‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Finally Solves Marvel’s Villain Problem Thanks To Michael Keaton’s Vulture

07.07.17 10 Comments

This weekend, the world will answer the question “Do we really want to see another Spider-Man reboot?” Based on the box office tracking, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” And, having seen the film, I can say that those who make the trek to their local cineplex this weekend won’t be disappointed. Bringing Peter Parker into the Marvel Cinematic Universe fold injects new life into what could’ve been the first superhero franchise to truly see that “fatigue” pundits keep swearing is just around the corner. By skipping past the spider bite and Uncle Ben’s death, Spider-Man: Homecoming trusts the audience to understand why this kid from Queens has spider powers and just takes off running.

In fact, the only character who gets an origin story is Michael Keaton’s villainous Vulture. Spider-Man: Homecoming spends a lot of time explaining how a grown man comes to put on giant mechanical wings and engage in a battle royale with a 15-year-old boy. The hat trick? Marvel not only makes this seem reasonable, but in the process solves its ongoing villain problem* by making the Vulture into the most complex and sympathetic antagonist since Loki. Hell, they even give Keaton a good reason to monologue at one point!

*If you’re wondering what the ‘villain problem’ is, Marvel has a tendency to hit it and quit it with villains. They are barely given characterization before being killed off.

I truly enjoy the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man films, but it’s now easier to see them as products of their time. Along with Blade a few years earlier, Raimi’s 2002 film helped prime the superhero movie pump. But at the time, audiences still needed to superhero films to hit beats that now seem overly familiar; a big chunk of the first Spider-Man focused on Peter Parker’s origin story. And while I believe that movie remains the distillation of how Peter becomes Spider-Man, the Green Goblin is a one-note mustache-twirling villain. Same with Spidey’s other film villains: they’re all either psychopathic scientists or technomagically enhanced against their will. Which makes sense to a degree, because Spider-Man’s rogues’ gallery is really weird (looking at you, Kangaroo and Big Wheel) and there’s only so much you can do with that, right?

Wrong. Apparently.

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