Secrets of ‘The Avengers’

After seeing “The Avengers” for a second time, I thought I’d note a few moments from the movie that didn’t make their way into my review.

In some cases, they might be elements from the movie that blew right past the general audience.

And there’ll be a spoiler alert before the very end, if you still haven’t seen the movie — and contributed to the record-breaking $200 million opening weekend take.

Loki did it: Thor’s brother, Loki, is a troublemaker, a trickster god of the first order. He’s the force that sets the plot of Joss Whedon’s movie in motion by materializing on Earth and stealing the Cosmic Cube. Later, Black Widow, using unconventional interrogation techniques, determines that Loki is trying to get to the Avengers through the Hulk.

That’s perfectly appropriate, because in the first issue of the Avengers comic, released in September 1963, Loki uses tricks and illusions to get superheroes Iron Man, Ant Man and Wasp to go after Hulk. Thor shows up and, after some typical Marvel hero in-fighting, the team is formed. And stays together until the next issue.

Life Model Decoys: When SHIELD agent Phil Coulson calls Tony Stark early in the movie, Stark answers and says he’s not the real Tony Stark, he’s a Life Model Decoy. The geekiest among us know that Life Model Decoys were a creation of SHIELD early in the organization’s Marvel Comics history. In Strange Tales comic in 1965, SHIELD deploys LMDs — perfect copies of agents including Nick Fury — as … well, decoys.

“Puny god:” In one of the funniest moments in “The Avengers,” Hulk thoroughly wallops Loki. The audience is still laughing as Hulk walks away, muttering to himself. (Yes, the Hulk spoke in “The Incredible Hulk” and speaks again here.) What does Hulk say after giving Loki a (literal) smackdown? “Puny god!” It’s a play on Hulk’s patented “Puny humans!” declaration.

The Chitauri: After months of speculation about Loki’s alien army in “The Avengers,” it’s mentioned in the first moments of the movie, during voice-over narration, that the alien warriors are the Chitauri. Who? The Chitauri are, in the Ultimate Marvel comic book universe, the contemporary equivalent of the Skrulls. Apparently the Skrulls are considered part of the “Fantastic Four” movie universe and were not available for Whedon’s use here. Clever writer that he is, he got around that by using the Chitauri.

Stark Tower/Avengers Tower/Avengers Mansion: One thing the movie does, as did many Marvel comics over the past 50 years, is thoroughly establish a setting in New York City. As a kid who didn’t know he would ever visit the Big Apple — still haven’t, actually — I soaked up everything I could about New York from hundreds of Marvel Comics set there.

Second only to the Baxter Building — home of the Fantastic Four — on Marvel’s Landmarks of New York Tour is Avengers Mansion. Originally belonging to Tony Stark, the mansion is loaned to the Avengers for use as their home base. Jarvis, Tony’s butler, even becomes the butler for the Avengers.

In the movie, Stark is building a NYC skyscraper emblazoned with his name. During the battle with Loki and the Chitauri, most of the STARK lettering gets knocked off, leaving only a bold “A.” We notice this at the end of the movie and can assume that, for the inevitable sequel, the Avengers will hang out here.

Here’s the big “Avengers” movie secret. Once again, if you haven’t seen the movie, spoiler alert in …

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Thanos: Partway through the end credits, the mysterious alien who had been talking to Loki is seen, on a crumbling asteroid in space, talking to a creature seated on a throne.

To go to Earth and take on the Avengers would be to “court death,” the alien says.

The massive figure stands up from the throne, turns his head and smiles.

It is Thanos, the Marvel Comics alien introduced in Iron Man comics in 1973. Thanos, created by writer/artist Jim Starlin, is based on Thanatos, the god of death from Greek mythology. In the comics, Thanos is to some extent Marvel’s counterpart to DC’s Darkseid, an extremely powerful and dangerous alien creature who has crossed over from comic to comic, posing a threat to many of the heroes of the Marvel Universe.

Whedon is a comic book fan (and writer) and, by including Thanos in “The Avengers,” sparked shivers down the spines of fans everywhere. If Thanos shows up in an “Avengers” sequel, the threat he poses will be far greater than that posed by Loki.

Just sayin’.

 

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