“Avengers Easter Eggs Assemble!”
Sure, you’ve watched all of Marvel’s movies and TV shows and gotten pretty familiar with the ever-expanding sense of place that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And yes, you have your own personal breadth of knowledge of its comic book counterpart and the underlying allusions to various characters, objects and locales therein. And you’ve had no shortage of online listicles to peruse over the past week or so to help you tie some of the more significant connections between and backstories of the characters in Marvel’s latest mega-opus, “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
But you can count on the filmmakers on a Marvel film this momentous — comic book freak-flag waving uber-nerds, from writer/director Joss Whedon on down — to sneak in as many references to the classic source material as possible, and after three viewings of the movie, we can assure you that in some cases they zip by so fast even Quicksilver could miss a couple if he blinks.
We’re also fairly confident we still haven’t spotted everything micro-Easter Egg-y, but we’re putting our first finds out there (with spoilers aplenty, it should be noted). Notice any gems that we missed? Be sure to let us know in the comments.
- If you listen closely to the voices of Tony Stark’s Iron Legion drones as they attempt to keep the peace in the movie’s opening sequences, you’ll recognize that their calm, measured, automated tones are delivered by James Spader. The Legion’s voices are a baseline that only gets loopier once their bodies are co-opted by the squirrelly circuitry of Ultron.
- As the Avengers and their friends enjoy their “revelries” at Avengers Tower, the camera swiftly zips past a unique statue erected in NYC. Upon close inspection, it’s revealed to be a tribute to the firefighters, EMTs and other first responders who served during the Battle of New York, AKA the Loki-led Chitauri invasion of Manhattan in the first “Avengers” film.
- Who are all those elderly fellas hanging with the Avengers in their penthouse party, including the Asgardian-liquor-quaffing Stan Lee? Check out their hats and pins: they’re all veterans of World War II and, given that they merited an invite to hang with the Avengers, were likely battlefield compatriots of Captain America during the Big One — possibly even former Howling Commandos.
- In keeping with entertainment for the old-timers, notice that one of the background songs is the Ira Gershwin/Vernon Duke-penned classic from the Great American Songbook, “I Can’t Get Started,” made famous by jazz trumpeter Bunny Berigan and, later, singers including Billie Holliday and Frank Sinatra. The song describes a frustrated attempt to launch a romance, and it plays during Black Widow and Bruce Banner’s abortive attempt to explore their feelings for each other at the bar. Not comics trivia, but high marks for an obscure but apropos pop culture nod.
- Why is Ultron draped in a billowy red scarf when he first meets the Maximoff twins — other than for a dramatic reveal, of course? Because it’s a tip of the hat to the A.I.’s comic book alter ego, The Crimson Cowl (it was even used by the Avengers’ major domo Edwin Jarvis when he was under Ultron’s sway).
- Speaking of wartime music, the eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that during the sequence in which Scarlet Witch sends Steve Rogers into his own personal nightmarish reverie at a USO dance, the band playing is dubbed the Roy Thomas Players. Thomas, of course, is the longtime first generation fan-turned-comic book creator who succeeded Stan Lee as the primary writer and editor of many early Marvel titles, including “Avengers,” and whose notable character creations include both The Vision and Ultron.
- Geneticist Dr. Helen Cho may not ring bells right away — she’s only had a handful of Marvel Comics appearances, after all — but if something feels familiar about that surname, you’re right. In the comics, she’s the late mother of teenage super-genius Amadeus Cho, who’s palled around with both the Hulk and Hercules. And like her son, she seems to have an affinity for hunky deities.
- Not a Marvel reference, but a comic book callback nonetheless, Stark Industries’ anti-Hulk defense system is dubbed Veronica because, well, Bruce Banner used to be in love with a woman named Betty and, as in the long-running Archie Comics, Veronica is the opposite of that.
- You guys all got that Ulysses Klaw’s severed arm — sheared off by a tantrum-throwing Ultron — is a nod to Black Panther’s comic book nemesis’ limb that’s replaced with his sonic emitter, right? As well as the MCU’s ongoing, insider-y severed-limb tribute to “Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.” (Seriously, watch every Marvel Phase Two film and watch for the amputated hand or arm.)
- The female-voiced F.R.I.D.A.Y. software that Tony Stark installs to replace the newly evolved J.A.R.V.I.S. operating system has roots in both Marvel Comics (as a somewhat obscure A.I. assistant to the billionaire), and pop culture (“His Girl Friday,” the classic screwball comedy with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell). But did you notice that as Tony scanned a splayed stack of electronic plug-ins for just the right program, one of those bits of hardware was labeled “Jocasta?” Yep, that’s a nod to the putative android “bride” created by Ultron who later rebelled and became an Avenger in her own right.
- In the years following The Vision’s 1968 debut, the synthezoid character was frequently seen using his power of intangibility to plunge his hand directly into an adversary’s chest and re-solidifying it, disrupting his foe’s heart enough to neutralize them. In “Age of Ultron,” The Vision does not (yet) appear to have the power to phase through matter, but his indestructible vibranium-laced body performs a similar function: in the film’s climactic battle scenes, The Vision’s signature fight move is to punch directly into the chests of the Iron Legion Ultron drones, disabling them. The heart trick, however, goes to Scarlet Witch, who plucks Ultron’s mechanized core right out of his chest casing.
- Longtime Marvelites recall that The Vision and Scarlet Witch were once the Avengers’ most star-crossed couple — the two were even married for a good chunk of comic continuity. The MCU versions of the Vision and Witch barely get an opportunity to exchange dialogue in “Age of Ultron,” but pay close attention to the sequence in which the Vision flies to the Witch’s rescue as the Floating Land Mass Formerly Known As Sokovia and the moment slows down just enough so that the potent, meaningful look that the two exchange registers for a second or two. Did we just watch two superbeings fall in love at (nearly) first sight?
- Hey, didn’t that fella leading the civilian evacuation of Sokovia aboard Nick Fury’s helicarrier look a little familiar to you? That’s because he’s the same as-yet-unnamed stand-up S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who refused to roll over to Brock Rumlow during Hydra’s takeover of the agency in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Nick Fury sure knows how to reward loyalty.
- And one last, appropriately fast-paced moment: When Black Widow gets her first look at Hawkeye and Laura’s newborn son via a texted photo, she not only learns that they did indeed pay tribute to her with a masculine version of her name, they also honored the sacrifice of fallen Avenger Quicksilver. Welcome to the MCU, Nathaniel Pietro Barton! Hope you survive the experience!
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