1. The classic "Ultron face" IS present in Age of Ultron - just not where you would expect it...

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Fans of Ultron had a LOT of complaints about the way their favorite murderous, daddy-issue-laden robo-megalomaniac was portrayed in the 2nd Avengers outing, Age of Ultron. Beyond changes to his origin and personality, they had completely altered one of Ultron's most important facets - his terrifying, static face (with slanted eye-holes and a mouth in permanent, still scream-laugh position). Ultron's visage was always unsettling and creepy - Ultron could not express emotion with his face, which made him seem even more cold, unfeeling, and alien. And that was the point.

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But Joss Whedon didn't like that - after all, when you have actor James Spader in the role and are making a big budget movie, you wanna USE facial expressions to convey emotions, right? Well...maybe? I mean, I get the thought process, even if I disagree with it. I think it's creepier and more frightening that Ultron CAN'T express emotions and that he always has the same horrifying look on his face. Also...lips. Why would a robot give itself lips?

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To be fair, the earliest iteration of Ultron in the film - the busted up Iron Legion drone that crashes the big party - DOES have something more akin to Ultron's original look...and it is genuinely terrifying, and possibly the most effective Ultron is during the entire 2.5+ hour run of the film. But even as the designers of the film phased that original look out in favor of a more emotive version, they wanted to pay homage to that classic Ultron face - and snuck it in a place no one thought to look: the back of Vision's head.

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MLPRoyalty / Reddit

Yep, there it is - on the back of Vision's head, the purple touches clearly make out the silhouette of Classic Ultron. And it makes sense, since Vision's body was originally intended for Ultron! It's a nice touch, although it does feel reminiscent of Professor Quirrell having Voldemort living on the back of his skull...



2. Black Widow's method of calming down the Hulk was a callback to Hulk's forgotten origin

Black Widow was officially designated as the "Hulk-calmer", which must have been a real treat for her - being responsible to bringing down the massive rage-monster that tried to kill you AT LEAST once before. And her method involves slowly approaching him, sticking out her hand, and saying "Hey there, big guy. The sun's gettin' real low." And while this is just a very nice, weirdly calming phrase in and of itself (it's pretty much saying "Hey buddy, time for bed..."), it could also be a very subtle callback to Hulk's long-forgotten origin.

See, pretty much EVERY superhero has phased out weird elements that weren't super well-thought out from their early days, but Hulk especially. In the first issues of The Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner didn't transform into the monstrous beast when he got angry. No, no - he transformed into the Hulk....when it got dark outside.

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Yes, Hulk was BASICALLY a werewolf (except for EVERY NIGHT instead of only nights with a full moon out) combined with Frankenstein's monster (the face and gray-ish skin both look way more like that than the modern version of the Hulk). Oh, and also he could speak perfect English, but was just kind of a big dick to everyone.

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However, Joss Whedon - the director and writer of Age of Ultron - has done nothing to actually confirm this was his intention behind the line. In an interview with the LA Times, this is the explanation he gives behind the line:

"Hey there, big guy. The sun's gettin' real low." I actually added that later in the game, I think something basically to get his attention and to have a phrase that he knows, this is about to start. I wanted to do as little with talking as possible, because it's all going on there [points to his eyes], which is amazing, because two of those are not real -- they were created by ILM, and yet they are so full of life. And I hate to say it, but he's dead sexy as the Hulk."

Still, he's not saying that's NOT what he was referencing. Part of me really hopes this was the intention, since it would encourage more people to revisit the early 60s comic books and origins of these uber-popular characters of today...and appreciate how far they've come. 

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3. Spider-Man: Homecoming includes tons of references from other movies (but specifically Captain America movies)

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Spider-Man: Homecoming was very, very clever in the way it subtly (and, uh, not-so-subtly) weaved in MCU history into its narrative. After all - this was the big return of Spider-Man back into the fold, after years languishing at Sony, with Andrew Garfield trying his darndest while dealing with some of the most convoluted and lamest scripts imaginable (for real, remember those leaked emails?). It was clearly important to Kevin Feige 'n co. that when Spider-Man was brought back to his proper home, they make him feel like he's truly part of the family.

Of course, there was the semi-major role Tony Stark played in the film as Peter Parker's mostly-distant mentor figure, the occasional sorta cameo from a VHS version of Captain America (reminding you the value of patience), and Bruce Banner's photo hanging on the wall next to the other great scientists of history (the ones that DIDN'T blow themselves up with Gamma Bombs, at least). But there was more. A LOT MORE.

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Sony / Marvel Studios

If you were paying close attention, you noticed the brief radio chatter about the Triskelion cleanup, and the road sign in reference to it. See, it turns out crashing three separate Helicarriers into a major government building (at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier) was a lot messier and more complicated than we might have guessed - and years later, Damage Control was still dealing with the mess. Hell, according to this deleted scene, the crashed Helicarriers were still MOSTLY IN-TACT:

And that's not the only Cap movie referenced in the film - right after Ned discovers Peter is actually Spider-Man, he begins pestering him in class about his powers and abilities...all while the teacher (in the background) is rambling on about the Sokovia Accords:

Going back a bit - the inclusion of Damage Control in the film offers the most opportunities to make callbacks to previous entries in the MCU, particularly in a few of the bigger action setpieces where Peter and Vulture are battling over the contents of shipments being made for the organization. At one point, Peter even picks up a discarded Ultron head - a VERY obvious callback to Age of Ultron (and maybe even an indication that our favorite murderous robot's sentience still lurks out there somewhere). But there was ANOTHER callback to Age of Ultron - one that most audiences AND Peter Parker didn't pick up on:

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sidboy1234 / Reddit

See that? Peter was (unknowingly) holding the KEY to Ultron's device to hurl a chunk of Sokovia back towards the Earth to induce planetwide genocide. What are they even teaching in these classes if not this?!



4. A reminder that Loki Laufeyson is no Asgardian...

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After the original Thor, there is VERY little reference to one of that movie's major revelations - that Loki was not, in fact, a trueborn son of Odin the Allfather, but a Frost Giant from the realm of Jotunheim adopted by Odin out of pity. He didn't share much in the way of physical features with the Frost Giants, beyond the occasional skin turning blue. And because of this, it is very rarely brought up in the MCU outside of the occasional aside (Thor's reminder that he's "adopted" in The Avengers, for instance). But there is a CLEAR and EXPLICIT refernece to his Frost Giant lineage elsewhere in The Avengers - you just have to be pretty eagle-eyed to catch it.

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cp_r0bb / Reddit

After the Avengers capture Loki and stuff him in the VERY theatrical windowed cell on the Helicarrier (originally meant for Hulk), they view him through security cameras to see what he's up to...and if you look at the heat signatures in the frame, you'll see that Loki is giving off NO HEAT WHATSOEVER. Because he's a damn FROST GIANT.

Unrelated: you'd think SHIELD would be able to afford full-color security cameras, right? Guess they had to cut costs somewhere...



5. Thor knows Steve Rogers is no mere mortal...

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Sure, Thor is more than a little unsettled by seeing Steve Rogers juuuust ever-so-slightly nudge Mjolnir while everyone was testing their 'worthiness' - but he shouldn't have been THAT surprised. Beyond the recogntion that Steve Rogers is simply the best person to ever exist, Thor admitted earlier in the same party that he was well aware that Steve Rogers was no mere mortal.

While chatting up some of the war veterans (including one who looked EXTREMELY similar to this other old, mustachioed guy I see in a lot of Marvel movies), Thor goes on bragging about his Asgardian liquor, essentially saying it's basically stronger than any kind of liquor you would find on Earth (or, uh, Midgard, I guess). But he still casually hands a glass to Steve Rogers in the midst of his speech, because he just instinctually knows Steve can handle it.

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Well, that - or he thinks it would be SUPER funny to see Steve Rogers get wasted on alien booze.

Luckily, Steve is literally INCAPABLE of getting drunk - which is either a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it.

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6. The weird meaning behind Ant-Man 1 & 2's strangest cameos

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If you're not familiar with Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington's (aka Neil Hamburger) On Cinema series of podcasts, internet videos, and specials, then you might get a little lost here - but all you REALLY need to know is that the two play movie critic co-hosts (using their actual names, but clearly playing character-versions of themselves) that includes the standard mix of cringe, awkward takes, bizarre confrontations, and all the other markers of the Tim & Eric brand of comedy. In their third Oscars special, Ant-Man director Peyton Reed was invited on as a guest, where he revealed Turkington would have a cameo in the upcoming Ant-Man film (as Scott Lang's brief Baskin Robbins' manager, Dale):

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The announcement that his co-host would be cameoing in one of the year's biggest blockbusters incensed Heidecker's (again, the character's) fragile ego, and he stormed off the set. Turkington's participation in the film goes on to be a continual sore spot for Heidecker - when they finally get around to reviewing the film, Heidecker blurs out Turkington's promotional t-shirt and gives the film the lowest grade possible:

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Heidecker's review was predictably brutal:

"I thought this movie was a miss. I'm wondering why - who at the studio decided to even put this one out in terms of why not just can it and keep it locked up in a vault and sort've issue a statement of which would say my apologies to those expecting this to come out, it will never be seen, because it was just - no disrespect to another film that came out this summer, a trainwreck...which is what this should've been called. It was a disaster. It was one of the worst movies I've ever seen. People go on and on about these Ed Wood movies, and other sorta classic bad movies. This kinda falls into that category for me. I shame the studios and everybody involved for allowing real trash to come out and deceive the wonderful film-going audience that expects more quality than that. Shame on you, and shame on every person involved with the film, including the actors, even the small parts...I thought were terrible. Terribly directed, terribly acted. Every member of the cast was horrible. And I give it unprecedented ONE bag of popcorn, way more than it even deserves. But as you know, there is no such thing as zero bags of popcorn. There has to be a bag of popcorn - these ARE movies, so laws of physics demand at least one bag of popcorn. But it is a sad, lonely bag, with no salt, no butter, many unpopped corn at the bottom of the bag. Bag of popcorn that is stale....hardly able to eat. It is a horrible, horrible movie."

The episode would go on to discuss the other big superhero movie coming out in July 2015 - Fant4stic. Which Heidecker gave SIX bags of popcorn and praised it as one of the best films ever....and, of course, he had a cameo in it (as Reed Richards' father):

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After this, the Ant-Man discussion was largely dropped in favor of more important plotlines (the most recent season ended with a suicidal Heidecker going crazy and announcing he would run for district attorney of San Bernadino County), and sadlythe last episode of the year just ended without a chance to review Ant-Man and the Wasp. But it's PARTICULARLY unfortunate we didn't get that review yet, because the Ant-Man follow-up includes ANOTHER cameo from an On Cinema At the Cinema co-host. And this time, not Gregg Turkington...

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That's right - even after his relentless (joking) bullying of Turkington, Peyton Reed, and the film, Heidecker was cast in Ant-Man and the Wasp as the whale boat captain in the sequence where Sonny Burch is trying to make a getaway with the lab and Scott grows into his biggest Giant Man ever. But the best part is, Heidecker's character's name was...Daniel Gooobler. Yes, you read that right. "Gooobler." With three "o"s.

And while we won't have an official review of the film for a while, Heidecker has commented on the film from his Twitter account:

As a fun little bonus nugget - the working title of Ant-Man and the Wasp was "Cherry Blue" - a very deep reference for Tim & Eric fans, particularly of the Great Show spinoff, Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule:

Now....how did all of this start? Why were these two alt-comedy dudes inserted into the Ant-Man franchise? Well, tying the whole thing together is, of course, Paul Rudd - Ant-Man himself - and his friendship and history with these guys (mostly remembered through his multitude of virtual alter-egos from mayyybe the most well-known Tim & Eric sketch):



7. Thanos' Infinity Stone usage was very intentional

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To many viewers, Thanos' powers were a bit squishy with the Infinity Gauntlet - and by that I mean, "He just had a lot of sorta random abilities he whipped out whenever it was convenient." And sure, it may have APPEARED that way, but if you were paying attention, you could see that Thanos did not take any action without clear and direct use of his Infinity Stones.

See, throughout Infinity War, Thanos is gathering these stones - but it's not like he's just "powering up" or anything. No, each one of these stones has a very express purpose and ability, which are roughly:

  • Power: Strength and energy manipulation
  • Space: Teleportation and manipulation of space
  • Reality: Manipulation of reality itself
  • Soul: Awareness and connection to all life
  • Time: Manipulation of time
  • Mind: ...okay on this one I'm a little less sure. Some kinda intelligence / awareness business, I'm guessing. Also gives consciousness to robots.

For most of the movie, he's not dealing with a full deck - he has the Power Stone right off the bat and gets the Space Stone pretty quickly (and then the Reality Stone not too long after that) - by the big battle royale on Titan, he's got the Soul Stone too. And the way he's using these stones throughout the film isn't accidental - if you look closely, you'll notice the stones actually light up in the gauntlet when they're being activated by ol Thicc Grimace himself. Just look at the picture above - Doc Strange is trying to use his magic tricks (including creating dozens of copies of himself) to keep Thanos tied up, but then Thanos uses the Power and Soul stones, specifically. Why? The Soul Stone to locate the ACTUAL Doctor Strange (aka the only one who was actually alive), and the Power Stone to dispel the multitude of magic whips everywhere.

Oh yeah - and then a combo of the Reality Stone and the Power Stone to yank Strange towards him (and literally rip reality ITSELF towards him). It's impressive - the Russo Bros. were able to build action sequences with a variety of WILDLY multi-powered characters, facing off against a being who himself was gradually gaining a new variety of powers, and finding a way to balance them all together to create internally-consistent, exciting action sequences and drama.

You might even say it was...perfectly balanced.