We’ve probably reached a point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe where, if you haven’t got a CSI-style detective’s board with bits of red string overlapping and a big picture of Thanos circled in the middle, then you’re probably better off sitting in the corner having a bit of a cry. Everything is coming full-circle, though, with the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel Avengers 4.
But what are the Infinity Stones really? Where did they come from? What do they do? And can you remember where they all are in the MCU? Chances are it's a bit fuzzy. That’s why I’ve created the ultimate guide to the Infinity Stones, which answers all these questions and more, so that we’re all set for the upcoming Avengers blockbuster next year. Read on and find out everything you need to know about the Infinity Stones and what they mean for the MCU.
Psst… want to know what’s coming next? Here’s every upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movie until 2020.
What are the Infinity Stones?
Well, they’re stones… of Infinity? Ok, they may not sound like much but the Infinity Stones are actually more powerful than anything we’ve ever seen before in the MCU. Whoever holds all the stones is basically a god and that’s saying a lot in a universe full of superheroes. Need a refresher on what each Stone can do and what they look like? Let’s break it down stone-by-stone...
Space Stone: There’s a reason why the Red Skull wanted to get his red mitts on the blue cube (known as the Tesseract) that contains the Space Stone in Captain America: The First Avenger. It houses unlimited renewable energy. Bad news for oil companies, good news for evil, purple space-tyrants.
Mind Stone: The yellow Mind Stone has taken on a few different forms in the MCU, most notably Loki’s sceptre in The Avengers, and then as part of Vision himself in Avengers: Age of Ultron. First used as a brainwashing tool by Loki, Baron Strucker then exploited it for a series of experiments to create superhumans by unlocking their minds to hidden abilities. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch gained their powers from these tests, and Vision eventually came into being as a result of the Mind Stone, with Iron Man’s JARVIS operating system becoming fused into a synthetic body originally crafted for Ultron.
Reality Stone: The ruby-red Reality Stone is a bit harder to describe, with its powers affecting humans by essentially rotting them away. If the Reality Stone latches on to a powerful enough host, it can increase the host’s strength (as it did with Thor: The Dark World baddie Malekith) and can help convert matter into dark matter. However, the Reality Stone’s power is all a bit abstract, with the Thor sequel being very vague. Don’t be surprised to see a Reality retcon down the line to help concentrate its powers.
Power Stone: The Power Stone has to be kept in an special container because, guess what, it’s really powerful. It carries enough power to wipe out a planet and, in Guardians of the Galaxy, the purple stone increased Ronan the Accuser’s strength and durability tenfold.
Time Stone: The Time Stone, held in the green-tinged necklace known as the Eye of Agamotto in Doctor Strange, can manipulate time to the user’s will. Fast, slow, rewind, you name it, the Time Stone can do it. Handy for when you’re late for work, then.
Soul Stone: We’ll have to look to the Marvel comics for help here because the Soul Stone hasn’t been revealed in the MCU yet. The Soul Stone is definitely orange, the spiel about the Infinity Stones, as explained by the Collector in Guardians of the Galaxy, confirms as much. As for its power? The Soul Gem could prove to be the most powerful Infinity Stone of them all. Its powers in the comics range from reviving the dead to stealing super powers.
So, basically, if (when) Thanos gets his hands on all the Infinity Stones, the Avengers are screwed.
In the first Thor movie, Odin calls them “an ancient force of infinite destruction,” so yeah… they’re not playthings. In fact, they’re so powerful that Thanos has created a glove known as the Infinity Gauntlet (which was glimpsed in the post-credits scene for Avengers: Age of Ultron) to hold them all. Most Stones are stored in containers and are, wisely, kept away from each other, but Thanos has a few tricks up his sleeve (or should that be gauntlet?)
Where did they come from?
This is where things get a bit weird, so bear with me. The Infinity Stones have a bit of a convoluted origin, both in the comics and the MCU.
The comics’ origins see the Infinity Stones introduced as Soul Gems before Thanos labels them ‘Infinity Gems’ (probably a nod to the near-infinite power you get if you wield all six), which has stuck ever since. The Gems are also literally a being – one of the oldest in the universe – who committed suicide because he was so lonely and then split into six powerful fragments. See? Told you it was weird.
As for the MCU, the story goes (explained in full in an exposition-heavy scene in Guardians of the Galaxy) that six entities existed before the universe even came into being (try getting your head around that one) and, after The Big Bang, the entities transformed into the six Infinity Stones, one for every fundamental aspect of the universe. Okay, slightly less weird but, still fantastically silly.
When did they first appear?
The Stones/Gems/big shiny things that make everything go bye bye were first introduced in 1972’s Marvel Premiere (confusingly, they’re called Infinity Gems in the comics and Infinity Stones in the MCU), but really brought into the comic mainstream in 1990/91’s The Infinity Gauntlet. Thanos brought the Infinity Stones together in his Infinity Gauntlet. Long story short, he ruled the universe, killed off half of its inhabitants, and (nearly 30-year-old spoilers here) eventually ended up at the mercy of every superhero, supervillain, and cosmic entity.
But what about in the MCU? Let’s chart where they first appeared:
Space Stone: The Space Stone was the very first Infinity Stone to make an appearance in the MCU, via a quick glimpse of the blue cube in Thor’s post-credits scene, before becoming a major plot point (and part of Red Skull’s schemes) in Captain America: The First Avenger. It ended up at the bottom of the ocean after Cap crashed into the ice and saved the day, but was retrieved by Howard Stark (that's Iron Man's Dad) while he was looking for Cap.
Mind Stone: Found inside Loki’s Chitauri sceptre, this yellow stone has gone on quite a journey, but its first appearance was in 2012’s The Avengers. You may remember it from the time it made Hawkeye turn all blue-eyed and evil. That was the first time we saw an Infinity Stone in action, and it certainly made quite an impact.
Reality Stone: This one isn’t as obvious as the others, but the red-tinted Aether from Thor: The Dark World is the Reality Stone. Dark elf Malekith gets his hands on it for his own nefarious ends before being defeated and spoiler: it’s all-kinds of powerful. Just ask Thor and half of London.
Power Stone: Best known for fuelling a Guardians one-man dance-off, the Power Stone was eventually embedded in Ronan the Accuser’s weapon, but its first appearance was technically at the beginning of the movie when Star-Lord nabbed it (and its container) in the daring smash-and-grab opening.
Time Stone: The most recent new Infinity Stone to arrive to the MCU was via last year's Doctor Strange movie. At this point, it may as well have had ‘IMPORTANT PLOT POINT’ etched on it, as Wong revealed to Doctor Strange that the time-manipulating Eye of Agamotto found in the Kamar-Taj library, in fact, holds an Infinity Stone. By this point, Strange had already figured out its power and used it to create an infinite (heh) time loop to trap cosmic villain Dormammu in an endless hell until he relented.
Soul Stone: Uhhh, it still hasn't shown up yet... We thought it might make an appearance in Thor: Ragnarok or Black Panther, but there was no sign whatsoever. That said, Thor 3 did confirm that the Infinity Gauntlet briefly seen in the original Thor movie was a fake replica, which retconned a plot hole and debunks all those theories about the Soul Stone being in Asgard this whole time.
As for Black Panther, director Ryan Coogler and Marvel Studios didn't want to include the long-awaited Soul Stone in the movie, saying “Wakanda already has its thing [Vibranium]”. That doesn't mean it's not hidden in the African nation somewhere though and the Wakandan battle in the Infinity War trailer sure hints at Thanos hunting after something in Wakanda.
Where are they now?
It should go without saying that these Stones have changed hands more times in the MCU than Tony Stark’s various Iron Man upgrades. It can be a bit of a convoluted mess trying to decipher who has what and what went where across the movies, especially as some Stones have been locked away in low-key fashion. But we need to know where they all are ahead of Infinity War, so here’s a reminder...
Space Stone: After the events of The Avengers, Thor brought the Tesseract (and Loki) back to Asgard, where Idris Elba’s Heimdall locked it away for safe-keeping. However, towards the end of Thor: Ragnarok, we spot Loki eyeing it up just before blowing Asgard to smithereens, and the Infinity War trailer does indeed confirm that the tricksy immortal is in now possession of it, and seemingly offering it up to someone without protest. Could that someone be (*gulp*) Thanos?
Mind Stone: Easy-peasy this one. Tony Stark got his hands on Loki’s sceptre in Avengers: Age of Ultron and inadvertently created Ultron. The Stone, through the magic of sci-fi, became Vision. The Stone is still embedded in his head, but the latest Infinity War teaser appears to show Thanos painfully ripping it out from poor Vision's noggin before slotting it into his own gauntlet.
Reality Stone: The Aether was contained and given to The Collector for safe-keeping at the end of Thor: The Dark World. Probably not the best choice in the universe… and it is possibly MIA after The Collector’s collection goes partially belly-up in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Power Stone: Glenn Close and the rest of the Nova Corps have the Orb under their watchful eye in their vault on Xandar post-Guardians of the Galaxy. But, it’s worth noting, Thanos already knows about this Stone so its location surely won’t be safeguarded for much longer. In fact, it looks like that's the Power Stone brandished in Thanos' mitts during a fight with Iron Man in the Infinity War trailer...
Time Stone: Wong has it locked up nice and tight in the Kamar-Taj library, but if Doctor Strange can get his hands on the secrets of the library then I’m betting that someone like Thanos could too.
Soul Stone: Seeing as Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and the Avengers: Infinity War trailer provided no answers, we're still clueless about this one. Expect it to show up very, very soon though.
What do they have to do with Avengers: Infinity War?
This is the big money question, isn’t it? Well, Thanos talks about wishing to bring balance to the universe in the Infinity War trailer, and I reckon the power wielded by all 6 stones together could allow him to do just that. Don't forget Thor’s hallucination bath in Age of Ultron, too. In it, it's revealed that each Infinity Stone will indeed come together in Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet – and there’s even a shot of Earth being attacked with the ominous phrase “Extinction.”
With Avengers 4 following so soon after Infinity War, don’t be surprised to see Thanos’ attempting to bring each Stone together into his Infinity Gauntlet. What happens next is anyone’s guess.
In the Infinity Gauntlet comics – the best source for speculation – Thanos wipes out half the universe with a literal click of his fingers. Whether the MCU goes that far remains to be seen, but, one thing’s for sure. Thanos will be the Big Bad to end all Big Bads, and Marvel has done a helluva good job in building it up. Let’s hope it pays off.