"The Avengers" arrives on Blu-ray this week and, as you might expect, it's chock full of bonus clips, special features and even a brand new 10-minute short film. It's pretty epic.
But before you start diving into the special features, there's something else you're going to want to watch first: The movie itself. That's because director Joss Whedon and the folks at Marvel crammed the film with so many Easter eggs, cameos and moments that make you go "hmm" that even the most dedicated fan couldn't catch all of them.
With that in mind, then, and with a great big spoiler warning, here are eight things in "The Avengers" you may have missed the first time around.
1. Life Model Decoy: Right near the beginning of the film, Clark Gregg's fan favorite SHIELD Agent Coulson heads to Stark Tower to visit with Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark. Stark's a bit busy, though, so he tries to pretend he's a "life model decoy" in order to throw Coulson off the scent.
So why is this throwaway joke important? Because, in the Marvel Universe, Life Model Decoys are android duplicates that SHIELD agents use ins dangerous situations — and revealing that the favorite character you thought was killed was actually just an LMD is one of Marvel's favorite ways of bringing people back from the dead. Yeah, exactly.
2. Project 42: When Coulson leaves Stark Tower, he also leaves behind several files for Stark to study, relating to the destruction of Project Pegasus. If you look really closely, you can see that one of these files is slapped with the designation "42."
Is this the answer to life, the universe and everything? No, it's actually a reference to Marvel's infamous hero vs. hero comic throwdown "Civil War," which saw Iron Man help develop an extra-dimensional prison for captured bad guys (and rebellious heroes) called Project 42 — a project made necessary because the old housing facility, Project Pegasus, had been destroyed. Hmm…
3. Huginn and Munnin: Nick Fury isn't the only character in "Avengers" who has lost his one good eye. That designation also belongs to Thor's pop, Odin the All-Father, lord of the Asgardian gods, who in the comics (and in mythology) sacrificed one of his eyes to gain wisdom. But considering he needs to know what's going on in all the nine realms at all times, Odin has a back-up plan: A pair of ravens named Huginn and Munnin that fly around acting as his mystical spies in the sky.
And spying is exactly what they are doing in "The Avengers," where you can clearly see them flying around the mountain peak where Thor and Loki are having their heart-to-heart chat on just before Iron Man interrupts. Sure, Odin himself doesn't actually show up in the movie (no doubt to the eternal dismay of Anthony Hopkins) but the ravens leave no doubt: Daddy is watching.
4. The Hulk's Suicide Attempt: Mark Ruffalo's version of Bruce Banner is a haunted guy. And it's no wonder, because the creature doing the haunting isn't the Hulk — it's the ghost of Hulk's past, Edward Norton!
Case in point: In one of the most memorable bits of dialogue from the movie (which is saying something), Banner says that he tried to kill himself, but the "other guy" spit the bullet out. That's not just a pithy bit of writing, it's actually a reference to a scene that was filmed for — and then cut from — Norton's 2008 film "The Incredible Hulk." Want proof? The sequence appeared as a bonus scene on the "Incredible Hulk" Blu-ray.
5. Lou Ferrigno's Secret Cameo:Speaking of former Hulks, for many fans, there's still nobody who can compare to the original green skinned behemoth, Lou Ferrigno. But what most fans probably don't know is that Ferrigno, who played the Hulk in the popular '70s TV series "The Incredible Hulk," actually appears in "The Avengers" as well... as The Hulk!
No, we haven't gone nuts. You see, when the sound effects guys were working to create the perfect inhuman scream for The Hulk, they were having trouble getting it just right. So they decided to use Ferrigno's howl as the basis for the shout. It sounded so good that they left it in the movie, meaning every time The Hulk yells, it's Ferrigno helping power those vocal outbursts.
6. Are You An Alien?: One more little Hulk-related bit of inside humor: You know the scene where Hulk falls from the sky, only to be found by a concerned security guard who asks him whether he's an alien? Well, that line has a double meaning thanks to the fact that the guy speaking it is none other than Harry Dean Stanton, who is most famous for being part of the crew of the doomed Nostromo in the 1979 classic "Alien." We're guessing he'd rather deal with Hulks any time. (See more of this scene here.)
7. What Happens in Budapest, Stays in Budapest:During the big fight scene at the end of the film, Hawkeye and Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow find themselves fighting back-to-back against an overwhelming number of enemies. Instead of being worried, though, they take this time to reminisce about a previous mission in Budapest, Hungary. Ah, the power of true love.
If you were looking closely, though, you may have noticed that this fight sequence bore a strong resemblance to an earlier scene of Hawkeye and Black Widow fighting back to back. It was only on screen for a few seconds, but if you rewind the movie an hour or so, you'll see a clip playing on a monitor on the SHIELD Helicarrier of the pair duking it out with a legion of unseen assailants. Sure looks like Budapest to us.
8. The Unofficial Marvel/DC Crossover: Marvel and DC Comics have long had a (sometimes heated) rivalry, so while crossovers between the two companies have happened, they are pretty rare. But while you shouldn't expect to see the Avengers meet the Justice League on the big screen any time soon, the Avengers have already met one of the Teen Titans.
Yep. That waitress at the end of the film who has those nice things to say about Captain America? Well, that's Ashley Johnson, who is known in some circles as Chrissy Seaver from "Growing Pains," but in other circles as the voice behind the animated version of "Teen Titans" character Terra. Seems like you can't go anywhere in Hollywood these days without running into a member of the spandex crowd, huh? It's a little game we like to call Six Degrees of Stan Lee.