Spider-Man: Homecoming is out on Wednesday, and I’m happy to say that it’s great fun - not that you’d expect anything less from Marvel. Unfortunately, since we saw film, we’re sad to say that some rather unsavoury facts have come to light.
That’s right - the marketing material for the film commits a terrible crime against geography.
I say this with all of the authority of someone who recently spent ten days on holiday in New York. So yes, I am pretty much an expert now.
Everyone knows that New York is pretty intrinsic to Peter Parker’s character, and the film stays true to this: It feels like a living, breathing place. The diversity of the film’s cast lends it credibility, as it feels reflective of the Queens that I visited just a few weeks ago. And in the film itself, there doesn’t appear to be too many geography fails (though Peter would have a long commute to his school in Brooklyn).
But sadly, the film’s marketing material does not stay so true to life. Walking through Leicester Square at the weekend, I spotted this:
Here it is again - you’ll see this same images everywhere from bus stops to banner ads in the next few weeks:
Have you spotted the problem yet?
That’s right - this view of the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center is physically impossible from the side of Avengers Tower, even if it were a real tower and even if you had spider powers that enabled you to grip on the sides.
The canonical location for Avengers tower in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is at 200 Park Avenue - the film’s VFX artists switch out the Metlife building for it. And this has remained consistent across the entire MCU. (In the films at least - the Netflix shows don’t substitute it in presumably for financial reasons.)
This means that because of the parallax between the three buildings, it’s only possible that from the Metlife Building/Avengers Tower, that the World Trade Center appear on the left of the Empire State Building.
So we have three points: Avengers Tower, Empire State and One World Trade Center. Now look at them on a map. Draw a line between the Avengers Tower and the WTC and this becomes self-evident.
What? Are supposed to believe this is some sort of “magical” tower? Yeah, right. You might be able to do whatever a spider can, Peter, but adjusting the laws of physics is a job better left to… I dunno, the Silver Surfer or something.
In fact, to prove my point, here’s a photo taken looking south from the top of the actual Metlife Building. Note how the WTC appears to the left of the Empire State:
If you did want to see the WTC on the right of the Empire State Building, the Avengers' Tower would have to be much further to the west (remember, we're looking south). And this would shift the parallax - as handily demonstrated by this shot in Doctor Strange. From the position of the camera, the WTC appears to the right of the Empire State. (You can also see the Avengers' Tower in its correct position at 200 Park).
Some people think that I’m a bit obsessive, and this doesn’t really matter. But am I really that obsessive? I mean, I haven’t even pointed out that at the scale at which Spidey is gripping onto the Avenger’s “A” is any indication, he’s also going to be many times the size of a normal human.
What makes things worse is that this isn’t the only Spider-Man: Homecoming poster fail. Here’s another poster showing the view of the Avengers’ Tower and Chrysler Building from the east. It appears that Peter is relaxing in Brooklyn. So… what’s wrong?
Here’s the problem: While the Avengers Tower is in the right place there’s a rather important skyscraper missing that should be right in front on the river: The United Nations’ building.
The flatter, greyer building is the hall where the General Assembly and Security Council meets - but what about the offices where the bureaucrats do their work maintaining world peace?
Here’s how it should look, courtesy of Apple Maps:
What’s curious is that the Homecoming poster still features buildings from either side: The three connected brown towers to the left, and the greenish glass building next to a shorter stone building.
I did look into this - as far as I can tell in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe the UN building in New York has never been destroyed. There’s an Agents of Shield episode where it could conceivably have happened but I’ll be damned if I’m watching that. The best, gap-filling explanation then would be that it was destroyed during the Battle of New York. That, or the graphic designer didn’t want a fairly ugly building unbalancing the shot.
So that’s it. Go and see Spider-Man: Homecoming on Wednesday, because you should (it’s really good). But don’t forget to feel angry every time you see the poster. Parallax might be the worst Marvel villain of them all.
Important Update (17:06): Following hours of further important investigative journalism we've finally managed to figure out where the photo used in the poster was actually taken from. My friend Martin Robbins has identified it as the same view that you'd get from the top of the Rockefeller Center, which is the skyscraping home of NBC. The roof is open to tourists (the attraction is called "Top of the Rock") and both Martin and myself were there in May. So here's one of my actual holiday photos to illustrate the point:
So no need to climb up the side really - Spider-Man could have just paid $20 like everyone else to ride the elevator.