Warning: This story contains major spoilers.
It’s Thanos and his Infinity Gauntlet versus an infinity of heroes in Avengers: Infinity War, which is already $39 million into what will almost certainly be a record-breaking opening weekend. But the latest Marvel Studios blockbuster also features an infinity of surprise Easter eggs drawn from the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s decade-long existence, to say nothing of nearly 80 years of comic book history. The Yahoo Entertainment staff teamed up, Avengers style, to assemble a list of the biggest callbacks, in-jokes, and references hidden throughout Infinity War. Just call us Earth’s mightiest geeks. —Ethan Alter, Nick Schager, and Gwynne Watkins
The missing Marvel-ites
Given his status as a founding member of the Avengers, Hawkeye’s total absence from Infinity War is glaring. Nevertheless, quite a few Marvel heroes also sit out the fight against Thanos — most notably Ant-Man, who fought on Team Cap in Civil War but is MIA here. (For the record, both he and the Wasp are headlining their own adventure, to be released July 6 — and are reportedly taking part in next summer’s Avengers 4.) As for Asgardian warrior Sif, her lack of participation in last November’s Thor: Ragnarok was an early heads-up that she seems to be on the MCU bench … at least for now.
He’s a real spider, man
Despite passing on Tony’s kind offer of an armored Spider suit at the end of Homecoming, Peter isn’t really in a position to argue when Stark forces him to upgrade early on in Infinity War. We mean that literally: After all, Spidey is hanging off the side of Ebony Maw’s spaceship high above Earth when he receives his express shipment of “Iron Spider” duds, which are better suited to space travel. Among the many new features built into these iron Underoos are six spider legs that deploy when Peter is in need of extra footing. Not only are these appendages practical, but they also are taken straight from the comics, when Tony Stark creates special Iron Spider armor for his favorite wall crawler.
(We might be overthinking things, but the movie suit brings Peter’s total accessible limb count up to eight — the exact number also sported by his namesake arachnid. With that in mind, this Iron Spider suit could also serve as a callback to a classic Spider-Man storyline from the ’70s, when Peter Parker messed around with chemicals and wound up sprouting six extra arms that vanished only after he concocted an antidote derived in part from vampire blood. Thankfully, Stark’s iron limbs fold up when they’re not needed.)
Tony’s throwback phone
Tony Stark has always prided himself on being on the cutting edge of technology. So why in the Iron Monger’s name does he call Steve Rogers on a flip phone when he needs his help? Because Cap actually sent him that phone — programmed with his own number — at the end of Civil War. (Not only that, but Stan Lee served as the delivery boy!)
Rocket’s thieving ways come in handy for Thor
One of the finest gags in 2014’s original Guardians of the Galaxy involved Rocket Raccoon tricking Star-Lord into stealing a prosthetic leg, a ruse that he then attempted to repeat, less successfully, by claiming that he needed a stranger’s eye. Rocket’s penchant for pilfering body parts comes in handy in Infinity War, since Thor — courtesy of his evil sister Hela — is now down one peeper, and his new “rabbit” pal just so happens to have a spare handy. It’s one of the new film’s funniest throwback jokes, although it does come at a price, namely Rocket no longer being able to refer to the patch-wearing God of Thunder as a “pirate angel.”
Loki has an angry friend
Early on in Infinity War, Loki faces impending death at the hands of Thanos, only to surprise his adversary by informing him, “We have a Hulk” — a cue for the jolly green giant to make his entrance. But Marvel zombies will also immediately recognize that line from the original Avengers team-up, where it was said by Tony Stark to the God of Mischief. Sadly, it turns out that Thanos, not Hulk, is the strongest there is, and Loki’s time finally runs out. We think, anyway.
Spider-Man’s pop-culture expertise
Peter Quill’s deep love for Kevin Bacon’s classic dance-a-thon, Footloose, is a running joke in the Guardians of the Galaxy series, so it naturally finds its way into Infinity War as well when Spider-Man coldly and curtly dismisses his comrade’s celebration of that film. That’s not the only time the wall crawler shows off his extensive ’80s pop-culture knowledge, however. Peter Parker, who used an Empire Strikes Back reference to save the day in Civil War, shows off his familiarity with another “old movie” — James Cameron’s 1986 favorite, Aliens — during a fight with Thanos’s right-hand alien, Ebony Maw. The heroes manage to eject the villain into space in a scene lifted straight from the finale of Aliens.
An Arrested collectible
Here’s one to look for on a second viewing: When the Guardians are peering through the wreckage of the Collector’s museum on Knowhere, one of the items in the rubble is none other than Arrested Development‘s own Tobias Fünke (David Cross) in full Blue Man Group audition makeup. Besides being a reference to Infinity War co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s early gig directing the cult-favorite series, it’s also a reminder that no intergalactic collection is complete without a Never Nude.
Arrested Development easter egg in the leaked Avengers: Infinity War clip. A reference to Tobias Fünke after he auditioned for the Blue Man Group. pic.twitter.com/lyVi3NJ9Oh
— GuruKid (@FunWithGuru) November 26, 2017
Stan Lee’s bus-driving cameo
It wouldn’t be a Marvel movie without an appearance from the comic book company’s patriarch. The 95-year-old fan favorite pops up early on in Infinity War, as the driver of the school bus that’s ferrying Peter Parker and his classmates to Queens at the same time that Thanos’s forces attack Manhattan. “What’s the matter with you kids?” he asks incredulously as the kids collectively freak out over the alien visitors. “You’ve never seen a spaceship before?” Not as many as you, Stan.
Touring the galaxy
An epic adventure like Infinity War requires some visits to planets never before seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One of those stops is Vormir, home to the Soul Stone onscreen, but in the comic books is populated by nocturnal, heat-adverse creatures called Vorms who are part of the Kree empire. In a flashback, we see Thanos visit Gamora’s home world of Zen-Whoberi, which Adam Warlock visited in a 1975 issue of Strange Taleswritten by Thanos’s creator, Jim Starlin. Speaking of Thanos, the climactic battle between the Mad Titan and a scrappy team of Avengers unfolds entirely on his home planet of Titan, which was created as a moon of Saturn populated by ethereal Eternals. Last, but not least, is Nidavellir, one of the Nine Realms we haven’t visited yet. Although it’s desolate in the film, on the page, Nidavellir is a busy place, where lots of forging of powerful weapons goes on.
He’s baaaaack. The last time we saw the First Avenger’s first nemesis, Johann Schmidt, aka the Red Skull, he was sucked into the wormhole-generated tesseract just as Captain America plunged to his icy (and thankfully temporary) grave. Turns out that he’s been on Vormir for the past seven decades, standing a lonely guard over the Soul Stone, waiting for someone else to come along and take it because he’s unable to claim it for himself. Why not? Because there’s nothing he loves in the world enough to sacrifice in exchange for that glowing rock. That’s not the case for Thanos, who promptly trades the life of his adopted daughter Gamora for the Soul Stone.
We don’t see what happens to the Red Skull after this exchange is made, but he’s presumably still Vormir’s only living resident. Oh, in case you thought there was something different about him … you’re right. Matrix star Hugo Weaving originated the role in Captain America: The First Avenger, but was replaced by The Walking Dead‘s Ross Marquand in Infinity War. So now you have an answer to the inevitable future trivia question: “What do Terrence Howard, Ed Norton, and Hugo Weaving have in common?”
Dinklage lives large
On Game of Thrones, Peter Dinklage plays a character whose great cunning makes up for his diminutive stature. But as solitary Dwarf king Eitri — the lone surviving resident of Nidavellir — the actor towers over Infinity War. Introduced in a 1983 Thor annual written by Alan Zelenetz, Eitri is a renowned weapons maker on the level of Tony Stark — in terms of the quality of his fighting implements, if not the quantity. In fact, the Dwarf king and the Iron Man teamed up in an episode of the Disney animated series The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to build Stark’s Uru Armor suit, which he used to tangle with Loki. Since Dinklage’s Eitri has already gifted Thor with a powerful new hammer, maybe he can work on getting Stark some new metal now that Thanos has pierced his current iron suit.
Mjolnir may be gone (RIP), but Thor is once again getting his hammer time on with his new lightning-enabled weapon, Stormbreaker. Forged by Eitri, the maul’s wooden handle is provided by none other than the teenage Groot, who overcomes his snarky cynicism long enough to snap off one of his own branches and contribute to the cause. Arriving in Wakanda just as his “friends from work” are in desperate need of reinforcements, the God of Thunder handily uses Stormbreaker to decimate the opposition. Interestingly, in the comic books Stormbreaker wasn’t forged with Thor in mind. Instead, the Nidavellir dwarves created it for Beta Ray Bill, a fan favorite who has yet to make the leap to the big screen (not counting his likeness appearing on the Grandmaster’s Tower of Champions in Thor: Ragnarok). If he does show up, he might be a little miffed at Thor for stealing his signature weapon.
The final scene echoes the original comic
From the outset, Thanos makes it clear that he wants the six Infinity Stones so he can bring balance to the universe by wiping out half of all life. After that, he longs for nothing more than to wake up to a beautiful sunrise. In the movie’s final scene, he does just that — a strangely peaceful coda that’s recognizable to anyone who read the 1991 Infinity Gauntlet miniseries upon which the film is loosely based.
Paging Captain Marvel
In August, Samuel L. Jackson promised Yahoo Movies UK that he wouldn’t be donning Nick Fury’s eye-patch in Infinity War. He was right … kind of. Jackson reprises his role as the former head of S.H.I.E.L.D. for the first time since Avengers: Age of Ultron in the end-credits teaser. With faithful companion Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) by his side, Fury races through the streets of Manhattan trying to get a location on Tony Stark.
Meanwhile, thanks to a snap of Thanos’s Infinity Gauntlet-clad fingers, people are vanishing left and right in literal puffs of smoke … up to and including Maria. Getting out of the car, Fury also starts to feel himself disintegrate, and so he sends one final desperate message. How desperate? He has to use a piece of quintessential ’90s technology: a pager. As the super-spy fades out of existence (midway through Jackson’s favorite cinematic expletive), the pager falls to the ground and, after a beat, we see that his message has gone through when an eight-pointed star appears onscreen. This symbol is associated with none other than Captain Marvel, the Marvel heroine played by Brie Larson in the studio’s first female-led blockbuster. As has been previously revealed, Captain Marvel — which will fly into theaters on March 6, 2019, two months ahead of the next Avengers film — takes place in the ’90s, which explains why Fury is still lugging a pager around. Help us, Brie Larson! You’re our only hope.