).
The jury remains out on what kind of menace Thanos (Josh Brolin), who has been teased since the end-credits scene of The Avengers, will ultimately prove himself to be. Here’s hoping the Mad Titan lives up to his full potential of universe-threatening villainy in next year’s Avengers: Infinity War.
Next Page: THE VILLAINY OF THE VULTURE
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