This review is part of Consequence’s Marvel Pop Culture Week, examining all the ways in which the MCU invokes our world’s pop culture and creates its own. In this article, we look at the most-often-mentioned real-life franchise mentioned in these films and shows…
An important thing to know about the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that the man responsible for orchestrating it is also a giant fanboy — not for Marvel Comics, though, but for Star Wars. This means that if you study the MCU in-depth, its ties to a galaxy far, far away are numerous.
To be clear, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has been openly acknowledging this for years, going back to 2015, midway through “Phase 2” of the franchise’s history. Then, Eric Eisenberg of Cinemablend was able to ask Feige about a trend that had emerged in Phase 2 films up to that point — all of them featured a character getting his hand cut off at one point, which proved reminiscent of the now-legendary climax of The Empire Strikes Back.
[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back.]
In that climax (you know, in case it’s been a little while), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) not only gets slammed over the head with the reveal that the infamous Darth Vader (David Prowse, voice by James Earl Jones) is his real father, but Daddy Dearest also chops off his dang hand.
Hence, the inspiration for repeated tributes. As Feige told Cinemablend in 2015:
“I’m obsessed with Star Wars – and it didn’t start out as intentional, but it became intentional, including that beat that you referenced. It sort of happens in every Star Wars movie, but I was sort of looking at it, ‘Okay, is Phase Two our Empire Strikes Back?’ Not really, but tonally things are a little different. Somebody gets their arm cut off in every Phase Two movie. Every single one.”
How does that break down, you ask? Well…
[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man.]
Iron Man 3 (2013): Killian (Guy Pearce) gets his arm cut off by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.).
Thor: The Dark World (2013): Loki (Tom Hiddleston) cuts off Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) hand.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014): While it doesn’t happen on screen, when Bucky (Sebastian Stan) is revealed to have survived the WWII mission that left him presumed dead, it’s also revealed that he lost his arm as a part of the aftermath.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): Gamora (Zoe Saldana) cuts off both of Groot’s (Vin Diesel) arms.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015): Although he claims that it was an accident, Ultron (James Spader) does end up chopping off a good chunk of Ulysses Klaue’s (Andy Serkis) arm.
Ant-Man (2015): Scott Lane’s (Paul Rudd) final attack against Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll) begins with Yellowjacket’s arm becoming subatomic before the rest of him — an unconventional kind of amputation, but technically one nonetheless.