Audiences are absolutely loving Avengers: Infinity War. And why not? It’s absolutely outstanding, and maybe Marvel’s best effort to date. Just like every other movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Infinity War is packed with callbacks to previous movies, sly jokes, and Easter eggs. This movie has the Guardians of the Galaxy in it, after all, and those movies are about 90% Easter eggs and pop culture references.
But while Groot playing the handheld version of Defender and Star-Lord referring to Thanos as Grimace are great references, they don’t make this list. Let’s take a look at 10 of the little clues, callbacks, and Easter eggs that you may have missed in Infinity War.
1. Oh Tobias, you blowhard!
The Russo brothers, Joe and Anthony, haven’t always been big, hotshot, Hollywood blockbuster directors. One of their earliest projects was on popular early 2000s sitcom Arrested Development, and they’ve found ways to make little callbacks to that show. In Captain America: Civil War, for example, the iconic stair-car appears during the airport scene.
In Infinity War, it’s Dr. Tobias Funke that makes an appearance. During the scene in Knowhere, behind Gamora can be scene a blue-painted man in jean short cut-offs. It’s not actor David Cross in the paint, but it’s definitely made to look like him. Just how did Tobias find his way into the Collector’s collection, we wonder?
Next: A tragic (but fitting) end
2. Loki comes full circle
When we’re first introduced to Loki in Thor, he’s a devious little Hellion with major jealousy issues. That comes to a head when he accepts the scepter from Thanos to come rule over Earth in The Avengers, only to be thwarted by Earth’s mightiest heroes. But over the course of the final two Thor movies, we see Loki begin to change as a person. And when we see him at the beginning on Infinity War, he’s downright ready to do the right thing.
Just as Loki is about to turn over the Tesseract to Thanos, he drops this memorable line: “We have a Hulk.” Of course, Loki’s attempts to trick and kill Thanos ultimately cost him his life, but at least his story was able to come full circle before his demise. You’ll recall that same Hulk line was spoken to Loki by Tony Stark in The Avengers, just before the attack on New York City. How’s that for symmetry?
Next: A magical moment
3. Doctor Strange makes balloon animals
In an early squabble between Stark and Doctor Strange, the always-sarcastic Tony makes a reference to Strange making balloon animals. Of course, given that Stark is always finding ways to put people down and that Strange is an actual wizard, the line is perfectly fine as it is. But there is a little more to this Easter egg.
During a 2016 sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Benedict Cumberbatch appeared as Doctor Strange being hired to do magic for a children’s birthday party. Although he was initially reluctant, the pull of the $150 payday was too much. The sketch finishes with Strange sitting on a coach making balloon animals for the kids. So, did Stark just make that Kimmel sketch into official MCU canon?
Next: A callback to a video game
4. Thanos and the bubbles
When Thanos obtains the Reality Stone, he gets a few opportunities to mess with people’s minds. The first comes in Knowhere, when he fools Gamora into believing that she had killed him. But probably the most cruel use of the Reality Stone is when Peter Quill reluctantly chooses to kill Gamora, only to have his gun fire bubbles. Later, when Gamora tries to kill herself, her blade turns into bubbles. Why the strange choice of bubbles?
Apparently, this is a reference to a 2000 video game titled Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes. In this game, one of Thanos’ powers is that he can trap his enemies inside a bubble. Also, just in general he seems to have bubbles come out of him when you hit him. The bubbles in Infinity War don’t have the same relevance, but it’s still an interesting little callback for Marvel fans that are familiar with the game.
Next: A surprise cameo
5. The return of Red Skull
One of the biggest deep cuts in the film is revealing Red Skull as the protector of the Soul Stone on Volmir. When Thanos and Gamora arrive on Volmir to retrieve the stone, they encounter the soul of Red Skull, or Johann Schmidt from Captain America: The First Avenger. It was initially believed that holding the Tesseract killed Red Skull, but instead the Space Stone merely cursed him to serve this new purpose.
Not only was this a really cool callback to one of the very first movies in the MCU, it’s also likely a bit of foreshadowing of what is to come. We learned that even though the Space Stone “killed” Red Skull, he never really died — he was just transported elsewhere. While Thanos snapped his fingers and caused half the life in the universe to disappear, are they actually gone? The prevailing thought is that they aren’t.
Next: A nod to the comics
6. The Cauldron of the Cosmos
In an early scene in the New York Sanctum, Stark puts his hands on a giant black pot while stretching his leg. In the moment, Doctor Strange’s cape slaps Stark’s leg and the wizard makes reference to the Cauldron of the Cosmos. It’s all done for humor, and in general the Cauldron doesn’t mean anything to the plot of the movie. But it’s still a bit interesting for one reason.
In the comics, the Cauldron of the Cosmos is an item that Doctor Strange uses to look forward at the possible outcomes to future events. In what may be one of the most important things to take away from Infinity War, Strange had looked ahead at over 14 million different outcomes in their battle with Thanos.
Next: Another pop culture reference
7. Peter Parker is a fan of Alien
Even though he’s just a teenager, it’s apparent that Peter Parker is a big fan of movies that came out before he was born. In Civil War, he makes note of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back while he tangles up Ant-Man’s legs. In Infinity War, Spidey also doesn’t skimp on the ’80s pop culture references.
The entire plan to save Doctor Strange from Ebony Maw is based around the end of the 1979 sci-fi classic, Alien. Stark fires a missile that blows a hole in the side of the spaceship, blowing Maw out into space. Parker later references Alien again, begging Mantis not to lay eggs inside of him. For a superhero, the kid certainly has a lot of time to watch old movies.
Next: A more recent pop culture reference
8. Now that you mention it …
Speaking of Ebony Maw, he’s the most intellectual and articulate of all the members of Thanos’ Black Order. With a sort of wizardry of his own, Maw instantly is able to go toe-to-toe with Strange in New York without much problem. But it’s actually a line from Stark that nails Maw the hardest.
When Maw first arrives in New York City, Stark yells out, “Go away, Squidward. Earth is closed.” The cultural reference is spot on, comparing the obviously similar looks of Maw and SpongeBob’s grumpy neighbor/co-worker, Squidward. So uncool of Stark to burn Maw so badly before freezing him in the vacuum of space.
Next: A hint for the next movie?
9. Gamora inside the Soul Stone
After Thanos snaps his fingers, instantly eliminating half of life in the universe, he awakens in a vast, orange landscape. Only one other person is there, and that’s Gamora — but as he first knew her, when she was a little girl. Thanos refers to her as “little one,” and she asks him what it cost him to fulfill his destiny. “Everything,” he says.
But where was it that Thanos was briefly transported? Was this all in his mind? In actuality, there is reason to believe that this brief encounter happened within the Soul Stone itself. There is one theory that the stone traps the souls that it “kills,” and they go to live inside of it. That’s explains how, at least in the comics, it can bring people back from the dead. So could Gamora be one of those brought back in Avengers 4?
Next: About that after-credits scene
10. Nick Fury sends a page
In the after-credits scene, we get our first glimpse at Nick Fury since The Avengers: Age of Ultron. He is driving in New York City with Maria Hill, who is serving as his right hand. All of the sudden, a car crashes in front of them. Behind them, people are screaming. A helicopter crashes into the side of a building. What is going on?
Just as Fury starts to realize something is wrong, Hill begins to disappear. He runs to grab something from his car, but Fury too begins to fade away. There are two pretty cool Easter eggs here. The first is that Fury begins to utter a NSFW phrase that has become synonymous with actor Samuel L. Jackson, most famously from his character’s wallet in Pulp Fiction.
The second Easter egg is the old, ’90s style pager that is found on the ground after his character dissolves into dust. It was sending some sort of message, and at the end the Captain Marvel logo pops up. A pretty cool way to tease the 2019 Captain Marvel movie, and a character that may play a major role in Avengers 4.
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