Marvel’s Infinity Stones: An ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ explainer
The Infinity Stones are about to have their moment. Finally.
For 18 movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been hyping these six all-powerful objects. Individually, almost all of them have driven an MCU story at one point or another. Now, in Avengers: Infinity War, all six step into the forefront.
Thanos wants them to complete his Infinity Gauntlet. The gaudy golden glove gives its wearer the ability to harness the combined power of the stones and use them to… well… do whatever, really. One Infinity Stone is a power like no other; all six of them together offer godlike control over the universe.
You might not realize it given how long ago the MCU started — 10 years! — but there’s a lot of info about the Infinity Stones seeded across the 18 movies so far. Not just what they are and how they work, but where they’ve been and, importantly for Thanos’s quest, where they are.
Here it all is. Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters on April 27 and it’s time now to catch up.
What are the Infinity Stones?
Each of the six Infinity Stones possesses all the power over the forces that flow through and shape the universe: Mind, Power, Reality, Space, Soul, and Time. They were created by ancient cosmic beings and have changed hands numerous times in the millennia since.
As we learned from The Collector in Guardians of the Galaxy, when the universe first formed, the remnants of six “singularities” that predate creation were formed into “concentrated ingots” of immense power. The Infinity Stones.
An individual Infinity Stone on its own contains too much power for any mortal to even touch one, let alone wield it. That power can be contained and harnessed using tools like the Infinity Gauntlet, but we’re meant to understand from the movies that these aren’t toys for your typical puny human.
In the distant past, ancient cosmic beings known as Celestials used the stones to assert their dominance. Ego, introduced in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, is one of those Celestials, though it’s not clear if or how he ever used any of the Stones.
Importantly, tales of an Earth being grabbing hold of the Power Stone — which occurred at the end of the first Guardians — helped Ego track down Peter “Star-Lord” Quill, his son. As a half-human/half-Celestial, Quill was able to take hold of the stone without being immediately destroyed.
From what we know of Infinity War, the story follows Thanos as he attempts to track down all six stones. Quill’s half-Celestial background should make him a key player in any efforts to shut down the Mad Titan, a name by which Thanos is often known.
That leaves one, big question, however.
Where are the Infinity Stones?
Five of the six Infinity Stones have appeared in past MCU movies, though the sixth is almost certainly going to make an appearance in Infinity War. Now that you know what these things are, let’s run through where each one has been and where it will be when the next Avengers movie opens.
The yellow-colored Mind Stone actually once belonged to Thanos. Prior to the events of The Avengers, he handed it over to Loki to use to take control of Earth. That didn’t work out so well for the old Lokester, and his scepter — the containment unit for the Mind Stone — ended up in the hands of S.H.I.E.L.D., thanks to the Avengers.
That didn’t last long, however. HYDRA’s infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. resulted in the scepter being stolen away by the post-Nazi terrorist organization. They used it in a series of experiments, notably unlocking superhuman powers in Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (the latter of whom went on to become the Scarlet Witch), until it was stolen away by Ultron.
The malevolent AI and Age of Ultron villain created a more perfect replacement body for itself, implanting the stone in its forehead to give it life. Before that plan could fully play out, the Avengers stole the creation away from Ultron and uploaded Tony Stark’s personal AI assistant J.A.R.V.I.S. into its computer brain.
The resulting being, a mixture of both Ultron and J.A.R.V.I.S., became known as Vision. Now an Avenger, the Mind Stone remains embedded Vision’s forehead even now.
The purple-colored Power Stone first appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy. Thanos tasked Ronan the Accuser with retrieving it from the planet Morag, but Star-Lord got there first. A series of failed attempts to sell off what was believed to be simply a valuable gem led the Guardians to Taneleer Tivan, the Collector, who revealed the stone’s actual purpose.
Soon after, Ronan stole it away and attempted to wield its power for himself. He decided to betray Thanos with help from his newly obtained cosmic might. Before the plot could play out, the Guardians showed up to re-take the stone.
They were successful, thanks (presumably) in large part to Star-Lord’s then-unknown Celestial heritage. With Ronan destroyed, the Guardians entrusted the Power Stone to the Nova Corps, an intergalactic police force. It remains there now, held for safekeeping on the Nova Empire’s capital world of Xandar.
The red-colored Reality Stone made an unusual debut in the MCU. It first appeared in Thor: The Dark World as the Aether, a blood-red slimy liquid that obeys no known laws of gravity.
In that second Thor movie, Jane Foster absorbed the Aether into her body after she made physical contact with it. The experience left her ill and on the brink of death, though the Dark Elf known as Malekith later extracted the Aether from her body when Thor and Loki attempted — and failed — to trap him.
Thor eventually defeated Malekith, with some help from Foster, and recovered the Aether. The Asgardians handed it over to the Collector for safekeeping, and that’s where it remains now. Although the Reality Stone appeared in liquid form in Thor: The Dark World, that liquid turned out to serve the same purpose as Loki’s scepter or the Infinity Gauntlet: It’s a containment device.
The blue-colored Space Stone is the earliest Infinity Stone to make an MCU appearance. It was originally revealed as the cube-shaped cosmic artifact known as the Tesseract.
Its first MCU appearance is in Captain America: The First Avenger, when HYDRA leader Johann Schmidt, aka the Red Skull, obtains it during World War II with the intention of using it as a power source. It’s here that we learn the Tesseract once resided in Asgard under the protection of Odin, but it was eventually brought to Earth and left in the care of Asgard worshipers.
When Captain America took his 1940s plunge into Arctic waters, the Tesseract went with him. It was later recovered by Howard Stark and handed over to S.H.I.E.L.D., where it remained until it was stolen by Loki in The Avengers.
Thor brought it back home to Asgard after Loki was defeated, and there the Tesseract remained until Thor: Ragnarok. As Asgard crumbled during the movie’s climax, Loki — sent by his brother to retrieve an artifact from Odin’s vault — spotted the Tesseract and swiped it yet again. That’s where it still resides as Infinity War opens.
The orange-colored Soul Stone is the only MCU no-show (as far as anyone knows) right now. Wong suggested in Doctor Strange that it may be the most powerful of the six.
There’s been some speculation that the unaccounted-for Infinity Stone resides in Black Panther‘s Wakanda. It might even be the source of the African nation’s Vibranium supply, given that the alien metal came to Earth by way of an ancient meteor impact.
The color isn’t quite right — Vibranium glows with a blue inner light in Black Panther — but remember: The Mind Stone embedded in Loki’s scepter also appeared to be blue, but the raw stone in the Vision’s forehead appears yellow. There’s plenty we don’t know about how or why these stones have the colors they do.
The green-colored Time Stone is the source of Doctor Strange’s time-manipulating abilities, a power he derives from an artifact known as the Eye of Agamotto. The Eye is actually a containment device, though Strange isn’t aware of its true history.
He’s the only full-blooded human known to have wielded an Infinity Stone without any ill effects. Though Strange is hardly an ordinary man; he’s the Sorcerer Supreme. He’s also only tapping into the stone’s power through the use of a containment device, the Eye.
The Time Stone continues to reside in the Eye of Agamotto, which Strange keeps locked away in his New York City Sanctum on Earth.