AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR No stone unturned (a quick primer)

“Face front, True Believers!”
-Stan Lee

After 19 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe “the purple guy in the floating chair” (Team Thor) finally sets foot on Earth, in what is bound to be a game changer. Before Thanos and his “children” (known as The Black Order in the comics) threaten to wipe out half the planet in their quest for the Infinity Stones, DAVID O’CONNELL takes a look back at the state of play of the Marvel Universe, to see where those glowing MacGuffins are located, and make some wild speculations as to what’s in store.

The Big Bad

“In time, you will know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right, yet to fail all the same. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives.”
-Thanos (The Avengers: Infinity War)

Along with the Infinity Stones, Thanos (Josh Brolin) has threaded himself into the MCU since The Avengers. So what do we know about him – other than he doesn’t like to stand, and is a bit rubbish as an adopted father? Created by Marvel comics in 1973 Thanos the Mad Titan sought the Infinity Stones in an attempt to cull half the population of the universe, as he was literally in love with Death (no seriously, the actual anthropomorphised concept of death in the Marvel Universe). In the MCU the Titan with the impressive chin appears to have the same goal, although his motivation has changed.

According to The Avengers: Infinity War co-director Joe Russo, “many years prior to the film his planet (Titan) was experiencing a cataclysmic shift. They were running out of resources, and they were overpopulated. Thanos made a recommendation that they exterminate half the population randomly in order to save the rest of the population. Of course, the Titans rejected his notion, branded him a mad man, exiled him, and the planet ended up dying. So he has taken it upon himself to go planet-by-planet throughout the universe and wipe out half of the population of each planet as a way to correct the planet and bring it back into balance.” So we’re looking at someone that is nigh on indestructible, capable of arm-wrestling the Hulk, and looking at purging half of the life on Earth.

Run the Jewels… Gems… Stones

“Before creation itself, there were six singularities. Then the universe exploded into existence, and the remnants of these systems were forged into concentrated ingots… Infinity Stones.”
-The Collector (Guardians of the Galaxy)

The connective tissue of the Marvel Cinematic Universe itself, the Infinity Stones have appeared as objects of immeasurable power, since the Tesseract of Captain America: The First Avenger. As such they link every hero we’ve seen to Thanos’ quest, be they on Earth, or in the vast void of space.

Currently we know the location of five of these stones. The Space Stone was last seen with Loki (Thor: Ragnarok) and given the end credits scene will soon be with Thanos. The Reality Stone is with The Collector, where it was left after the events of Thor: Dark World. Likewise the Power Stone was also in space, left in the care of the Nova Corps (Guardians of the Galaxy), although it is now clearly visible in Thanos’ gauntlet. However Earth has two stones, and both seem to be in the New York area. One (the Time Stone) is in the Eye of Agamotto, worn around the neck of Sorcerer Supreme Dr Stephen Strange (Doctor Strange), while the Mind Stone is empowering Vision with life (The Avengers: Age of Ultron).

Which just leaves the Soul Stone unaccounted for. Fan speculation has been rife over where and what it is, from Tony Stark to John Wick’s replacement dog. Given that Wakanda appears to be the sight of a major battle in The Avengers: Infinity War, there was speculation that we would see something fitting the bill in Black Panther, perhaps explaining the Wakandan’s ability to travel to the spirit plane via the heart-shaped herb. However nothing fitting the bill seemed to be in the film, so it’s whereabouts are still unknown and may form the bones upon which to rebuild the MCU after what seems to be a fairly likely Empire Strikes Back finale.

Where do we go from here?

“If Marvel Studios has been writing a book for the last 10 years, then these are the final chapters of the book. There’s finality, and there will be endings. And there will be new beginnings. I think rarely, especially in Avengers: Infinity War, do commercial movies go to the place that this film goes to.”
-Joe Russo

Despite being separated and divided due to the events of Captain America Civil War and Thor: Raganarok, Avengers: The Infinity War will see all the threads of the Marvel Cinematic Universe come together for the first time. With such a momentous occasion and such a star laden cast, the smart money is on at least one death. Captain America (Chris Evans) or Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), seem to be the likely suspects. Cap is the guy that would jump on a grenade even before he was dosed with super patriot juice, but Tony has been working on a redemption arc since the beginning, and has already shown he’s willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good (The Avengers). Both have multiple replacements standing in the wings ready to take on the mantle as they did in the comics. For Cap, both Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) have taken up the shield when called on, and for Iron Man, there is both War-Machine (Don Cheadle), and in an odd way Peter Parker (Tom Holland) who has become Tony’s pupil (and seen wearing the Iron Spider suit in the trailer). All of which is rampant speculation, but where I’d put my money, if I was a betting man.

What is for certain, is that when the end credits do roll we’ll have to wait a year for the conclusion of this story. Although this will effect everything going forward, it won’t be concluded till the next currently untitled Avenger film (previously titled Infinity War Part 2) in 2019. Chances are, it’s going to be a heck of a cliff hanger, and with the next two Marvel films (Ant Man and Wasp, Captain Marvel) set prior to Infinity War, we’re just going to have to be patient.

‘Nuff said.