Warning: Minor spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “Spider-Man: Homecoming”
If you’re fed up with the boring bad guys in superhero movies that are completely forgettable, then this is another reason why you need to see “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (in theatres Friday).
Michael Keaton as one of Spidey’s oldest rivals, Adrian Toomes (aka Vulture), delivers a performance that is playfully chilling and seeped with real stakes. Days after seeing the movie, I’m still recalling moments from Keaton’s performance, which I feel is kind of a big deal. I couldn’t tell you the names of the villains from most of the superhero movies I’ve seen the last few years.
If there’s one thing all the recent movies based on comics have in common, whether it’s Marvel or DC Comics, it’s that there isn’t much thought put into how to portray the villains — outside of making sure they are pure evil.
Dormammu (“Doctor Strange”), Enchantress (“Suicide Squad”), Yellowjacket (“Ant-Man”), Doomsday (“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”) — yes, I had to look up the names of these villains because they were that forgettable — all looked really menacing, but that’s about it. The most tolerable of late have been David Thewlis as Sir Patrick/Ares in “Wonder Woman,” and Kurt Russell’s Ego in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” But Keaton gave Vulture a style and wicked swagger that puts him up there as one of the best villains in recent memory.
Since his first appearance in “The Amazing Spider-Man” #2 comic back in 1963, Toomes has been a favourite for his blue collar roots and motivation to give payback to those who tried to pull a fast one on him.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” director Jon Watts and the Marvel Studios brass did a fantastic job of taking those roots of the character and updating them to fit the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Toomes, in the movie, is a guy who is on the ropes financially. But thanks to all the Chitauri technology left behind after The Battle of New York, which took place in 2012’s “The Avengers,” he has a contract with the city to clean up the mess that will bring in some serious cash. Tony Stark’s creation of the Department of Damage Control, however, strips Toomes and his team of the work.
All they are left with is some of the Chitauri tech.
With no other options, Toomes and his team begin to make weapons out of the material, and for years sell it on the black market at a hefty price. Toomes also builds jet-powered wings for himself to create his Vulture alter-ego. This leads to the present day when Spidey (Tom Holland) comes on the scene in New York.
To embody that character, Keaton is perfect casting. Well aware of the pressure that goes into these movies, having been the face of the “Batman” franchise in the late 1980s/early 1990s, the stage isn’t too big for him. In fact, sometimes during his performance he seems to be working at half-effort (not a knock, but hey, this isn’t heavy “Spotlight” material here). And he also possess the comedic talents needed for the lighthearted moments in the movie.
Keaton’s greatness is personified in the scene when Peter Parker comes to pick up Toomes’ daughter, Liz (Laura Harrier), for the homecoming dance, and Toomes realises Parker is really Spider-Man. Keaton changes Toomes from a loving father busting the chops of the boy on a date with his daughter, to a serious killer. Sitting in the car with Parker as Liz runs off to see her friends, Toomes turns cold, and with a gun in his hand, attempts to scare Parker into keeping out of his affairs. But what’s most scary isn’t the situation, but how Keaton delivers the threat: He’s a man who no longer has options. Society has forced him to a life of crime, and to provide for his family he can’t stop. Keaton brings that across in such a way that you, as an audience member, are scared for Parker. Sadly, you don’t get that kind of feeling with most superhero movie villains these days.
In a movie where Holland dazzles as the latest version of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Keaton as Toomes really gives it that extra jolt it needs to be a fantastic moviegoing experience.
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