Spider-Man: Homecoming has finally arrived! And while it landed with a triumphant bang, the early box office numbers indicate the explosive arrival of Spidey in the Marvel Cinematic Universe may be more of a whimper. While the roughly 60% drop in box office in its second week isn’t necessarily unprecedented, it’s still the steepest decline the MCU has seen to date. Fans are out for the film, and they’re loving it, but they’re not coming back. So there has to be some sort of a reason for that, right?
We here at CBR have wracked our brains about it, and there may be a reason: the movie is misleading. After all, why is the movie called Spider-Man: Homecoming when the real hero of the film is Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes? The beloved Batman actor, who has made a strong showing in films in the 2010s with characters who hate Robert Downey Jr. in both this film and 2014’s excellent Birdman, isn’t just the glue holding the film together. With his motivations and the actions he takes during the course of the story, he’s the film’s real protagonist. Here are 15 reasons The Vulture is the real hero of Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming follow!
15 HELD DOWN BY THE BIG GUYS
This one’s the most obvious and the easiest one so far. It’s so obvious and so easy that we actually already covered it in depth: the real villain of Spider-Man: Homecoming is clearly the incredibly irresponsible jerk-wad, Tony Stark. The actions of the film simply don’t happen at such an incredibly terrible degree if Tony had thought before he acted.
This is evident from minute one when Toomes’ wreckage company is given the boot by Stark’s newly formed agency, Damage Control. Tony clearly had everyone's best interests in mind - after all, they’re dealing with the mysterious wreckage of alien invaders. But Toomse’ company is put out to pasture without so much as an apology or an indication of what’s actually going to happen to him. His entire livelihood is turned upside down, and you can’t blame him for being angry about it.
14 RECYCLING JUNK MATERIAL
That brings us to the most important question: what WAS Tony going to do with all that scrapped alien wreckage? We learn in the film’s cold open that Tony created Damage Control specifically to gather up the wreckage, even superseding Toomes’ contract with the city of New York to gather such debris.
But we later find out it’s just going to a storage facility. When Peter interferes with Toomes’ heist attempt on a Damage Control truck, Peter is trapped inside the truck and locked inside the facility. We see trucks full of garbage, including Ultron heads and various bits of wreckage. Not only is this being stored with no apparent intent to use it, they’re so careless that they don’t even notice a 15-year-old kid in spandex is inside the truck when they lock the door!
13 THINKING ABOUT HIS EMPLOYEES
Adrian’s got a number of incredibly valid concerns when he has his the wreckage job pulled out from under his nose. He just got new equipment with the expectation of the income from the job covering the expenses. For an independent wreckage company, this is a big deal and he’s not the only one that’s put everything on the line. After all, his entire crew is counting on him to make this work to be able to make ends meet.
Toomes’ decision to begin repurposing the gear doesn’t just tie to him keeping food on the table for his family, it has to do with keeping his crew employed. They’re men with families as well, and Toomes shows his loyalty to his own crew by keeping them on with his scheme to repurpose the salvage.
12 SPIDER-MAN STARTED EVERY FIGHT
Quick, when did Toomes directly attack Spider-Man? When did Toomes, either as a civilian or in his Vulture persona, hunt down and attack Spider-Man? If you have an answer, you’re wrong, because he doesn’t. Spider-Man is so far off the radar that he doesn’t ever even bother to go after him, and the two only come into conflict when Spidey directly seeks out Toomes.
The closest Toomes comes? Bringing down the roof of a building on top of him, and even then Peter comes to him. The Vulture gives Spider-Man a million opportunities to leave him be and acts to defend himself when Spider-Man doesn’t have any other option. From their initial confrontation to the final meeting, it’s obvious that Toomes is only attacking Spidey because he feels he has to defend himself.
11 A FAMILY MAN
It’s not just Adrian’s crew that has needs and concerns, it’s Adrian himself. We don’t realize it, but Toomes has a wife and a daughter, Peter’s crush Liz. By having the city contract yanked out from under him, Toomes finds himself having to make snap decisions in order to make ends meet and take care of his family.
Adrian turns to a life of thievery and the sale of modified illegal alien technology with his family’s best interest at heart. He knows he needs to take care of them, and he has no other option. He’s completely strapped for cash, having just spent everything he had on new equipment for the salvage job he lost. If Stark’s Damage Control initiative hadn’t come along, the Vulture and his nefarious means likely never would have existed.
10 HE’S NOT A KILLER (ON PURPOSE)
Something that The Vulture has over every villain we’ve seen in a Spider-Man film (hell, even in a Marvel Cinematic Universe film to date) is that he’s not explicitly a killer. He does kill Jackson Bice - that’s by accident though, grabbing a Chitauri energy rifle that he thought was an anti-gravity gun. Outside of this one incident though, he clearly never kills.
Toomes makes an effort to not have victims for his crimes. By utilizing his Vulture exo-suit and the variable phase devices created by Phineas Mason, he’s able to swoop in and loot all the material he needs without so much as a whisper of evidence that he was there. And hell, if Damage Control not noticing Peter inside their vault is any indication, they likely don’t even realize anything is missing.
9 NO REAL VICTIMS
As we’ve already mentioned, Damage Control seems to be pretty careless with the scrap metal they recover from the likes of various alien incidents. When Spidey and Vulture fight above their truck, it’s completely missed. Spidey is even locked in their vault for an unknown amount of time, and no one even notices! There are no real victims of his crimes.
The exception to this? The Stark heist at the film’s end. But it’s worth noting that this heist takes place because Toomes is left with no choice - again because of Spider-Man’s interference! Peter’s fight with Toomes’ during the heist of the Damage Control truck leaves Toomes without enough raw material to finish jobs he’s already picked up, and he’s forced to reluctantly go through with the Stark heist to get the materials he needs.
8 SMARTER THAN HE LOOKS
Toomes himself isn’t much of an inventor. He keeps Phineas Mason around for that. As evidenced by his confusing a Chitauri energy rifle with an anti-gravity gun, Toomes doesn’t appear to know much about the parts they’re scavenging, just that they can be put to good use. In fact, it looks almost as if Toomes’ only role in the operation is to procure materials.
But don’t misconstrue this: he’s still a genius, and the proof is in his Vulture exo-suit. The fact that Toomes can operate it with such skill and precision. The suit not only consists of the wings that allow flight, but a pair of claws strapped to his legs which allow him to grab items in flight. Add to this his ability to use the high-altitude seal to successfully infiltrate an airplane in flight and Toomes’ intellect is clearly on display.
7 TOOL SALESMAN?
So how is Adrian Toomes’ making his money? He’s scavenging materials from alien attack sites such as from the Battle of New York or from Ultron’s attack in Sarkovia that have been gathered by Damage Control. And Toomes seems to make weapons, for sure: the Shocker gauntlets and the functioning Chitauri rifle indicate this. But does he primarily make weapons?
It almost seems like Toomes’ is in the business of making tools, and not weapons. While we see Schulz and Brice selling weapons, Toomes is furious that they’re being sold in the open. And the bank robbers Spidey foils have a number of alien devices, they seem to be designed to primarily be tools for cutting and pulling out ATMs. Hell, even Tooms’ Vulture exo-suit is defensive, with only the sharp blades of its wings functioning as weapons.
6 PETER CAUSED MOST OF THE DAMAGE IN THEIR FIGHTS
There’s a lot of collateral damage in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but almost none of it is directly the fault of Toomes. When Spider-Man begins inserting himself into the scenario, things quickly go awry. It all starts with Spidey’s first interaction with Brice and Schulz during the arms deal, where he creates pretty spectacular collateral damage throughout a suburban neighborhood.
It’s these little things that remind you that Toomes’ hands are relatively clean. The crashing of Stark’s flight and the battle at Coney Island are direct results of Peter’s actions, as is the near destruction of the ferry. And even the destruction of Toomes’ warehouse only occurs because Peter insists on following. Toomes gives Peter every opportunity imaginable, but still Spider-Man presses forward and the result is incredible amounts of collateral damage, and it’s all Peter’s fault.
5 IT HAS BEEN 2920 DAYS SINCE THE LAST WORKPLACE INCIDENT
By that same virtue, let’s look at Adrian’s hands in the damage that’s caused. As mentioned previously, the damage is done in self-defense. But as near as we can tell, prior to the events of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Adrian and his crew have had no major incidents, and aren’t even on the FBI’s radar for selling alien technology until Peter gets involved.
Given this and his existing rules about not displaying the technology out in the open, it looks like Adrian’s operation has been going largely unhindered for nearly eight years. That’s a long time for an operation that scavenges damaged alien scrap and repurposes to go on without any kind of collateral damage or attracting the attention of law enforcement. If Peter had never gotten involved, it’s likely he could have continued flying under the radar indefinitely.
4 HE TRIED TO GET PETER TO STOP
Peter’s persistence and never-say-die attitude is probably one of his more admirable traits, but it flies in the face of what Adrian is attempting to do. He gets so many attempts to stop as Toomes spares him again and again. But still Peter keeps coming, and Toomes is forced to keep acting in self-defense.
That’s the important thing to note: self-defense. Toomes begs Peter to stop and even gives him a chance to walk away and have a normal night at his Homecoming dance. This may seem like he’s a pushover, but Toomes also doesn’t lay down and let Peter interfere with his life. He at least gives Peter a fair shot, though, proving that he has a lot more heart than viewers initially realized.
3 THE DOTING FATHER
That twist though! When Peter opens the door to pick up his prom date only to find himself face to face with Adrian Toomes, audiences were genuinely shocked. It’s a very quiet, understated moment that caught everyone off guard. But it’s pretty obvious in retrospect what a doting father Toomes actually is.
What’s really notable here is how he really sticks with it. He’s deeply concerned about his daughter and even expresses gratitude to Peter for saving her life at the Washington Memorial. Toomes has Peter dead to rights but lets him live all the sake of making sure his daughter has a normal life. Sadly, though, this costs Peter in the end, as the doting Toomes insists his family leaves town during his trial.
2 HE (TECHNICALLY) NEVER TRIED TO KILL PETER
Toomes doesn’t really kill, but it’s especially notable in that he never outright tries to kill Peter. Despite constantly interrupting his plans and nearly costing him everything, Toomes just doesn’t have it in him to be a violent person. Sure, he threatens Peter with a gun in the car at the Homecoming dance, but those threats appear to be largely empty - Toomes could just kill him if he wanted to.
You could also make a case that he did try to kill him in the warehouse. After all, he did have his Vulture exo-suit destroy the supports and bring the building down on top of Peter! But also look at the beating Peter’s taken in the movie by that point. Pulling the ferry together, falling from a great height and more... is it really that unreasonable to assume Toomes knew Peter would manage to somehow survive?
1 HE STILL PROTECTED PETER’S IDENTITY
There is perhaps no more telling moment of Adrian Toomes’ deep-seated, heroic nature than his final moments in the film’s first stinger. Here, Mac Gargan has everything lined up to take revenge on Spider-Man... and he hears Toomes knows who he really is. But he refuses to divulge the information, insisting he’d have already killed him if he knew.
He’s not just protecting Peter, who saved his life. He’s protecting his daughter, who doesn’t know. Toomes isn’t your typical villain out to blow up the world, but a man forced to do terrible things because he was out of options. He’s more relatable, and the best representation of a Spider-Man villain on the big screen. And he may also be the biggest hero Spider-Man: Homecoming has.
Is your Spider Sense telling you we're all wrong about The Vulture? Let us know in the comments!