Captain America: The First Avenger provides compelling proof that Marvel Studios changed plans when they turned the Tesseract into an Infinity Stone. Over the last decade, Marvel has developed a well-earned reputation for playing the long game. Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame have been sold as the ultimate payoff for 11 years' worth of superhero adventures, bringing an end to a single continuous narrative that's been in the works since Tony Stark suited up as Iron Man in 2008.
In reality, of course, Marvel's approach is actually very adaptive. When they hit upon a good idea, they retcon their own history to make it work, and the Infinity Stones were one such retcon. The Tesseract itself is actually based on another powerful item from the comics, the Cosmic Cube, which was even known as the Tesseract in the modernized Ultimate Universe comics. When Marvel committed to Thanos and the Infinity Stones, they realized they'd already introduced some powerful and mysterious objects that could easily be an Infinity Stone, and the Tesseract was one of them.
There's just one problem: when you look back at Phase One, it's pretty clear that the Tesseract was never really intended to be the Space Stone at all.
- This Page: Evidence That The Tesseract Was Retconned Into An Infinity Stone
- Page 2: Why The Infinity Stones Were Retconned
The Tesseract Wasn't Called An Infinity Stone Until Thor: The Dark World
The retcon actually happened in 2013's Thor: The Dark World, the first Marvel movie to explicitly reference the Infinity Stones. There are two key scenes that build up the mythology of the Stones. In the first, Odin discovered the Aether inside Jane Foster, and referred to the Book of Yggdrasil to explain what the Aether was. He revealed that there are a number of relics that predate the universe itself, most of which appear as Stones, with the Aether being an exception. The idea was revisited in the post-credits scene, in which Sif and Volstagg handed over the Aether to the Collector for safekeeping. When the Collector inquired as to why the Aether couldn't be kept in Odin's Vault, Volstagg gave a simple explanation. "The Tesseract is already on Asgard," he told the Collector. "It is not wise to keep two Infinity Stones so close together."
Thor: The Dark World, then, is an important step along the journey to Avengers: Infinity War. Odin and Volstagg effectively introduced the Infinity Stones to the average viewer, with the All-Father presenting their MCU backstory and Volstagg confirming that the Tesseract is one of them. But this was actually the first time anybody had referenced the Tesseract as an Infinity Stone, both on-screen and in interviews. Even the Red Skull - who possessed a copy of the Book of Yggdrasil, and so should have known all about the Infinity Stones - was only interested in the Tesseract. Meanwhile, in interviews Joss Whedon happily referred to the Tesseract by its original comic book name, the Cosmic Cube, another object that Thanos was obsessed with for a while in the comics.
Proof The Tesseract Wasn't The Space Stone In The First Avenger
The Cosmic Cubes are artificial matrices that tap into the almost unlimited power of another dimension. They're objects of tremendous power; one ancient Cosmic Cube destroyed a third of the alien Skrull Empire. Cosmic Cubes can be used to alter the shape of reality itself, warping time and space in any way the wielder wishes, or can rewrite people's minds. Fascinatingly, a Cosmic Cube is sophisticated enough to gain a measure of sentience, but it tends to absorb aspects of the personality of its wielder. That means when a power-hungry despot gets hold of a Cosmic Cube, it becomes a terrifying force of destruction.
Both Captain America: The First Avenger and, indeed, The Avengers treat the Tesseract as a Cosmic Cube. When the Red Skull acquires the Tesseract, he recognizes it as a source of unlimited power, and Hydra tap into its energy to create weapons that are far beyond anything used by the Nazis or the Allies. An episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, "084," revealed that the power contained within these weapons doesn't degrade with time; it is every bit as dangerous in 2013 as it had been in the 1940s. In 2012, Loki creates a device to open a wormhole over New York, using the Tesseract to power it. The Tesseract, then, is clearly understood as being a source of unlimited and inexhaustible power. Incidentally, The Avengers even implies Loki's Scepter was a Tesseract-powered object, which explains why the God of Mischief could use the Scepter to manipulate the Tesseract and transport himself to Earth in an unstable wormhole.
There are even subtle hints that the Tesseract is gaining sentience. "The Tesseract has awakened," the Other tells Loki, and throughout The Avengers the object appears to be exerting an influence on everybody around it. In one scene, it is the Tesseract itself that tells Hawkeye to launch his sneak attack on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier. It appears to have mimicked the personality of Loki, the Machiavellian mastermind who's wielding it at the time. That's just what you'd expect from a Cosmic Cube, and none of this fits at all with the idea that the Tesseract is the Space Stone.
- 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