There are minor spoilers for Iron Man 2 in this article. They're really, really minor and have almost nothing to do with the actual plot. But now you've been warned.
Iron Man 2 is the third Marvel Movie Universe movie, and by now the folks at Marvel Studios are really ramping things up towards creating a shared continuity and using a good number of elements that are familiar to fans of the funnybooks. Some of the stuff that appears in Iron Man 2 will be obvious to even the most casual observer - just as it did in the first movie, Captain America's shield makes a cameo here - but others will be harder to see on a first viewing.
Luckily I've had multiple viewings and have had the opportunity to talk to the folks who made the movie. Here are some verified Easter Eggs that you'll find in Iron Man 2 as well as a couple of potential bits of cameo coolness.
How old is Nick Fury? I've spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure this one out and haven't come to a good conclusion yet. The reason why this is even a question resides in Marvel Comics lore; in the original comics Nick Fury fought alongside Captain America in World War II. Having been given an experimental treatment known as the Infinity Formula, Fury started aging very slowly and, during the Cold War, helped found SHIELD.
In Iron Man 2 Nick Fury tells Tony Stark that he knew Howard Stark much better than Tony ever did, as Howard was one of the founding members of SHIELD. But when was SHIELD founded? And when did Fury join? Was he a young cadet or was he also one of the founding members in the movie universe? Considering that Howard Stark died about 20 years before the events of Iron Man we can assume that SHIELD started before the 80s, and the way Fury talks in the film makes it sound like he was there when Howard sent Tony to boarding school, which would have been some time in the late 70s.
The movie is leaving the door open for Nick Fury to be ageless. We know that Fury will appear in Captain America: The First Avenger, but my sources tell me there are modern sequences that bookend the main WWII story, so it's likely that Fury will appear there. The truth about Nick Fury probably won't be revealed until The Avengers, which Samuel L Jackson has said will be 'his movie.'
The Ten Rings are in the film. You'll be forgiven for thinking that the Ten Rings - the terrorist organization from the first Iron Man, and a group related to the comic book villain The Mandarin - are absent from Iron Man 2. But according to Jon Favreau they're in the film, and they play a crucial role.
'The guy who gives [Whiplash] the Monaco ticket is from Ten Rings,' Favreau told me after the Iron Man 2 fan screening in Austin last week. That means that The Mandarin's group was working behind the scenes to help Whiplash get his revenge on Tony Stark, which means that they're possibly manipulating other elements in the story. I expect all of that will be revealed in Iron Man 3. I'd actually love a retcon where Tony learns that Howard Stark hid the new element in a park layout specifically to keep it from The Mandarin.
What's up with Antarctica? If you blink you'll miss it, but there's a map of Antarctica amongst Howard Stark's possessions in the crate that SHIELD gives Tony. What's up with that?
It's probably got nothing to do with Captain America, although you'd be forgiven for thinking it did - not only was the Star Spangled Avenger famously frozen in ice during WWII, a prototype version of his shield is in the box. But Cap was - at least in the comics - frozen near the North Pole, after falling from an exploding rocket launched somewhere near England. It's possible that the movie moves that action to South America - home of runaway Nazis - but it seems unlikely.
So what else is in Antarctica? The only thing I could come up with is The Savage Land, a lost world of lush jungles and dinosaurs located in a crater at the South Pole. While The Savage Land made its first appearance in X-Men #10, I suspect Marvel Studios holds the rights to it, as they're batting around a movie for Ka-Zar, a Tarzan-like character who lives in The Savage Land. Did Howard Stark and SHIELD discover The Savage Land at some point in the past?
It's also possible that Antarctica is the source of the Vibranium that is used in Captain America's shield. According to official Marvel Comics lore, Vibranium was first discovered in Antarctica, but there's somewhere else where the metal is found in abundance...
Look out for Wakanda. At the end of the film, as Tony Stark gets a debriefing from Nick Fury in a SHIELD safehouse, a world map is visible in the background. The continent that is most in focus is Africa, and it looks to me like one of the red 'incident' icons on that map could be pointing at the country of Wakanda.
In Marvel Comics Wakanda is a fictional African nation that is run by a king named T'Challa. When T'Challa comes to the US and wears a costume he's better known as The Black Panther. To the best of my knowledge The Black Panther is a character that Marvel Studios has, and is a character whose movie future is in discussion (it's possible I could be wrong. Because so many characters and concepts started in The Fantastic Four but became their own things - like The Black Panther - it's confusing as to whether Fox or Marvel has the rights to certain characters. I've heard stories that indicate even the folks in Marvel get a little confused at times).
Wakanda's an important place because it has a large deposit of Vibranium, the fictional metal that is used to create Captain America's indestructible shield.
Is that Vibranium that Tony Stark creates? What is the new element that Tony Stark creates anyway? It's never named in the film, and requests to Marvel Studios for clarification went unanswered. The cynic in me thinks that's it just a deus ex machine element, or a MacGuffin like Avatar's Unobtainium, but the fact that it goes unnamed means that Marvel Studios could retcon it to be anything.
And why not make it Vibranium? As I said above, Captain America's shield is made of a Vibranium/iron alloy, and Howard Stark was obviously involved in at least the shield aspect of the Super Soldier Program. Could Stark have found enough Vibranium in Antarctica to make the shield, but not much more? Could he have figured out the metal's atomic structure but not been able to synthesize it at the time? Hey, it's a comic book movie. Anything is possible.
The Incredible Hulk takes place during the ending of Iron Man 2. The scene at the end where Nick Fury debriefs Tony Stark at a SHIELD safehouse doesn't just have a world map in the background. There's also a brief shot of a TV screen tuned to a news report, and the reporter is coming live from Culver University, which is where Hulk has his daylight battle with General Ross' troops. I imagine this is the same news report that we see in The Incredible Hulk, where local college kids had filmed elements of the battle. That means the Tony Stark appearance in that film happens after the last scene of Iron Man 2.
Mjolinir has shown up in New Mexico. This is barely even an Easter Egg, as anyone who sticks around for the post-credits sequence will figure this out, but all throughout the film SHIELD agents talk about problems in the Southwest/New Mexico. In fact Agent Coulson, who has been assigned to babysit Tony Stark, gets pulled from that duty to go to New Mexico and deal with the situation.
It turns out that Mjolinir, the hammer that the Norse god Thor wields, has landed in New Mexico. Only the most worthy can pick up Mjolnir (in the comics Captain America is one of the few to ever hold it), so SHIELD is unable to move the weapon and have to cordon off the entire area. This means that the events of next summer's Thor are probably taking place more or less at the same time as the events of the second half of Iron Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk.
BONUS: Keep an eye out for Project Pegasus. I couldn't find this Easter Egg in the actual film, but I know that it was planned at one point because I saw it with my own two eyes. When I was on the set of Iron Man 2 last year I saw prop crates very clearly marked 'Project Pegasus.'
In Marvel Comics, Project Pegasus was a governmental science facility researching alternative energy and general weirdness that also, as happens, ended up being a prison for superbeings. Project Pegasus played into many of the cool Marvel storylines of the 70s and 80s.
As far as I could tell those boxes don't appear in the finished film. Stuff was cut from the movie, and some reshoots were done to fill in gaps, so it's very possible that the Project Pegasus crates just didn't make the final cut. It's also possible that they're in there somewhere and I missed them. Could Project Pegasus be an offshoot of SHIELD in the Marvel Movie Universe? An extension of the Super Soldier Program? A completely different entity all its own? Unless those crates show up in the film or on the DVD extended cut, it's all academic. And very nerdy.
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