Actor Michael Keaton is set to shake-up audience expectations in this summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. Not since Jeff Bridges’ Obadiah Stane in 2008’s Iron Man has the Marvel Cinematic Universe seen a super-villain portrayed by such a high-profile, charistmatic actor as Keaton (Batman, Birdman, Spotlight), who will play Adrian Toomes — and his alter ego: The Vulture.
Sure, we’ve seen many respected, veteran actors portraying MCU antagonists, such as Mickey Rourke, Tim Roth, and Robert Redford, but none of these performers possesses remotely the same pop-culture status and comic book lineage as Keaton. It’s both strange and interesting to see Keaton take on this villainous turn, since his performances in Tim Burton’s Batman movies remain so entrenched in our collective and formative superhero memories.
So what are we to expect of Keaton as Vulture in the forthcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming? In keeping with the more grounded and focused approach in this film, as conveyed by the recent (and far too revealing) trailers, Toomes is a pissed-off, blue-collar everyman looking for payback against the system; he leads a junkyard-based criminal crew that includes Donald G. Glover, Michael Chernus as The Tinkerer, and Bokeem Woodbine as Shocker. This street-level emphasis is certainly a twist on the typical megalomaniac billionaire or scientific genius big bads that have populated previous Spider-Man films.
Speaking with Slash Film, Keaton discussed his relationship with his crew.
â€œI think itâ€™s an assembly of people heâ€™s needed, just hired â€™em on, and others that have loyalty. Theyâ€™re his boys, and they are like-minded. They are just his boys, you know? I really like the relationship with the Tinkerer â€“ with [Michael Chernus]â€™s character â€“ itâ€™s great. Heâ€™s real funny, so we goof around a lot and make up very, very funny backstories. But theyâ€™re funny, but then you think, â€˜Well, thatâ€™s probably their relationship. They probably get on each otherâ€™s nerves sometimes.â€™ I have a lot of the ideas, and then I just say, ‘Go make that. Go make that for me. I want to have a thing that does all this stuff. Just go make that stuff for me.’ And heâ€™s great. Iâ€™m having a lot of fun in that relationship.â€
Given the excesses (and general confusion) of the recent Amazing Spider-Man movies, which attempted to force too many big-name villains into their narratives, Spider-Man: Homecoming seems to have taken a narrower scope. Borrowing a page right out of the MCU debuts of Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man (Red Skull, Loki, and Iron Monger, respectively), the Vulture appears to be the film’s sole main antagonist. Sure, he has his crew, but they’re all in service of his end goals.
What’s also different here is that Vulture is kind of a third-tier Spider-Man villain, yet he’s also one of his oldest enemies, having first appeared nearly fifty years ago in Amazing Spider-Man, (Vol. 1, #2). Traditionally, Adrian Toomes is defined as an elderly man.
Keaton is a powerful actor with incredible range. He can be funny, serious, angry, and (despite his age) very physical. As Spider-Man, actor Tom Holland, has already shown that he can hold a scene with MCU vets Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. There’s plenty of reason to expect the face-to-face confrontations to be intense and dynamic.
Whether or not Spider-Man: Homecoming is a relaunch, reboot, continuation, or reimagining of the Spider-verse, casting Keaton as the central nemesis is an inspired choice, which we’ll (hopefully) be talking about for years to come.
How do you feel about a villainous Michael Keaton in Spider-Man: Homecoming? Let us know in the comments down below!
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