In the months leading up to the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, there was much speculation about just how involved Tony Stark would be in the plot. The trailers implied a more significant role in the story, with Stark scolding Peter Parker for not being prepared for the responsibilities of being a hero. Now that the film is out, however, his role is clear: Tony Stark is the true villain of Homecoming.
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OK, yes, technically Adrian Toomes, aka the Vulture, is the primary antagonist. But Toomes is very much built on the Walter White model of a decent guy who breaks bad in order to care for his family when life gives him a crap sandwich. Tony Stark, on the other hand, is a hero who manages with nearly every action to make things worse and cause suffering in those around him.
Homecoming begins with a cleverly shot reminder of one of Tony's more infamous crimes: smuggling a child soldier across international borders to get the element of surprise against Captain America and his crew. While Peter had been operating as Spider-Man for about six months, he was still a 15-year-old kid, and there's no suggestion he had thrown down with anyone super-powered before. But, hey, Tony saw him on YouTube, tracked him down, gave him a suit that for some reason included something called "Instant Kill Mode," and set him loose against half the freaking Avengers. It's an absolute miracle Peter didn't end up another dead child on Tony's conscience.
But, hey, at least Tony took Pete under his wing and made sure he was trained, right? Nope. Once they got back from Civil Warring, Tony drops Pete off at his door in Queens, says, "Don't call me, I'll call you, oh, and by the way, that's not a hug, get out of the car already, you little twerp," and disappears.
Yep, Tony Stark leaves a 15-year-old kid with a multimillion-dollar technologically advanced super-suit — complete with "Instant Kill Mode" — without any guidance or support. I'm having trouble thinking of anything more irresponsible, other than perhaps leaving a baby plant creature with a thermonuclear device.
Peter then spends the next several months trying to get back in contact with Tony through Stark Industries' head of security, Happy Hogan. But, like Tony himself, Happy pretty much just ignores all of Pete's efforts, stringing the poor kid along for with the hope that maybe, someday, he would be called up to the big leagues.
That call never comes, and so when Peter finds himself in the middle of the illicit sale of Chitauri weapons, he does what any friendly neighborhood Spider-Man would do: He tries to stop it and save some lives. And, despite being out in the suburbs where his webs aren't particularly useful, he does a pretty decent job until Vulture shows up.
The fight with the Vulture doesn't go particularly well, but Peter probably would have been fine if not for one thing: During the battle, a parachute Stark built into the suit, but never told Peter about, deploys. It's the parachute — not the fall — that almost ends up killing Peter when Vulture drops him the water, as he's too tangled up to free himself and swim to the surface.
Yet, when Tony Stark's robot surrogate shows up, instead of saying, "Hey, sorry, Peter, maybe I should have given you an instruction manual and some training on how to use this," the 15-year-old is chastised for not being good enough. And, when Peter explains why he thought he had to intervene to stop the weapon sales, Stark effectively responds with a "yeah, yeah, let the grown-ups take care of this; get back to helping old ladies across the street."
By this point, Peter has received a single, unambiguous message from Tony: I don't care about you or what you have to tell me unless I happen to imminently need the services of a child soldier. Surprise, surprise, Pete finally starts to take the hint and decides the best way to move up to the big leagues is by proving he has what it takes -- Tony Stark be damned.
Then the shit really hits the fan when Peter tries to single-handedly stop the sale of Chitauri weaponry on the Staten Island Ferry. Tony gets mad enough that he finally takes Peter's toys away, right when they would be really useful to have.
And, when Peter has Ned try to contact Tony through Happy, Happy immediately hangs up the phone.
Now, this is pretty grade-A asshole behavior by Tony throughout the entire film. While he might not know that Peter personally blames himself for Ben's death, Tony absolutely knows Ben died recently. So, naturally, being Tony Stark, he decides to exploit the kid and then kick him to the curb when he no longer needs him. When Peter comes with vital information, Tony still pushes him away and refuses to let him in on a not-very-good plan to have the FBI take care of it.
Once again, so much trouble could have been avoided if Tony had thought about someone other than himself for five minutes. Instead, he Tony Starked his way through the whole movie, which would have ended in disaster if not for the actions of the same 15-year-old kid he couldn't give the time of day.
But can we really expect anything else of Tony Stark? This is the man who decided it would be fun to play around with an Infinity Stone and created an AI bent on the destruction of all human life. This is the dude who is confronted with the human cost of his mistakes and decides he needs to recruit a child soldier to stop Captain America. Tony may be brilliant, but he can make some incredibly stupid decisions.
Imagine if, instead of leaning so hard into being Tony Stark, he had instead decided to act like a human being, and took Peter under his wing. Rather than taking him him to Germany to fight the Avengers, he took him along on something a bit more low-key. He popped in periodically, and not in a "hey, your aunt is pretty hot" kind of way. And, when Peter called with important information, he said, "Wow, we can't let that happen, time to suit up, kid." Working together, Peter and Tony could have stopped the Vulture and his crew before the first act was over.
By single-handedly making sure none of that happened, Tony Stark made himself the real villain of Homecoming.
In theaters now, director Jon Watts' Spider-Man: Homecoming stars Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Tyne Daly, Bokeem Woodbine, Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr.