Why The Infinity Stones Were Retconned
Marvel's plans tend to change and develop over time. Through most of Phase 1, the only objective Marvel really had was to get to The Avengers. That was a make-it-or-break-it moment for the entire shared universe model; if The Avengers had gone wrong, Marvel would have needed to conduct a dramatic course-correction. It was actually Joss Whedon who decided to introduce Thanos into the MCU in the post-credits scene of The Avengers, unwittingly launching the MCU in an ambitious and bold direction. As Whedon explained in an interview with Slash Film back in 2012:
"[Thanos] for me is the most powerful and fascinating Marvel villain. He’s the great grand daddy of the badasses and he’s in love with death and I just think that’s so cute. For me, the greatest Avengers was THE AVENGERS annual that Jim Starlin did followed by THE THING 2 in 1 that contained the death of Adam Warlock. Those were some of the most important texts and I think underrated milestones in Marvel history and Thanos is all over that, so somebody had to be in control and had to be behind Loki’s work and I was like "It’s got to be Thanos." And they said "Okay" and I’m like "Oh my God!""
Marvel had originally introduced the Tesseract in Captain America: The First Avenger to add a sci-fi element to the period piece. "We then started to build the Cube into the mythology of the other movies," Kevin Feige told Syfy Wire. "We started to realize that a lot of these films required MacGuffins like the Orb in Guardians of the Galaxy, the scepter in the first Avengers film. And the notion that all of them could be a Stone started to come about right around the time Joss wrote that little tag in Avengers 1." The studio began to consider Thanos as the greatest villain of the MCU, and by 2014 could announce a Phase 3 slate that would take them all the way up to Avengers: Infinity War.
Viewed through this lens, Thor: The Dark World is something of a course-correction, with the Tesseract rewritten as an Infinity Stone. It's not a perfect retcon; where does the Tesseract's inexhaustible supply of power come from? What is the relationship between the Scepter and the Tesseract? And why do Loki and Thor need devices to use the Tesseract, rather than simply being able to open portals with it at will like Thanos? It doesn't quite work; but there's a sense in which that doesn't matter. Marvel pulled it off, the viewers have accepted it, and the idea has been absorbed into the ever-evolving narrative of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
- 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 02, 2019