Thoughts on the Five-Film Run-up to the Avengers (with NO Avengers spoilers)

After seeing Avengers Assemble on opening night here in Scotland, I was thinking about how Marvel Studios has brought us to their sixth film in four years, beginning with Iron Man in 2008. My first thought was about the little teases they put after the credits.

Iron Man teased us with Nick Fury and the Avengers concept, where the Director of SHIELD informs Tony Stark that he is not alone. The Incredible Hulk (not to be confused with Ang Lee’s unincredible Hulk of 2003) came out that same summer. We didn’t really have a little tease, but before the credits we did get a little cameo of Tony Stark meeting General Ross in a bar. Throughout that film, we are drawn into the world of the military’s quest for Super Soldiers, planting in our minds the idea of Captain America.

Iron Man 2 gave us a tease in the image of Thor’s hammer (Mjölnir) in the New Mexico Desert. Throughout there many other images and Easter Eggs that people who look for these things, comic book fans, and those who have seen it more than once probably found and have discussed elsewhere. The most notable for me was Captain America’s shield. There was also the map behind Nick Fury when he met with Tony Stark, and I know some people used their combined nerdiness to note the locations marked on the map and the likely heroes/villains to be found there. Oh, and we met Black Widow for the first time in this film.

Last summer, Kenneth Branagh gave us a majestic Asgard in Thor. We learned why Thor’s hammer was in the middle of the desert, and we saw him take on and defeat Loki. We also met Hawkeye for the first time. The post-credit tease in Thor was a vision of the Tesseract, which was the main source of power for the Red Skull and HYDRA when the promises about Captain America implicit in The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2 were kept.

At the end of the fabulous, rollicking World War II superhero pic Captain America, we got … an Avengers trailer. And then, last night, at the end of Avenger Assemble

They have done a good job with these films. What you can do when you own the movie rights to almost the whole Marvel Universe and you care and you have the money and skills to make it happen — this is great stuff. This is a reminder that we have well over 50 years of material to draw on to make great stories, and the shared universe means that, while you can watch Incredible Hulk and Captain America independently of each other, each makes the other more interesting having seen both.

When’s the next?

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