“The Avengers.” It’s all been building to this, the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase One. The Avengers are introduced, and assembled, setting the stage for Phase Two. S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), previously discussed the Avengers Initiative, a project to unite a group of gifted individuals for Earth’s protection. Thus, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) unite to form the Avengers. Marvel’s Phase One finale is packed with lore and references both formerly introduced, and new.
The Tesseract first appeared in “Thor,” and was properly explained during “Captain America: The First Avenger.” From the onset of “The Avengers,” the powerful Asgardian artifact assumes an integral role. S.H.I.E.L.D. is attempting to harness energy from the Tesseract, an experiment which goes awry. While evacuating the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, there’s a plaque in the background which mentions “Project Pegasus.” It’s partially blocked, and if you blink you’ll likely miss this quick reference. Pegasus stands for “Potential Energy Group Alternate Sources United States,” a division from the comics. Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) was shown experimenting with clean energy as well, but his Arc Reactor technology proved more stable than Asgardian relics.
Plenty of tech pops up, notably a few new additions to the cinematic universe. Stark quips that he’s a Life Model Decoy (LMD), a sophisticated android. Remember Hydra from “Captain America?” Well they’re back, sort of. Stark’s distrust of Fury leads the honorable Steve Rogers (Evans) to search the Helicarrier, where he discovers crates of Hydra weapons in a locked hangar. Col. Fury explains they were a result of Phase 2, a means to protect the world, prompted by the destruction wrought by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in “Thor.” A closer look reveals that these are actually Hydra weapons, a significant Easter egg for future productions. Additionally, Phase 2 is a reference for the upcoming continuation of the MCU, dubbed Phase 2. Stark and Rogers’ distrust isn’t unfounded, as S.H.I.E.L.D. does have its secrets, and is conducting surveillance on superheroes like the Avengers. This theme evolves greatly as Phase 2 begins.
During “The Avengers,” Bruce Banner (Ruffalo) recalls attempting to shoot himself, adding that Hulk nixed the suicide. Although portrayed by Edward Norton, there was an alternate ending from “The Incredible Hulk” where Banner tried to kill himself. It’s a neat throwback to a little-known scene. Tony dubs the Avengers “Earth’s mightiest heroes,” which was the tagline of the Avengers comics. A bit of foreshadowing arises at the conclusion of the film when Stark spreads out a set of blueprints to repair Stark Tower. The only remaining letter from “Stark” is an A, which hints at an Avengers Tower. Also, during the battle of New York, look for a shawarma restaurant in the background. It’s the eatery where the Avengers enjoy a post-credits meal. Hey, all that fighting no doubt burned a few calories.
Stan Lee has his usual, and always enjoyable, cameo. This round, he plays an old man in Central Park playing chess, and denies that anything out of the ordinary occurred. Supervillain Thanos (Josh Brolin) pops up in a post-credits scene, which foretells a future plot-line. In Marvel lore, Thanos obtained the Infinity Gauntlet, which we saw momentarily in “Thor.” The Gauntlet requires all six Infinity Stones, and we see one prominently during “The Avengers,” nestled in Loki’s staff.
Phase One introduced the Avengers Initiative, and several key pieces of lore which bloom into essential elements for Phase Two and beyond. Check out what’s next with “Iron Man 3” as our “Avengers: Age of Ultron” marathon and Marvel Easter egg hunt blaze onward.