Thor: Ragnarok is technically following on from Avengers: Age of Ultron, but Taika Waititi ignores Joss Whedon's team-up to the extent that we're left with another perplexing Marvel plot hole. Just what's going on with those Infinity Stones?
Phase 3 has seen Marvel up its game in terms of universe expansion, although regrettably that's come with increased continuity problems. To wit, every single movie in the run has some fundamental plot hole: Vision said it had been eight years since Iron Man in Captain America: Civil War; Doctor Strange doesn't fit alongside any of the other films; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 clashed with The Avengers; and Spider-Man: Homecoming cracked the timeline right open.
We were almost were going to crown Thor: Ragnarok as the first film in Phase 3 that didn't complicate things; previously reported timeline errors have been disproven. Indeed, despite reuniting two of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, against the grand scope of the Marvel Cinematic Universe it tries to be rather standalone, with much of its setup for next year's mega team-up Avengers: Infinity War saved for the mid-credits scene. However, when you look at the God of Thunder's full arc across all six appearances (and counting), it doesn't make much sense at all.
Thor: Ragnarok Completely Bypasses Avengers: Age of Ultron's Setup
The last time we saw Thor was in Avengers: Age of Ultron. While Tony Stark and Steve Rogers laid their bickering groundwork for Civil War, Odinson went on his own side-mission; haunted by visions of Asgard's destruction, he visited a cave that bridged realms and discovered the truth behind the Infinity Stones, the franchise's MacGuffins that Thanos will try and bring together in Infinity War. He ended the film returning to space to track down the remaining Stones and crack the mystery.
In the very first scene of Ragnarok, we learn that didn't go too well. Thor begins by telling his skeleton prisoner buddy that he did initially try to find the ingots but only found "death and destruction" and eventually gave up, instead turning his attention to the prophecy of Ragnarok (the apocalypse that first sparked his quest). For the rest of the film, the Infinity Stones and the Mad Titan hunting them aren't really factored in at all. The only point they factor in is Loki seemingly swiping the Tesseract in Asgard's last moments.
Of course, through all this we still know where (most of) the Infinity Stones are: the Tesseract (Space Stone) is in Odin's Vault (now Loki's pocket); the Aether (Reality Stone) was last seen been given to the Collector by Sif and Volstagg (and presumably remains in the wreckage of his museum); the orb (Power Stone) is locked away on Xander; the Mind Stone is in Vision's forehead; and the Orb of Agomotto (Time Stone) is in the possession of Doctor Strange. There's only one missing - the Soul Stone - which will likely be revealed to be powering Wakanda's advanced tech in next year's Black Panther.
Read More: Where Is The Soul Stone?
The problem is, Thor can't have looked into any of these. At the end of Age of Ultron, he stated the Mind Stone was "the fourth of the Infinity Stones to show up in the last few years", implying that he knew about the four revealed up to that point - the three he'd encountered directly and the Power Stone from Guardians of the Galaxy (which makes some sense considering Ego said word of Star-Lord holding it had travelled far). Yet he doesn't appear to have chased up these leads.
He definitely didn't return to Asgard to check on the Tesseract or ask the well-informed Odin (now Loki in disguise, but Thor doesn't know that) about any of this - he's not been there since The Dark World at the beginning of Ragnarok. Nor does he seem to chase up the Thor 2's Aether, which he may also think is still in Asgard as Sif moved it after he left; it's hard to tell because the Warriors Three are killed as soon as they turn up in the threequel, but there's no indication he mentioned the mission to his friends. Presumably, he doesn't go to Xandar either because in theory that should have led him to stories of Ronan and perhaps even an allusion of Thanos. And, to round it up, the fact he just leaves the newly-formed Vision on Earth without a check-up was already weird in Avengers 2 (we'll forgive the Time Stone seeing as he was unaware of sorcerers on Earth until Ragnarok).
There is a very obvious paper trail through the MCU for the Infinity Stones that Thor basically ignored for two years and decided was dead. Of course, it is possible he did check in with the Warriors Three and Nova Prime, but if he did why were there no advancements in the case? It's not like Thanos is one step ahead of Thor either; the big bad yet to get his golden mitt on any Stones yet (in the SDCC Infinity War trailer he's seen with just the Space Stone in the Infinity Gauntlet, meaning the Tesseract is his first acquisition), so that "death and destruction" explanation doesn't cut it.
And that may be because there isn't a story explanation: it's all to do with studio politics.
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