Here’s why Vulture was the Hero of Spider-Man: Homecoming
Last night I saw the latest Avengers franchise film, Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is a new and improved reboot of one of Marvel’s most beloved heroes. That hero, of course, is Spider-Man. That may seem obvious, but I feel it necessary to remind myself that this was a Spider-Man movie because after making it to the end of the film, I realized that Michael Keaton’s character, Adrian Toomes (aka Vulture), was the actual protagonist.
(WARNING: IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, STOP READING! SPOILERS ARE COMING! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!)
Alright, so why was I rooting for the “bad guy” of the story? First and foremost, we’re not dealing with some deranged maniac with delusions of grandeur here. Adrian Toomes isn’t some anarchist bringing about chaos for the heck of it. He’s a humble, blue collar worker who makes his living doing construction for New York City after The Avengers destroyed everything with their reckless vigilantism.
In the beginning of the film, we see Toomes acting as the foreman to a bunch of workers who he has contracted to help get the cleanup and rebuilding job done. It’s a big job, but that also means work for him and his crew, which means a paycheck will be coming in and food will be on their tables at night.
Then, a government cleanup crew comes in and lets Toomes and his crew know that they will be taking over. All expenses that Toomes may have put into equipment are his problem, not theirs. To add insult to injury, Toomes and his crew find out that the government cleanup crew is affiliated with none other than Tony Stark, aka Ironman. You know, the billionaire Avenger with the bomb suit that can blow up stuff with the push of a button. Toomes says it himself, the same guys who caused the damage are now getting paid to clean it up. Sounds like a scam to me.
Fast forward 8 years. Toomes and his crew have changed their business model a bit. Using some of the alien technology they salvaged from the construction site, they have now created a weapons manufacturing and distribution operation. This is the first glimpse we get of Adrian Toomes as Vulture, a badass small business owner who started from the bottom and worked his way up to having his own awesome Iron Man suit, but with wings. I’ll be honest, when I first saw the new Vulture suit I was like, “Really? He’s just another Iron Man.” But you know what, maybe that’s the American Dream of the Marvel Universe. Instead of a white picket fence and a yard, maybe the dream is to get your own Iron Man suit. It might sound crazy but it’s far from the weirdest idea related to a movie about a boy spider.
Vulture is supposed to be the villain of the story, but why? Because he’s not Spider-Man, that’s why. The Joker was clearly the villain of The Dark Knight, not only because he wasn’t the titular “Dark Knight” but also because he was a psychopathic killer. He loaded up a boat full of civilians with explosives to play some weird mind game with Batman, just to prove a point. What?! Vulture doesn’t even come close to touching on that level of villainy. In fact, the only person he kills in the movie is the original dudebro who called himself “The Shocker”. That guy was a reckless douchebag who was all too eager to pull a weapon on a nice young man who’s just trying to buy a gun under a bridge. Also, it’s worth noting that Toomes didn’t mean to kill Shocker v1, he thought he was using a non-lethal anti-gravity gun or something. Oh well, no big loss. That guy was a jerk. Shocker v2 seems like a cool guy I could have a beer with after work. Sometimes being a manager means making hard decisions like who to hire and who to vaporize.
Okay, so here’s the thing about Vulture. He’s a weapons dealer and his products are out there hurting people, but what drove him to this life? He was happy doing construction and cleaning up his city until some billionaire womanizer strolled in and took his job from him. And not just any billionaire womanizer, but Tony Stark, a billionaire womanizer who loves himself so much that he never shies away from a camera. So now Vulture’s gotta see this guy’s face on TV every day, being rich and groping chicks. I’m sure this rubs Toomes the wrong way since 1) He’s a working class guy and 2) He has a wife and daughter to think about. In fact, his whole motivation for becoming Vulture was to provide for his wife and daughter, not some crazed desire for vengeance. He’s trying to win by playing by the rules that society has already accepted as being okay. Tony Stark’s weaponized Iron Man suit is way more powerful than Vulture’s. Need proof? Vulture’s suit is basically a glorified kite, whereas Iron Man’s suit leaves so much destruction in its wake that it actually creates jobs. Also, hey, let’s not forget that there are plenty of weapons manufacturers out there already, selling guns every day. Forget guns, cigarette companies do more damage around the world than Vulture’s weapons could ever do. He is providing a product and a service in exchange for being able to provide security to his family. He has given his wife a beautiful house and his daughter the ability to attend a very good high school that will set her on a path of success for the rest of her life. That’s the American Dream, right behind owning your own Iron Man suit. But with wings.
Alright, so now let’s get into Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, a whiny little brat who thinks he deserves the world on a silver platter. Oh I’m smart so I get to just sleep in class, blah blah blah, I stole Captain America’s shield so I get to be an Avenger, whine whine whine. It’s a never ending symphony of “me me me” with that kid, and you know what the worst part is? He ends up getting exactly what he wants! Are you serious?! His arrogance leads him to unknowingly put a bomb in his friend's backpack and almost kill an elevator full of kids and Martin Starr! Then, at the end of the movie, Tony Stark offers to make him the newest Avenger. Sure, he turns it down, but Tony Stark didn’t know he would. He had press people standing by to get the scoop (again, Tony Stark is a media whore)!
Also, speaking of The Avengers, Tony Stark rewards Peter Parker with a high-tech spider suit that is basically, you guessed it, another freaking Iron Man suit. It’s got a talking robot voice, millions of gadgets, the works! How many dang Iron Mens do we need in this film? One Iron Man is plenty! Black Sabbath knew that when Ozzy sang, “I am Iron Man”. He didn’t sing, “Hey we’re a bunch of Iron Mens doing stuff with our super powerful suits that do all the work for us.” Good luck playing a riff to that, Tony Iommi.
Anyways, my point is, this kid wants for nothing and has no empathy for those around him. I mean his uncle just died and that barely registers on his sociopathic, teenaged radar. All he knows is that a billionaire womanizer has taken a liking to him, given him a fancy Iron Spider suit, and in the end is rewarded with a full-time job with The Avengers despite not even finishing high school yet. Meanwhile, we’ve got Adrian Toomes trying to work hard to build a life for him and his family. Peter Parker got his suit as a handout from a wealthy guy in bed with the government, Toomes got his through his own ingenuity and by building a team of people who could make his dream of being an Iron Man but with wings come true.
Throughout the film, Spider-Man and Iron Man prove that they are the villains, not Vulture. Spider-Man’s idiotic behavior destroys a local deli owned by a kindly working-class man who tries to teach Peter Parker about the importance of education. He also endangers everyone in or near the Washington Monument by putting a bomb in Ned’s backpack, destroys an airplane engine that most likely fell over a heavily populated part of New York, and he almost kills a boat full of people trying to see The Statue of Liberty for free by taking the Staten Island Ferry (quick PSA: Don’t pay for a boat tour, just take the ferry and see the statue for free). Oh, wait a second, destroying a boat full of innocent people? Sounds like that character from The Dark Knight who isn’t the hero!
Vulture, on the other hand, is looking out for his people. The people he works with, the people he does business with, his wife and daughter. The means through which he has decided to provide for these people are questionable, sure, but at the end of the day he’s doing it for them. He’s a family man first, and a Vulture Man second. When he is finally caught and tried for his “crimes” (which let’s be honest, his only real crime was undercutting the government-sponsored weapons development business. WAKE UP PEOPLE!) his primary concern was getting his family out of the city so they wouldn’t have to see him like this.
On top of that, Vulture had two chances to kill Spider-Man and he chose not to. He had that little dweeb in his car, and instead of killing him right there, he told him to go inside and show his daughter a good time at the homecoming dance. She was his priority. Sure, he threatens to kill Peter and everyone he loves, but that’s just a vocal threat. Consider it an “enhanced interrogation mode”, you know like Spider-Iron-Man’s suit has.
Later, during an after-credits scene, Toomes runs into an ex-associate in prison who asks him to give up Spider-Man’s secret identity so that some “guys on the outside” can take him down. Instead of giving him up out of vengeance, he plays dumb and acts like he has no idea who Spider-Man is. Vulture had the chance to destroy one of his most powerful foes, next to Iron Man and, of course, the effects of late-stage capitalism, and instead, he chose not to. Even though he had the power to kill Spider-Man, he did the responsible thing by letting a 15-year-old child live. It’s almost like he understood that with great power comes great responsibility. Sounds like the motto of a real hero, doesn’t it?