Tony Stark has a complicated relationship with his late father Howard, and part of that has to do with their many similarities. These two look alike, think alike and they probably both used the same backstroke to swim through their endless piles of money. Tony and Howard even dress alike, as evidenced by two quick scenes.
Above you can see Tony totally pulling off a very loud lounge robe. Like much of Stark Tech, the look wasn't altogether Tony's idea -- the same robe was actually worn by Howard Stark in the Agent Carter One-Shot short.
This undermines Tony's arrogant and self-serving exterior, as it not only shows how much he wants to be his father but also directly flies in the face of his words from the first Iron Man movie.
Let's go ahead and add "nostalgic" to the list, along with "bad liar" and "sad for daddy."
Steve Rogers is strong, courageous and has a razor-sharp Dorito torso you could dip into solid steel -- but he's also got a sensitive side. In Captain America: The First Avenger, we briefly see Steve sketching a monkey riding a unicycle while holding an umbrella. If that wasn't enough to tell you about the character's feelings about his role in WWII at that point in the film (after he'd done tons of cheesy USO shows), the stars and stripes kind of give it away.
It wasn't a particularly happy time in Cap's life, but he apparently felt good enough about the drawing to keep it on his desk up through the events of Civil War.
The actors might do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to characterization, but little nods like these help illustrate the fact that these are the same people with the same experiences.
Another example: In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark and Pepper Potts pause for a quick photo.
Then, when Tony confronts Loki in The Avengers, you can see that same photo on a shelf in the background.
Small moments like these make you really appreciate the set designers -- they're always working hard, even when you're not looking.
For how little he is in the film, the appearance of Peter Parker's principal in Spider-Man homecoming is pretty significant. It's one of only a few times that an actor had lines in a Marvel film despite having a speaking role as a different character in the same universe in another movie.
In this case, Kenneth Choi played Principal Morita in Homecoming and also Jim Morita in Captain America: The First Avenger. The principal is a direct descendant of the Howling Commando who served in WWII, as evidenced by the photos framed above his cabinet.
In an alternate history, every ragtag military squad posed for movie promo shots.
By the time you've watched Captain America: Civil War in its entirety, one date has been permanently engraved into your memory: December 16, 1991. Zemo is obsessed with that particular mission report, and as it turns out, the day is pretty significant to Tony Stark as well. That's the day that Howard and Maria Stark were killed. We know now that it was actually a hit job by a brainwashed Winter Soldier, but it wasn't always that way.
In the original Iron Man movie in 2008, an early highlight reel recounts the Stark parents' death as a "car accident." Yeah, it's a cover story, but the cool bit here is the date on the newspaper clipping:
That's December 17, 1991 -- the day after the "accident," and also logically the day a newspaper would be able to report on the incident. It might be a small detail, but it was a huge plot point in Civil War and Marvel made sure their universe was as consistent and reliable as Robert Downey Jr.'s facial hair.
These little Marvel continuity moments are at their most impressive when they connect movies released years apart, giving a sense of cohesion to a universe with dozens of actors and directors. But there's something to be said for a movie having excellent internal consistency, too.
In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter Parker starts out with an aging iPhone 3G, which sounds exactly right for a humble kid from Queens. Since Peter is almost never without his phone, we see it multiple times throughout the movie -- but it looks just a little different each time. About ten minutes in, we see the phone in this condition here:
There's a small crack in the corner, but otherwise it's mostly functional. However, after several scenes and a few of Spider-Man's adventures, the phone looks a little worse for the wear.
By the time the epilogue rolls around, Peter's phone has pretty much completely shattered thanks to battle damage and/or dropping it like a teenager still honing his motor skills.
Hopefully Tony Stark will throw in a new handset with Spidey's new suit in Infinity War.
Captain America has a way of inspiring people. Even after he was declared a traitor and went off the grid in Civil War, he still shows up in Spider-Man: Homecoming's educational videos because everyone still loves Steve Rogers and believe in what he stands for. This belief in Cap was taken to the extreme in The Winter Soldier, when a SHIELD desk jockey refused to help Crossbones carry out the orders of HYDRA. "Captain's orders," he explained.
This agent knew full well sticking to his guns might get him killed, but even with a gun pointed at his head he still would not be a party to the murder of innocent people.
This guy is saved at the last second by Agent Carter, and survives the ensuing shootout. We don't see much of him in the rest of the movie, but this agent -- Cameron Klein, who has a history in the comics -- actually shows up for a brief moment in Age of Ultron. You can see him manning a station of the helicarrier that shows up to save the day in Sokovia.
It's nice to see that not only is Klein still around, he's still working for SHIELD and is one of the handful of people Nick Fury trusts to save hundreds of civilians in a time of crisis. As with the principal in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Marvel has shown they're more than willing to go through the trouble of re-hiring someone for a quick scene if it helps make the movie universe that much more connected.
The hammer-lifting scene that kicks of Avengers: Age of Ultron is one of the best moments in the movie. Everyone on the team is just resting and relaxing and being natural around each other -- kind of like a longer version of the post-credits schwarma scene in the first Avengers film. Though the macho posturing about who can lift Mjolnir takes center stage, Hawkeye and Thor share a knowing wink that you might have missed.
Just before Clint figures out he's not worthy, he tells Thor he's "seen this before." And that's true, because Hawkeye was there in the original Thor movie when the Son of Odin failed to lift his famous hammer.
Sometimes you forget how many times and how many ways these characters have interacted with each other, and it's nice to have a reminder every now and then.
There's something so pure about the simplicity of a callback joke. It's really just bringing up the same gag from earlier but in a new context, and there's often not much more for the audience to grab onto other than "Hey, it's that thing again! I liked that thing before, and I like it now."
It might sound a little crude when you put it that way, but callbacks are undeniably effective. Remember that joke in The Avengers where Thor excused his brother's abhorrant behavior by explaining Loki was adopted as a child and therefore meaningless to him? Hilarious.
They did that joke again in Thor: Ragnarok, only this time Loki was the one to explain their sibling status.
The key to a good callback? Repetition.
That one was out in the open, but a bit quicker was this jab from Tony in the Avengers, comparing Thor to Point Break-era Patrick Swayze:
In another great scene from Ragnarok, Thor attempts to get the Quinjet to verify his identity. The only way to do so: Say his code name. And what kind of code name would Tony give Thor?
Not every dialogue callback is a joke. There's a bit in Captain America: The First Avenger that showcases a newsreel of World War II, for instance.
The specific mention of "The Price of Freedom" is especially relevant in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as Steve echoes the newsreel's sentiment during a uh, motivational speech.
The X-Men movie continuity has been so messed up for so long that even Deadpool has made fun of its confusing timelines. It might be tough to reconcile the timejumps and alternate histories of those films, but there's one clear thread running through the Wolverine trilogy that almost makes it all worth it.
In The Wolverine (that is to say, the second Wolverine movie), a mutant named Yukio uses her power to predict how Logan will die:
Wolverine doesn't die in that movie, but he does die (on his back, with blood everywhere) at the end of Logan. His literal blood-pumping organ isn't in his hand, though -- he's holding Laura, his daughter-clone. That's about as close to holding your own heart as you can get.
If you think this sounds like a stretch, this detail was actually confirmed by the director of both films, James Mangold:
And the prize goes to Maurice! https://t.co/9GyRffqUlg
-- Mangold (@mang0ld) March 9, 2017
And the prize goes to Maurice! https://t.co/9GyRffqUlg
It doesn't get any more confirmed than that.
Iron Man 3 tackled the mental toll of several consecutive superhero battles, all of which contributed to Tony Stark being affected by PTSD. Though it's never so explicitly stated, Tony has also suffered so much physical damage that it's starting to show in subtle ways. Specifically, Tony's left arm is consistently and seriously hurt throughout ten years of Marvel movies.
Maybe the first visible instance came in the original Iron Man movie, when Tony is knocked out of the sky by an anti-aircraft shell hitting his left side.
Then there's Civil War, which shows Tony in the sling seen at the top of this entry. Even when he ditches his arm support, Tony still holds himself. It still hurts. Remember this image, it's going to look familiar later.
Just after that scene, Tony finds himself in a huge fight with both Cap and the Winter Soldier. Fighting two super soldiers is a great way to get your left arm busted up again.
Tony does mention his arm, albeit in a playful way. Here he passes off the aftereffects of a genuine injury by making a heart attack joke.
Even the Hulkbuster suit wasn't safe from Tony Stark's left arm curse -- it was that appendage that was shredded and subsequently replaced during the events of Age of Ultron.
There are a couple moments in Spider-Man: Homecoming that reveal Tony's injuries are still nagging at him. When he talks to Peter after the big boat rescue, you can see Tony quickly holding his left arm, just like he did in Civil War.
Earlier in the movie, we see Tony "calling" Peter Parker remotely with the help of an empty suit. Look closely and you can see Tony's left arm shaking.
Avengers: Infinity War isn't yet released as of this writing, but we have gotten a glimpse at Tony Stark in the trailer -- and he's holding his left arm.
I'm not saying Tony Stark is going to lose his arm in Infinity War, but someone should probably say that.