The Soul Stone may be the reason Thanos knew so much about Tony Stark in Avengers: Infinity War. When Thanos and Iron Man finally came face-to-face, the Mad Titan recognized him. Even Tony was surprised, but Thanos gave a strange explanation. "You're not the only one cursed with knowledge," he observed.
According to co-director Joe Russo, this is the fulfillment of a subtle theme that runs through the entire movie, with Thanos and Stark carefully paralleled as futurists with very different views. "He's aware of Stark from the original Battle of New York as the person who undid the plan," Russo explained. "Almost no one ends up being a threat to the agenda except for Tony, who I think he feels has a sort of existential connection to Thanos." And yet, Thanos' precise phrasing suggests something deeper; it hints that he knows Tony Stark has been haunted by a sense of impending doom ever since the Battle of New York. How would Thanos know about that?
One possible solution is that, by the time he encounters Tony Stark, Thanos is in possession of the Soul Stone. The Soul Stone allows its bearer to peer into the very souls of those they meet, divining their hidden motivations and catching a glimpse of their deepest fears; in the comics, this power is known as the "Cold Light of Truth." In fact, the owner of the Soul Stone can use this power to strip a person's soul bare, revealing the truths they would rather deny. Adam Warlock used it a few times when he possessed the Soul Stone, but it's easy to forget given that it hasn't been featured much in more modern comics. In theory, this accounts for Thanos' intimate knowledge of Stark. As Joe Russo observed, he knew Stark from the Battle of New York; recognizing his face, and perhaps surprised to see a human on his homeworld of Titan, he then used the Soul Stone to try to understand what had brought his enemy here.
Unfortunately, there is one major problem with this theory: the MCU version of the Infinity Gauntlet is subtly different to the comic book version. It's a mechanism designed to allow Thanos to tap into the unlimited power of the Infinity Stones; every time Thanos uses a specific Infinity Stone, it lights up. In the comics, anyone who wears the Infinity Gauntlet is in constant communion with all six Infinity Stones, and is the master of their powers. In the movies, however, an Infinity Stone needs to be activated for the bearer of the Infinity Gauntlet to use it at a specific instant. And there is no hint of orange light on the Gauntlet when Thanos confronted Tony Stark - meaning he didn't use the Cold Light of Truth.
Although this is an interesting idea, it doesn't quite work. For now, the intimacy of Thanos' knowledge remains something of a mystery, prompting some to speculate that it will become an important plot point in Avengers: Endgame. Perhaps the truth will be revealed in April.
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019