Greatest MCU Scenes: Captain America: Civil War – Peter Parker Meets Tony Stark


The Setup: Sony has held ownership over Marvel’s Spider-Man film license since 1998, and through the bulk of the 2000’s, audiences were satisfied. Then Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 released. A misstep undoubtedly, but surly Raimi would redeem himself with a part 4, Right? Nope. Given Sony’s forced inclusion of the symbiote suit and Venom into Spider-Man 3’s narrative, Raimi felt a Parker-like responsibility to hold full creative control over the follow up as to ensure a less muddled outcome. Naturally, heads butted, so Sony decided to push the emergency reboot button on the franchise. The decision was disastrous. Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) suffered as a lifeless retelling of an overly familiar story and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) fell victim to more executive meddling, shoving in as many villains and sub-plots as possible to ensure brand recognition for Sony’s planned (at the time) Sinister Six spinoff. Most importantly, the box office returns for both were nowhere near where they should be for movies featuring one of Marvel’s most recognizable characters.

Sony was in desperate need of direction. Cue every Marvel fan’s dream come true when Marvel Studios extended their hand to cut the tangled web Sony found themselves in. Deciding if you can’t beat them, join them, Sony allowed Kevin Feige, producer and creative overseer of the highly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, to integrate a newly rebooted version of Spidey into his Avengers-connected movies. Feige and his team would take full creative control over the character and his narrative within the MCU while Sony would collect the profits from each of the solo Spider-films. Fans were happy. Marvel was happy. Sony was happy. And after announcing Tom Holland as the new Peter Parker to be fist introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, directed by the Russo brothers, every spider-fan was foaming at the mouth to find out how Peter Parker would fit into an established Marvel cinematic universe.

Why it’s great: If you were there opening night of Civil War’s premier, chances are your theater erupted in ovation when the Queens title card encompassed the screen. An hour and fifteen minutes had already passed and given just how engaging the story and conflict between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark was up to that point, it could easily have been forgotten that a certain web-slinger was soon to be involved. And what better way to announce the character’s entrance, not through the grandiosity of Spider-Man swinging into action, but with the quaint Peter Parker in his humble neighborhood. Alt-J’s “Left Hand Free” plays as a segue into Parker’s world, capturing perfectly the youthful energy of a sixteen year old returning home from school and riding a high from nailing his algebra test.

The Russo’s choice to have Aunt May raising Peter in an apartment rather than in a house, as had been tradition in all Spider-Man media up to this point, was smart given how outlandish owning a house in Queens on a middle-class income is today compared to the character’s debut in the sixties. And the modest setting adds strides to Peter’s shock of finding a world-famous, billionaire superhero awaiting him in his living room. Peter mumbles and bumbles his way through grasping the situation while Tony winks and raises his eyebrows, signaling him to play along in front of his aunt. It’s a hilarious moment that instantly has you loving Holland’s rendition of the character, connecting with the relatable awkwardness of trying to keep his cool in an inconceivable situation, nearly losing himself to nerves and astonishment. And given how well known the character is, there’s no need to spell out the stakes right away, we know Peter keeps his identity secret from May, Tony could ignite his life by letting that cat out of the bag right there in his living room.

Tony knows the power he holds over Peter and flaunts it in the most Tony Stark way possible. When the scene moves to Peter’s bedroom and Peter tries to press Tony for answers, Tony responds, “me first,” and pulls up footage of Spider-Man to show what he knows. There’s no greater Tony Stark trait than taking control of a situation and showing that he holds all the cards. Tony’s in investigation mode, trying to find out if Peter is the real deal. He’s clearly studied this new hero in Queens, even tracked him to the point of discovering his identity, but he’s still suspicious. Could a sixteen-year-old kid really pull off the tech and smarts he needs to do what he does? As the scene progresses, Robert Downey Jr. conveys a subtle warming up to Peter as he discovers that this kid is just like him, a teenage Tony Stark from much humbler beginnings, without the money and inheritance to fund his genius. When Peter reveals that he invented his own webbing, Tony tries his best to hide his visible shock. He might have a contender for smartest person in the room, and it’s a high school kid.

Mid-scene, Tony gets Peter to fess up to his secret identity and refers to the fledgling hero as Spider-Boy. Peter, somewhat embarrassed, tells Tony that he goes by Spider-Man. Given the MCU’s timetable, Peter would have grown up with Iron Man and the Avengers in the news, looking up to and being inspired by their heroics. So, when he got bit by a spider and acquired powers of his own, putting on a costume and giving himself a superhero identity would have been, to an extent, influenced by coming of age in an Avengers-world. Likewise, Tom Holland grew up in a time that Iron Man and The Avengers dominated the box office and zeitgeist. The Russos have been candid in saying this was an essential aspect to casting Holland. The intimidation Tom felt while acting one-on-one with a veteran actor he grew up admiring translated perfectly to Peter’s headspace in the scene. The moment when Tony gets up to sit next to Peter and tells him to “move the leg” wasn’t scripted. Tom forgot his stage direction and Robert was calling out the rookie mistake. It’s this real-life dynamic that blossomed the mentor/mentee relationship between Tony and Peter with such grace. And Tom, in the course of just this one scene, solidifies himself as the definitive on-screen Peter Parker. His body language and voice displays a bashful diffidence on the surface, while at the same time giving the slightest fragments of assurance and strength that slowly reveal themselves throughout the scene – most notably when Tony throws a webbing cartridge and Peter catches it instinctively without looking, or in the final moment when Peter stands up, pumps out his chest and webs Tony’s hand to the doorknob in reaction to Tony threatening to “tell Aunt Hottie.”

Perhaps the most notable aspect of this scene is that it reiterates Peter’s origin without feeling like a retread of already covered ground. Which is saying a lot, considering this was the character’s second reboot in four years. Peter’s admittance that he’d love to play football but “couldn’t then, so I shouldn’t now,” says precisely what Uncle Ben would have taught him off-screen, that if he’s got a gift, he must use it to help others rather than himself. Tony then emphasizes that Peter’s different, to which Peter quickly retorts, “But I can’t tell anyone that, so I’m not.” With just that line, we feel Peter’s isolation from having to hide his gifts from his peers in order to conceal his identity. And then, instead of using the exhausted “great power, great responsibility” line, Peter says, “When you can do the things that I can, but you don’t, and then the bad things happen, they happen because of you.” Combining that line with Holland’s display of internalized torture, the guilt, pain and responsibility Peter feels over his Uncle’s death is conveyed without a single mention of Ben Parker or the moment he died. At a time when the Uncle Ben origin had been retold countless times in various mediums, this moment of subtlety was all that was needed for the MCU to make a nod to that crucial event so it could finally move into new storytelling territory.

Tony hearing and being affected by Peter’s philosophy is key to the overarching narrative of Civil War. At this point in the story, Tony was just commanded by General Ross to put a team together and bring in Steve Rogers. He’s wrestling with the hard fact that his and Rogers’ apposing beliefs may lead to battle. Tony’s doubts are kicking in. So, when a sixteen-year-old kid explains the simple idea of individual responsibility to do what’s right, Tony’s reminded why he signed the Sokovian Accords in the first place, to prevent the bad things from happening before they happen. He’s provided a much-needed reminder on why he’s fighting for what he believes in.

What really makes this scene great is that it shouldn’t have worked at all. Adding a popular character into a movie after just acquiring the rights to said character has “disjointed mess” written all over it. The truly amazing part is that it provides a much needed, middle of the story, fleshing out of both a prominent theme in the movie – the responsibilities of those with great power – and Tony Stark’s character motivations. And at the same time, it reboots and introduces the latest rendition of Spider-Man into the MCU, all in one impressive scene that is an engaging rollercoaster ride of tremendous chemistry, humor and emotion.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010): Confronting Repressed Trauma


Opinions regarding the plethora of sequels and spin-offs from 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street vary from one horror connoisseur to the next, but the 2010 reboot is easily the most collectively abhorred of the series. Discredited by critics as a pale imitation of Wes Craven’s horror classic, the Michael Bay produced Freddy Krueger vehicle does have its fair share of derivative ingredients to back up those denouncements. From dialogue that hits square on the nose to abandoning the colorfully surreal nature of the original for more bleak, saturated cinematography, it’s no surprise there was a stringent rejection by Craven purists. But what is greatly overlooked and undervalued about director Samuel Bayer’s updated vision is that it evolves the core concept of the original into its own darkly absorbing tale that explores the deep-seeded effects of childhood trauma.

Craven’s nightmare dealt with a deranged individual who murdered children when he was alive, but to the late director’s admittance, he abstained his original idea to make Krueger a child molester as well, believing sensitive audiences at the time would reject his vision of the most evil person he could possibly imagine. This of course did nothing to detract from what made the original a classic to this day, that the monstrosity of Freddy is but a placeholder for the unassailable darkness deeply seeded within the human psyche. Thoughts of death, depression or existential dread can all be projected onto what Freddy’s nightmares represent, but the very idea that the children in the white-bread suburban town of Springwood had to face this unseeable, but very real, evil on their lonesome while their parents attempted to suppress and deny its existence spoke significantly to a generation.

By the time the reboot came to its 2010 fruition, the new storytellers decided to go all in on the notion that Freddy was a child molester. This provided the opportunity to explore lead characters who had been personally victimized by Krueger as young children, as apposed to Nancy and her friends from the original who were never confirmed to share any personal relation to the tragedies of their town’s past. Having a new cast of characters slowly discovering their memories of being abused by a child predator cast an even darker shadow on this new iteration, but it resulted in a unique investigation of repressed wounds.

The remake abandons all characters from the original, save for the lead’s first name, Nancy, and, of course, head honcho slasher, Freddy Krueger. But Freddy takes on a slightly different persona here. Gone is the playful trickster Robert Englund excellently conquered the personality of. Instead, Jackie Earle Haley brings the grim and scary, conveying a jaws-like inevitability while approaching his victims, feverishly rubbing his finger-knives together, hungry for blood. His voice booming and arresting. This is one intimidating rendition of Freddy. And it all works to portray a more aggressive abuser necessary for this new narrative.

The movie begins, like the original did, by tricking the audience into thinking the lead roll belongs to another. Though her screen presence lasts a mere ten minutes longer than Tina’s from the original, our time with Kris actually feels more intimate, witnessing more of her nightmares as she searches for clues from her childhood. Even those who have seen the original might be tricked into believing Kris is the head scream queen. As Kris recounts her nightmares of Freddy to her boyfriend, Jesse, it becomes clear that he too has been encountering the same monster in his own dreams. As the teens in this story move into adulthood, the nightmares that begin bubbling are memories of repressed physical and sexual abuse they experienced in pre-school from the grounds gardener at the time, Freddy Krueger. But Jesse denies Freddy and the very real past he and Kris share with him. When Kris ends up dead at the hand of Krueger’s nightmare, Jesse can no longer deny the truth.

The deaths in this movie are a direct metaphor for a victim’s suicide when the haunting memories of abuser’s actions become too overwhelming to bare. At the start of the story, the first of the victimized teens to die, Dean, is forced by the specter of Freddy to cut his own throat. “You’re not real,” he screams just before making the slash. Just as anyone who must confront the hard reality of a traumatizing past, denying the truth of such a memory can lead down an insufferable road that, all too often, ends in tragedy.

After Kris and Jesse end up dead by way of nightmare, Nancy and Quentin take on the roll of investigators to a past that’s back to haunt them. Both characters are outcasts to a length, with Nancy the most socially introverted. As an artist, she stays indoors and in touch with her creative side, a trait often manifested in those who have suffered a damaging past.


As the two characters avoid sleep at all cost, their tired appearances evoke a visual resemblance to that of drug abuse. The less they rest to avoid the nightmare of Freddy, the more pronounced the shadows under their eyes and the blotching in their skin appears. The lack of sleep Nancy and Quentin undergo here is purposely analogous to a victim’s turning to harmful drugs to suppress the pain from their wounded psyche. In both cases, it’s the only way to avoid a cruel ghost of the past. The movie makes this connection most notably in a scene where Quentin drives to a pharmacy to refill the pills he needs to stay awake while Nancy awaits in the parked car. Quentin aggressively begs and pleads to a pharmacist who refuses to refill his prescription, while Nancy – covered in sweat as though fighting withdrawals – reaches for the car’s plug heater and jams it into her forearm to jolt herself awake. Her relief from the sensation comparable to a junkie’s relief from self-injecting a needle.

About halfway through the movie, Quentin experiences a nightmare that reveals his and Nancy’s parent’s involvement in Krueger’s murder. After finding out their parents committed the crime without any hard proof of Krueger’s wrongdoings, Quentin and Nancy begin to sympathize with their former abuser, believing he may not have actually been guilty of the heinous violations their parents accused him of. This uncertainty Quentin and Nancy feel is akin to the regret that many real-life victims experience when making accusations against their abuser. The mental wounds inflicted by the victimizer can be so domineering that, in some cases, the victim will actually be convinced that their own memories of the past are a lie. And it’s this misplaced belief of being in the wrong that lead Nancy and Quentin right into Freddy’s trap.

When their investigation takes them to the basement under their former pre-school, Nancy and Quentin find undeniable evidence of Freddy’s disgusting violations against them and their classmates as children. But Freddy wants them to remember, just as any true victimizer would, because their memories are what grants him his power over them. As Quentin puts it, “We were wrong. He’s not after us because we lied. He’s after us because we told the truth.” The nightmares they experience aren’t due to their own wrongful accusations, they’re from very real scars that were inflicted on them beyond their control. A fact that is, sadly, oftentimes difficult for victims of repressed trauma to accept.

In the climax, Nancy makes the choice to confront the trauma of her past once and for all by willingly entering Freddy’s nightmare in an attempt to capture and bring him into reality. After all, the only way any victim can truly overcome traumatic stress is by first acknowledging and accepting the reality of it. Once there, Freddy ties Nancy down in bed with her childhood dress, forcing her to relive the nightmare he made of her childhood. He tells Nancy to, “Look what you did to me,” while gesturing at his burnt face, attempting to, once again, elicit her guilt for the consequences of his own actions. But this time Nancy fights back, wise to his illusions. Managing to bring him into reality and, with the help of Quentin, subdue him, she cuts off his razored hand – dismantling the very appendage used to assault her and her classmates as a child – and slices his head off, killing him once and for all. An affective sequence that displays the attainable empowerment found from confronting and coming to terms with psychological wounds of the past.

Although in no way a game changer to the horror genre, 2010’s A Nightmare on Elm Street brought new layers of depth to a well that had long since been run dry. As a remake, it takes the essential ingredients of the original and uses them as a means to explores the psychological ramifications of child molestation in an allegorical manner that is both raw and empowering. It also manages to restore a level of tensity and terror that had been long lost on legendary slasher, Freddy Krueger. These additions to the series alone make this reboot, at the very least, a worthy endeavor.






The Lighthouse (2019) [Horrific Hidden Meaning]


Horrific Hidden Meaning is a series that explores how horror movies can provide a platform of discussion for the uncomfortable realities within society and the human psyche.

Although not a full fledged horror film, cherrypicking ingredients of comedy, drama, fantasy and more, Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse  builds itself on a rock of horror stacked with deeper meaning behind its esoteric, Greek mythos-inspired exterior. Egger’s first film, The Witch, dealt heavily with female adversity in the 1630’s, not far removed from the events of the Salem witch trials, that echoed eerily similar to our current world. As a thematic follow up, Eggers’ second outing delves deep into the trenches of the male psyche and explores the undignified darkness within.

Dropped into a sort of cinematic limbo set in the 1890’s, we find ourselves at an isolated lighthouse island where Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) and Thomas Wake (William Dafoe) have just arrive for a contract job. The older, experienced Wake barks and bellows orders at the younger Winslow, tasking him with all the dirty work like disposing the two men’s feces, stirring the oil and swabbing the floors. It quickly takes a toll. Winslow’s youthful reserved demeanor gets pushed to the brink.

Winslow can be any modern young man in a capitalist driven workforce. As long as he keeps his head down, works hard and earns his keep, he’ll someday enjoy the light at the top of the ladder. This light representing all the fortunes of becoming rich and successful. The power felt and the satisfaction earned from attaining The American Dream when the game is played just right. The inherit competition of such a dream, as explored through Winslow and Wake’s dynamic, can influence the alpha-male psyche in a seriously destructive manner.

Wake is an elderly, successful man who has achieved his goals and now, in his old age has earned the satisfaction of possessing the light all to himself. He gets to be the boss. And he enjoys the hell out of it, holding it over his underling and reminding him to know his place every chance he gets. This dynamic is demonstrated early on as Winslow painstakingly refuels the lighthouse. The camera pans up from Winslow in the dark bowels and rises up to Wake enjoying the blinding bright light in nude ecstasy. But unbeknownst to Winslow, we see an expression of discomfort in Wake while in that lantern room. His excessively orgasmic enjoyment of the burning brightness is taking some kind of toll on him, demonstrating the dissatisfaction felt by men who have invested their entire life to achieving a career or social status that the light represents, only to feel the emptiness that those excessive riches provide them. Winslow, much like any capitalism-driven young man, is attracted to the glamor at the top and the benefits that await, ignorant to the cost such a fixation can take on the soul.

Despite Wake’s grave warnings of the curse that comes with killing a seagull, Winslow snaps and takes his frustrations of subjugation out by smashing a particularly bothersome one to death. The second Winslow takes this step out of line from Wake’s overbearing rules and expresses anger, the camera pans up to reveal a harsh change in weather. The powers that be, mother nature herself, is not pleased. And as punishment, nature’s wrath shifts Winslow’s reality and the reality of the movie itself. From here on, whether we’re witnessing full-fledged delusion or not is anyone’s guess.

Winslow’s sin opens up the flood gates to his base conscious. The first manifestation of his torment arrives as a beached mermaid. His initial reaction is to lust over the beautiful creature. As he touches her breasts, the mermaid awakens and emits an agonizing mixture of scream and laughter, triggering Winslow to run in terror. A grim representation of the heterosexual male desire turned nightmare. A fantasy twisted into a horrifying rejection with the object of Winslow’s lust laughing at the vulnerable thing he is. And Winslow is particularly vulnerable considering his very name was stolen by a man he allowed to die in an accident he saw and did nothing to prevent. His guilt becomes more and more burdensome as nature’s curse weighs heavier. Later, Winslow submits to his cursed instincts, feverishly masturbating while his fantasies of having sex with the mermaid are engulfed by his unearthed guilt in a primal whirlwind of defeat.

Winslow’s capitalist-centered mindset of attaining the light at the top, perpetuated by his outburst of killing the seagull, triggers his unsavory base impulses. A metaphor for self-defeating feelings so easily provoked within men entangled in a capitalist rat race. A system that rewards indifference toward one another, rather than compassion, in the name of attaining optimal wealth and status. The internal guilt this heartless roadmap to success can evoke is symbolically portrayed with Winslow’s dredged up guilt from allowing a man to literally die for his selfish gain.


Excessive alcohol consumption becomes Winslow’s one way to bond with Wake and escape his contempt, revealing an apt analogy. Men are not commonly expected to share vulnerabilities, and the inherent cutthroat competitive essence of business only accentuates the sentiment. Introduce alcohol and those walls come down. But the nightmare of any career driven male would be to spill his beans to a rival coworker in a drunken state, allowing them to use it against his character, to sabotage his chance at “the light.” When Winslow pours his guilty heart out to Wake in a drunken outpour, Wake’s eerie voice echoes through the walls, Why’d y’spill yer beans? In Winslow’s mind, he’s exposed his weakness and left himself defenseless, conveyed in his fever dream of a nude Wake standing above him and feeding the light’s power into a submitted Winslow’s eyes.

At this point, real or not, Wake has become the personification of Winslow’s internal shame, ridiculing and gas-lighting the feeble Winslow. The way Winslow sees it, he has no choice but to dominate and end this phantom of guilt and humiliation. A sequence of Winslow overpowering Wake, treating him like a dog and burying him metaphorically implies the dominating male ego overtaking and concealing its fragile vulnerabilities, in Winslow’s case, to a point of psychosis. A demented depiction of the male ego’s rejection of its vulnerabilities. This unhinged madness results in Winslow murdering Wake. Now with his projection of self-ridicule removed once and for all, Winslow can climb the stairs to the light, freed from his manifested guilt holding him back. But the light for which he sacrificed his own humanity to obtain devours him, its all consuming power completely undoing him. Just as wake knew, and just as any experienced man at the height of his success can impart, what is supposed to bring boundless satisfaction can instead bring unsatisfying madness if not kept at a measured distance.