In Defense: The Case for Vulture as a Villain in Spider-Man 4
by Brandon Lee Tenney
December 10, 2009
Let's recap first, shall we? Spider-Man 4, which is not even close to filming yet, has been in and out of the news for the past 86 years. It feels that way, at least. We've heard the rumblings and rumors of a multitude of possible villains from The Lizard to Vulture to Morbius to Black Cat. We've heard of a number of different actresses who may or may not have auditioned to play the part of the latter alone. So, when we told you just a few days ago that Anne Hathaway may play Vulturess and John Malkovich is being seriously considered for the role of the villain Vulture, your backlash was, uh, pretty violent. Here are some of the comments.
"Seriously…. my nephew would be a better villain than the vulture." --mrmr
"Even with a good actor like Malkovich, the characters are crap. They were some of the weakest villains in Spider-Man. Let's get some real bad guys!" --Tra la la la la di da
"If they turn Black Cat into whatever the Vulturess is supposed to be, Spider-man will officially be dead to me. I may have been able to look past jazz dancing, but not the Vulturess." --Eddie
"Back to f***ing basics my ass. Vulturess?" --Garrett
"*Yawn* This franchise is toast." --Simon
Sure, Vulture is no Kraven or The Lizard or Mysterio, but Adrian Toomes doesn't have to be the geriatric in green that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko first envisioned him as in ASM #2. I'm here to defend the ornithological super-villain. This is the case for Vulture.
First of all, let's abolish this image of Vulture that Movieline used in their article on the Malkovich rumor. I can all but guarantee Vulture will not be Clint Eastwood yelling "Get off my lawn!" in green tights. Here are a few new images of Vulture that should be used to form your more accurate opinion from now on:
Which goes to prove my first point: the Vulture has the potential to be a frightening villain (and a visually stunning one, at that). Adrian Toomes is one of the more intelligent super-villains of the Marvel Universe. He's a lot like Tony Stark: an intellectually gifted electronics engineer whose brain is his greatest strength. Unlike Stark, though, Toomes creates his flight harness (providing him with super strength and the ability to fly) and uses it for evil, which, for Vulture, is most often robbing banks and jewelers. For my money, there's no villain more intimidating than an intelligent villain. But if that's not doing it for you, Vulture's flight suit also comes complete with wings as sharp as swords, sections of which can be used as projectiles that replenish like shark's teeth. Still not convinced?
Let's explore Vulture's origin, then. Adrian Toomes was the business partner of a man who'd wronged him. Toomes's partner had been embezzling funds and Toomes was about to be out on the street. So, doing what any man at the end of his rope who'd just invented a flight suit would do, he wrecks the business and turns to a life of crime. He's a loose cannon with nothing to lose!
Alright, now let's frame that in the present: There's nothing more topical than our current economic woes. People are being laid off in record numbers and unable to replace their jobs 'cause there just aren't enough to go around. What if Adrian Toomes is one of those unlucky people? What if, while working for a mega-corporation, he's fired right after his creation of the flight suit and the corporation is set to reap all the reward without giving Toomes any of the credit? He needed this job. He's got alimony to pay. And his chemotherapy isn't cheap. Then he's just an everyman, relatable, until he snaps. He realizes he likes having all the power. He can just take what he wants. And, now he's realizing, he has a knack for violence. He's lost everything already. What more does he have to lose? And that suit of his, he can't take it off... it appears to have put his cancer into remission. He's Vulture now. He may as well embrace it.
Now we have the mental instability (born of relatable pain) so common to super-villains, a devious, unbridled intelligence, and a flight suit that provides him with deadly weaponry, super-strength, and flight. He's starting to take shape, no?
Add John Malkovich. The man is a consummate professional. He's able to play it straight or ham it up. And he's able to be pretty terrifying if necessary. Not to mention, he'll be making his comic book movie debut next year in Jonah Hex. The age is right, the look is perfect, and the flight suit itself explains how he'll be able to go wing-to-web with the wall crawler. Hell, this just might work.
So, you naysayers out there, let's not count Spider-Man 4 out yet. Sure, does it royally piss me off that Sony shot down the possibility of The Lizard with extreme prejudice? Yes. Yes, it does. Would I love to see Kraven's Hunt brought to the screen? You bet. Is using Felicia Hardy as anyone but Black Cat a ridiculous notion, one that will upset more people than the character's inclusion will bring in? Of course. I mean, just create a new character who teams up with her father and becomes the Vultress. 'Cause having a love interest who's not Mary Jane to confuse Peter Parker when he's not in the red and blue is always a good thing. Having him then find out she's a supervillian, that's just a good story.
But why sully Felicia Hardy's name by making her Vulturess. The chemistry between Spider-Man and Black Cat on the page is some of my favorite. Then again, perhaps Vulturess is just a red herring. Maybe?
Hopefully I've shown the most open-minded of you that Vulture won't be the virus that kills the Spider-Man franchise. I really feel like Raimi has learned from the huge mistake that was Spider-Man 3. Raimi's a great director. Pair him with some great actors and a great script, and he's capable of turning out a great movie. If that movie just so happens to have Vulture (or, for that matter, Vulturess) in it as the villain, then count me in. I wouldn't mind seeing a mid-air fight or two between the web-head and Vulture, or the revival of the pre-9/11 web-between-two-buildings trap (seen in this teaser). Who better to use it on than Vulture?
Hey, the villain could be worse; it could be The Rhino. And the defense rests. Your thoughts on Vulture?