It’s always been possible to watch a Marvel movie – an individual entry in the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” if you want to be precise – independent of the rest of the franchise, but why would you want to? Especially as the now-ten-film-strong series continues to steadily move towards one blockbuster wrap-up (most likely The Avengers 3), as both characters and plots converge in ways large and small. One thing that keeps running through the MCU in unavoidable ways is the appearance of the powerful Infinity Stones, and the lingering understanding that the artifacts are just a few more movies away from joining up at the hands of some supervillain hellbent on destroying the entire universe as we know it. Now that’s build-up.
Spoilers ahead for Guardians of the Galaxy.
There are six Infinity Stones – called “Infinity Gems” in comic book lore, and damn if that doesn’t make them all sound a mite more sparkly, but what can you do – lurking around in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just waiting to be found and put together for some major mayhem (we already know that it’s Thanos’ master plan to do just that, but the big purple guy isn’t having much luck lining those damn Stones up, at least not yet). We’ve seen three of the Stones so far, but while we’re waiting for the other half to show up, it might be wise to remember, oh, yeah, that’s where we put them.
Although it’s yet to be explicitly mentioned in the Marvel movies, each Stone has one specific power: Mind, Soul, Power, Space, Time and Reality.
1. The Tesseract (Space Stone, current location: Asgard)
The MCU has been mostly concerned with the Tessaract, which has popped up in two films (Thor and The Avengers) and gotten big nods in four of them (Captain America: The First Avenger, Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World and now Guardians of the Galaxy). If you think “powerful Marvel object,” you’re probably going to think of the Tesseract first.
The gleaming blue space cube (and, yes, the Tesseract is the so-called “Space” Stone) allows its possessors to move through space to different locations with relative ease. For a significant period of time, Odin protected the cube in his artifact chamber, before it got bounced around to a group of Vikings who attempted to hide it, then HYDRA, then S.H.I.E.L.D., then Loki. It’s now safely in Heimdell’s hands, who first used it to repair the wounded Bifrost Bridge.
2. Aether (Reality Stone, current location: Knowhere)
Infinity Stones aren’t necessarily, well, stones. Sometimes they can be weird, creepy liquidy substances, like the Aether, which is understood to be the “Reality” Stone. The Aether played a big part in Thor: The Dark World, when it ensnared the unwitting Jane Foster and made everything feel pretty topsy-turvy for her. Oh, and almost killed her.
After thwarting Malekith, king of the Dark Elves, and his plan to use the Aether and the Convergence (when the realms line up, cosmically speaking) to destroy just about everything, the Asgardian king Bor (Odin’s dad, Thor’s grandfather) hid it away. Oops! Until another Covergence, when the damn thing opened up its own portal and sucked Jane right in. After the Aether was removed from her body, the Stone was eventually given to Taneleer Tivan (the Collector) for safekeeping.
Which is why it was so unnerving that the Collector almost came into possession of yet another Stone during Guardians, because if there’s one thing that we know about the Stones, it’s that we don’t want them to be together.
3. The Orb (Power Stone, current location: Xandar)
Like the Thor films, much of the action of last week’s blockbuster release, Guardians of the Galaxy, is dedicated to keeping an Infinity Stone away from the wrong people – in this case, that’s the Orb (the “Power” Stone), which Thanos had dispatched Ronan the Accuser to get for him.
Although each Stone is powerful enough on its own, the Orb’s power is, ugh, well, it’s just power. This thing can blow entire planets sky high. Although it almost made its way into the hands of the Collector, the Orb is now safely ensconced on Xandar, where the Nova Corps are tasked with its care.
4. Blue Crystal (assumed Mind Stone, current location: HYDRA)
Although it has not been confirmed, fans have long speculated that the blue crystal that’s on top of the Chitauri Scepter (also known as Loki’s Scepter) is the Mind Stone. If nothing else, the crystal has a powerful link to the Tesseract and can control other people’s minds. As if that’s not worrisome enough, the crystal is the only (maybe) Stone that we know is in the wrong hands – we saw it in the possession of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker during the post-credits tag of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That’s not good.
What’s somewhat heartening? We also know that von Strucker has “the Twins” – Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch – so maybe they’ll bring it along with them for Avengers: Age of Ultron?
5. Unknown Soul Stone
6. Unknown Time Stone