S2E5 — The Infinity War (Season Finale)
In the span of eight years, Marvel Studios has cemented the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as a staple of pop culture in the 21st century. With the studio churning out two movies a year (soon to be three per year), very few can claim to have not seen any of the 13 films released (or any of the four TV series). Whether you’re a fan or otherwise, it’s simply far too difficult to escape the shadow of the MCU.
For the host of characters that populate the Marvel Studios’ fictional worlds, it’s also becoming increasingly difficult to escape the shadow of a crossover event that will undoubtedly engulf the vast majority of them (save, perhaps, the cast of Agents of SHIELD). Since the first post-credits scene in The Avengers (2012), and even more so after the Studios announcement of their third and fourth Avengers sequels, committed fans and the casual moviegoer alike have begun [re]familiarizing themselves with the big, purple man who always seems to be on the verge of doing something, and the coloured MacGuffins which have popped up to wreck havoc in several MCU movies.
The big, purple man in question is none other than the mad supervillain Thanos, and his quest for the coloured Infinity Stones (or Soul Gems, in the comics) served as the premise for three epic comic crossovers in the 90s (and several more since then): The Infinity Gauntlet (1991) (preceded by the prologue-ish Thanos Quest series), The Infinity War (1992), and The Infinity Crusade (1993). For their cinematic universe, it’s most likely that the movies will take on the story of The Infinity Gauntlet, with Avengers 3 re-branded as Infinity War (because between Star Wars and the War of the Five Kings in GoT, why not enjoy another one), and Avengers 4 awaiting a title.
War has always been a major part of Marvel’s films (and most other films nowadays). The movies have dealt with everything from the morality of war’s arms industry to the human cost of war and the justification for it. In Infinity War, beyond the sheer smorgasbord of characters, it’s likely the Russo Brothers will address the totality of war and how far reaching its effects are.
Essentially, the films’ basic premises (plot twists aside) seem to be Thanos (a character whose machinations rival that of X-Men’s Apocalypse and DC’s Darkseid) seizing the six Infinity Stones, containing them in a gauntlet and doing as he damn well pleases — to the detriment of the rest of the universe.
Whilst in the comics they were six uniform gems granting various powers, the MCU has appropriated a host of items as their version of Infinity Stones: the Tesseract (used in Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers); the Aether (used in Thor: The Dark World); the Orb (used in Guardians of the Galaxy); a stone in Loki’s Scepter (used in The Avengers and later unleashed in Avengers: Age of Ultron); and two more yet-to-be-revealed stones (but presumed to be devices in the upcoming Doctor Strange and Thor: Ragnarok movies). And as in the picture above, speculation has that the first letters of each stone (or their casing) spell out: THANOS (enter wild speculation about what ‘H’ and ‘N’ will be).
Whilst the colours of each stone have been changed from those in the comics, the overall power set each stone equips the user with has remained the same. The Tesseract is known as the blue Space Stone — enabling movement throughout space (such as the wormhole in The Avengers) and the general powering of weapons (as in Captain America: TFA and, briefly, in Age of Ultron’s prologue). The Aether is known as the red Reality Stone — enabling reality-warping chaos (loosely explained in Thor 2) and granting its host various powers (also loosely explained in Thor 2). The Orb houses the purple Power Stone — granting planet-destroying power (glimpsed in Guardians of the Galaxy). Loki’s Scepter was powered by and contained the yellow Mind Stone — which could infect and control other minds (as in The Avengers and, briefly, in Age of Ultron), as well as boost consciousness (giving life to the Vision in Age of Ultron). The final two stones — the Soul and Time Stones (one green and the other orange) — enables the trapping of any soul and the stealing of their powers, and the warping of time itself. At their height, these stones grant omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence and the general control of life, reality and the minds of everyone in the universe.
Which makes Thanos’ quest for these items of significant concern to everyone else.
The mad villain’s intended plan was to use proxies to retrieve the stones for him, whilst he remained lurking — unknown and unopposed — on his floating chair in space. In The Avengers, he tasked Loki with retrieving the Tesseract (which was hidden on Earth by Thor’s father, Odin, only to be found by HYDRA and later safeguarded by SHIELD). To do so, Thanos gave Loki the Scepter (which contained an Infinity Stone), presumably intending to knock the lackey off once the Tesseract was his (thereby gaining the Tesseract and regaining the Scepter’s stone). Ultimately, this plan was foiled by Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and the Scepter fell into SHIELD/HYDRA’s hands. Speculation has it that the plans for Ultron to use the stone for himself and wipe out humanity, was convenient for Thanos (who could let that happen before swooping in to take back the stone). On the other side of the universe, Thanos had tasked his rainbow troupe of Ronan, Gamora and Nebula to retrieve the Orb (only for Ronan to turn on him, and the Guardians of the Galaxy to eventually ruin everything). Lastly, the Aether — the whereabouts of which was hidden — was used by the Dark Elf, Malekith, for some apocalyptic schemes which were foiled too by Thor.
The situation leading up to Avengers: Infinity War is thus this:
- The Tesseract is being kept on Asgard (which is currently ruled by a disguised Loki — whom we’ll see next in Thor: Ragnarok next year).
- The Aether was given to The Collector — played by Benicio Del Toro in Guardians of the Galaxy — to safeguard, and presumably it survived the explosion caused by the Orb in his storeroom.
- The Orb was given to the Nova Corps (essentially a galactic police force) to protect on the planet Xandar.
- The stone in Loki’s Scepter was built into The Vision, who was allowed to keep it after displaying his worthiness (though if Thanos takes this stone, does The Vision die?).
- Two more stones will make their case known in two more upcoming movies.
Thanos will thus need to lay siege to Asgard to retrieve the Tesseract (assuming Loki doesn’t just give it to him), raid his way across the galaxy to take the Aether and the Orb, before coming to Earth to claim the stone in the Scepter. And if that doesn’t excite you, then consider the all-but-confirmed crossover between the Avengers (currently divided) and the quirky Guardians of the Galaxy, plus the standalone heroes like Spider-Man, Dr Strange and Black Panther — amongst others no doubt.
If there’s one thing to know about the Infinity War (and which is oddly true of all wars): it’s that it’ll affect everyone. The fallout of this fight won’t just be felt by the players involved, but by the peoples who get in either side’s way.