Love him or hate him, it’s futile to deny that Tony Stark was mostly responsible for the gargantuan success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Robert Downey Jr.’s impeccable performance as the genius, billionaire, playboy did play a vital role in establishing the character as one of the widely popular superheroes. But, the screenwriters, directors, and Kevin Feige are equally responsible for making the conflicted superhero suffering from text-book narcissism a global phenomenon.
As the brains of the Avengers, Iron Man have had a mixed-bag of innovations depicting his human nature; the ability to fail and learn. Apart from being a genius, Iron Man also suffers from paranoia, anxiety, and guilt. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe expanded, we witnessed the fragile side of being a superhero; loss. In Iron Man’s case, it was the fear of losing his own life due to Palladium poisoning which made him much more volatile and unstable.
In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark attracted a lot of media attention after his shocking revelation at the end of Iron Man. As his superhero status was known to the entire world, new problems arose in the form of Ivan Vanko (Whiplash) to exact revenge. Tony’s failing health problems due to the Palladium poisoning became a central aspect of the movie as he frantically tried to search a solution.
Though Iron Man 2 was considered to be inferior to its prequel, the movie played a huge role in setting up the larger universe. As it focused a lot on the future instead of creating a tighter plot, Iron Man 2 dropped some major easter eggs which were later fleshed out properly. Case in point, the map showing Wakanda in the scene where Nick Fury and Tony Stark discuss the Avengers Initiative.
Jam-packed with easter eggs, Iron Man 2 dropped easter eggs about future movies like Ant-Man and The Wasp, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and maybe, a future Illuminati movie too. But hoe exactly did Iron Man 2 paved the path for Ant-Man and The Wasp and Captain Marvel? And, how does it include the Fantastic Four?
In a deleted scene from Iron Man 2, Tony Stark looks for a new element to replace his Palladium Arc Reactor which is slowly poisoning his body. As Tony looks through his late father’s old files and plans, the scene explodes into a futuristic setting with holographic projections to aid Tony in picturizing his ideas.
As Tony interacts with J.A.R.V.I.S. regarding his plans, he mentions three projects which might seem like some ultra-futuristic tech words. Instead, two of those three projects were explored in Ant-Man and The Wasp and Captain Marvel. Yes, it’s about Project G.O.L.I.A.T.H. and Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S.
In Ant-Man and the Wasp, we are introduced to Bill Foster who is better known as Goliath in the comics. In the movie, he is the former partner of Hank Pym. Using the Pym Particles, Foster had previously become the Giant-Man. And that’s where we are introduced to Project G.O.L.I.A.T.H.
Similarly, Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. (Potential Energy Group/Alternate Sources/United States) came to light in Captain Marvel. A joint project between NASA, S.H.I.E.L.D., and the United States Air Force, P.E.G.A.S.U.S. was created to study the Tesseract and harness its unlimited powers. Ultimately, the project was found to be the brainchild of Dr. Wendy Lawson aka Mar-Vell. To flee the Skrulls, Mar-Vell wanted to create a Light-Speed Engine using the Tesseract.
Having biblical references, both these projects turned out to be major plot devices for the MCU to explore. Interestingly, Tony Stark also mentioned a third project. Project E.X.O.D.U.S.
In the Bible, Goliath faces David and eventually loses despite his humongous size. Similarly, Pegasus refers to the winged-horse of salvation which can be either referred to as the Valkyrie or the Light-Speed Engine. As Captain Marvel showed us the Kree-Skrull war, the Light-Speed Engine was going to be the salvation of the Kree race from the dangerous Skrulls.
So, where does Project E.X.O.D.U.S. lie? If the Bible is to be considered, exodus refers to the event where the Israelites were freed from their slavery by Moses. Now, this biblical imagery can refer to both the mutants and the Fantastic Four. But considering the plot of Iron Man 2, the Fantastic Four seems to be the better choice.
As Tony Stark is living on borrowed time due to the Palladium poisoning, his desperation grows to find an alternate power source for his arc reactor. Though he did end up creating a new element to replace Palladium, we believe Tony did try to contact someone even smarter than him. Enter, Reed Richards aka Mister Fantastic.
As the smartest character in the Marvel Universe, Reed Richards has achieved some wildly impressive feats solely due to his genius intellect. As Iron Man 2 also teased the Illuminati in the courtroom scene, maybe Feige had planned something for the Fantastic Four family back in 2010?
The members of the Fantastic Four are explorers who gain their superpowers after being exposed to cosmic rays during a mission in outer space. Though not confirmed, Reed Richards might be the metaphorical Moses who led the other three to the Negative Zone, another metaphor for going beyond the Red Sea. As the Fantastic Four travelled faster-than-light to the Negative Zone, there’s a possibility that they faced time dilation which explains their absence from the MCU for so long.
As both Project G.O.L.I.A.T.H. and P.E.G.A.S.U.S. played a vital role in setting up the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, only time will tell what Project E.X.O.D.U.S. really is in the future movies. But for now, the secret project indicates either the X-Men or the Fantastic Four.