If Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done one crucial thing for the bigger picture plans of the franchise as a whole, it would be pushing the concept of Infinity Stones to the forefront. We may not have known it at the time, but the MacGuffin of Phase 1 - the Tesseract/Cosmic Cube - was one of these Infinity artifacts as well. In Phase 2 films Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy, there was no hiding what the driving plot device was: these all-powerful items are dangerous and everyone wants them. But what are they really?
The Infinity Gems ("Stones" in the movies), or Soul Gems as they were originally dubbed when introduced in Marvel Comics in the '70s, are six over-powered and indestructible artifacts, the most powerful in the Marvel universe. Each of the six has a unique property but together, they can be used to alter, destroy or recreate the entire universe. Together, they grant someone the power of a god.
In the comics, these are the six gems, differentiated by their color and attribute, offering abilities ranging from time-travel and bending the physical laws of the universe, to teleporting across the galaxy and controlling the souls of the living or dead:
- Mind (Blue)
- Power (Red)
- Reality (Yellow)
- Soul (Green)
- Space (Purple)
- Time (Orange)
In the movies and cartoons, these "gems" are referred to as "stones" and while we don't know why Marvel Studios is changing the name slightly, they are also inexplicably changing the colors as Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige told us last year. Then again, not even the comics can keep them straight. Note the color and label differences in these two comic pages:
The Tesseract, seemingly the blue Infinity Stone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is the Space stone - as evidenced by its use in The Avengers as a portal to transport Loki in the film's intro, and later, to allow the Chitauri alien invasion force to enter the skies above New York. All of the stones are seemingly infinitely powerful judging by how the Red Skull and HYDRA used the Tesseract to power their advanced weapons in Captain America: The First Avenger - and how Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) was able to draw knowledge out of his interactions with it.
There's potentially another example of the Infinity Stones housing knowledge in the post-credits button of Captain America: The Winter Soldier where we meet Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) - a villain of The Avengers: Age of Ultron - and see him at a secret HYDRA base using Loki's staff from The Avengers for some nefarious purposes, perhaps to learn about or create super powers in ordinary people and begin the "age of miracles" as von Strucker labels it. That staff might be housing the Mind Gem since Loki was able to use it to put Hawkeye, Selvig and others under his control. We know it's tied to the power of the Tesseract from what Selvig says in The Avengers but it clearly has mind-altering abilities so it's tied to that gem as well - somehow.
Then came Thor: The Dark World and its all-powerful MacGuffin, The Aether. This red stone (not actually in the form of a stone) was thought by some to be the Power Stone - based on the destruction it created when used by Malekith - but it's possible it's actually the film franchise's version of the Reality Stone given its ability to convert matter/dark matter. In the comics, the red stone is Power, but in the movie it's seemingly Reality.
So that's potentially three out of six gems if we're counting Loki's staff as one (Update: It is), and we just saw a another (the fourth) in Guardians of the Galaxy, where a purple Infinity Stone is something everyone's chasing after hidden within the orb Peter Quill steals in the movie's opening. Some characters want it for money, some want it to destroy a planet (Ronan), some want it for themselves (Thanos). In an interesting scene ripe with exposition, when audiences meet The Collector (Benicio Del Toro), we learn a little about the origins of the Infinity Stones and how they existed and were created at the outset of the universe (see: Big Bang Theory). This particular stone is purple, which represents Space in the comics - but in the film, as confirmed by GOTG writer and director James Gunn via Twitter, it's the Power Stone.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) August 3, 2014
All we need now are the Soul and Time Infinity Stones (which will likely be yellow, orange or green) and once we have all six, Thanos will attempt to collect them all, and put them together in the Infinity Gauntlet, an item first introduced in Odin's Vault in the original Thor and showcased at the Marvel booth at Comic-Con 2010.
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