I don’t need to tell you this, of course. But Avengers: Infinity War is coming out this weekend, and it’s gonna be big. Like, big big. Hulk big. Ant-Man-turned-giant big. The Avengers will fight Thanos and his gauntlet encrusted with Infinity Stones and—
Wait. What’s that, you say? I do need to tell you about Infinity Wars? You don’t know Captain America from Captain Crunch? That Groot is something that a tile expert with a speech impediment might mention? Think the ARC Reactor has something to do with that face-melty scene at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie?
Well, have no fear. We at Watching God have you covered, just like the purple pants that invariably cover Hulk’s midsection. Read on and find out everything you need to know about the Avengers, the Infinity Stones and the Marvel Cinematic Universe before you walk into theaters.
Just who are the Avengers, anyway?
You had to start off with a hard question, didn’t you? Marvel’s comics have probably included hundreds of superheroes in the Avengers ever-rotating cast over the years. Things are a little more streamlined in the MCU … but not by much.
Let’s begin with the core four—Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and Captain America. They, along with a pair of highly-skilled-but-not-technically-super adjuncts, Black Widow (a reformed super-assassin) and Hawkeye (who, um, shoots people with arrows) formed the first roster of Avengers in their 2012 movie. But as the MCU has gone on, we’ve been introduced to a host of other superheroes who are now Avengers, could be Avengers or, at the very least, could fight with the Avengers against the evil Thanos.
So who is Than—
Cool your jets, we’ll get to him. First, our new Avengers, circa Avengers: Age of Ultron. There’s Vision, who used to be Iron Man’s version of Siri/Alexa before stuff happened and he became god-like entity who can fly, walk through walls and zap things with his forehead. Then there’s Wanda, a.k.a. Scarlet Witch, who can manipulate matter and twist minds in whatever manner the script seems to demand. War Machine is Col. James Rhodes dressed up in an Iron Man suit, only with more patriotic coloring and a lot more guns. Falcon flaps around with a set of mechanical wings.
Peter Parker/Spider-Man, the web-spinning teenage hero from Queens, nearly became an Avenger at the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming, but opted to finish high school first. Ant-Man, a reformed crook who wears an incredible shrinking suit, may be sort of an adjunct Avenger at this point, though I don’t think he’s done the Avengers’ special pinkie swear yet. And Black Panther, a.k.a. T’Challa, a.k.a. king of the African nation of Wakanda, is pretty chummy with the Avengers, but has a whole country to run.
Do the Avengers really have a pinkie swear?
No. I just made that up. I think.
So, who leads this motley band of superheroes?
Captain America was in charge for the first two Avengers movies, but he and Iron Man—that’d be the billionaire playboy Tony Stark—had a bit of a falling out in Captain America: Civil War over the Sokovia Accords.
Essentially a bit of global legislation that required all superheroes to register with the United Nations. It supposedly stopped superhero freelancing and put them under the authority of a non-superhero governing body, who would tell them when it was OK to do their superhero thing. Captain America and some of his fellow superheroes didn’t want to sign the Accords. One thing led to another, and the next thing you know, Cap and Iron Man were beating each other senseless in a Siberian secret laboratory.
Wow. That seems … extreme.
Yeah, well, superheroes get super mad sometimes. In any case, Iron Man’s probably the leader right now, but Captain America’s coming back this movie (with a beard!). So we’ll see if the two can patch up their differences and battle Thanos together.
Thanos! Almost forgot about him. So, who is—
No, no. We’re not done talking about superheroes yet.
More superheroes? Like that talking raccoon?
So the talking raccoon is named Rocket, and he’s part of an entirely different superhero group called the Guardians of the Galaxy. They’ll be showing up in Avengers: Infinity War, but only one of them—their leader Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord—is familiar with earth, and he hasn’t been on terra firma since before he hit puberty. His team consists of Gamora, another talented assassin; possibly Nebula, Gamora’s jealous, peevish and cyborg-ish sister; Drax the Destroyer, the muscle-y blue-skinned guy; Mantis, a psychic empath with two little antennae on her forehead; and Groot, a tree-like being who died in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie but, thanks to the miracles of grafting, lives again and is now a surly adolescent.
So, a vegetative state for Groot would be a good thing, then?
Don’t get cute.
So. Is that it?
No. We haven’t mentioned Doctor Strange, who is tasked with fending off magical attacks on the planet, wears a semi-sentient cape and whose powers are … well, strange. Let’s just move on.
What? No Deadpool? Wolverine? The Invisible Woman?
Probably not, but given how stuffed this movie is with superheroes, and given that Disney is acquiring 21st Century Fox (the studio where the X-Men, Deadpool and Fantastic Four now reside), I’m not counting anyone out.
Well, except Batman. He won’t be here. Neither will Superman, Wonder Woman or anyone else in the D.C. comic book universe, which has been battling Marvel for superhero supremacy for decades now.
OK, so can we finally talk about Thanos?
So … who is he?
The bad guy, that’s who.
Um, a little more specific?
Thanos has shown up briefly in a number of MCU movies, and he’s been grumbling about those pesky Avengers for years. In the comics, this god-like thing has been enamored with utter nihilism and even fell in love with Mistress Death, who’s just as chipper as you’d expect someone with the name “Mistress Death” to be. His ultimate motives in the MCU seem a bit more nebulous, but you can bet that the annihilation of the Avengers, destruction of the earth and, perhaps, conquest of the known universe are likely high on his list of priorities.
Oh, also worth noting: He’s the adopted father of both Gamora and Nebula, pitting them against each other when they were kids and teaching them both to kill, kill, kill. He’s also had some dealings with Loki, who’s Thor’s brother and the big bad villain in The Avengers, but who may be sort of an unofficial Avenger these days. (If you’re familiar with Harry Potter, think of Infinity Wars-Loki as a bit like mid-series Severus Snape: You don’t quite know whether he’s a good guy or not.)
Surely, Thanos won’t be able to take on all those Avengers by himself, will he?
Maybe, maybe not. But he’s feeling insecure enough that he’s determined to gather up all the universe’s Infinity Stones.
Infinity Stones? You’re joking.
I never joke. Except about pinkie swears.
Right. So …
Yeah, the Infinity Stones. There are six, and they’re objects of immense power scattered throughout the universe. Except that earth must be some sort of Infinity Stone magnet, because most of them have been there at one point or another. In the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, the Collector—
He’s a mysterious galactic figure who collects things, OK?
Anyway, the Collector described them as “six singularities” that were concentrated into stones at the dawn of the universe. They all have their own special names and colors—like apocalyptic birth stones. We’ve seen most of them by now:
The blue Space Stone—initially called the Tesseract—made a cameo in the post-trailer scene in Thor, graduated to a starring role in Captain America: The First Avenger and made a triumphant return in The Avengers, where it allowed Loki to open a galactic causeway to earth for an invading army. The stone made its way to Thor’s home planet of Asgard (since destroyed), but Thor: Ragnarok hinted that the Space Stone is once again in Loki’s hands.
Loki also once toted the Mind Stone around the galaxy, which was originally something of a loaner from Thanos himself. Placed in Loki’s blade-like scepter, Loki was able to control the minds of anyone he touched. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the stone underwent a makeover from blue to yellow and landed, oddly enough, in the middle of Vision’s forehead.
Despite its name, the red Reality Stone does not strip superheroes of their superpowers and force them to get real jobs. Nor did it manifest itself as a stone, exactly, in Thor: The Dark World. Called the Aether there, it looked more like a big, red mist, and it apparently changes “matter into dark matter,” according to Thor’s pop Odin. It was shipped off to the Collector at the end of the Dark World, but its current locale may be a bit uncertain, given that the Collector’s lair was destroyed in Guardians of the Galaxy.
The purple Power Stone is your prototypical planet destroyer. The Guardians of the Galaxy took it from the galactic terrorist Ronan in their titular first movie and handed it over to the good folks of planet Xandar.
The Time Stone is currently set in a relic known as the Eye of Agamotto and in the possession of Doctor Strange, who uses it to (surprise, surprise) manipulate time.
The last stone (the Soul Stone, if it follows the pattern set by Marvel comics) is still MIA. But it may be somewhere in, or under, Black Panther’s country of Wakanda. We’re told in the early stages of Black Panther that a meteor crashed to earth that gave the country its wealth of vibranium (the strongest, most versatile metal in the world), and that same meteor may have something to do with the glowing flower that’s the source of Black Panther’s power.
Each one of these stones has the power to cause some serious galactic havoc. If Thanos gets his hands on all six and stuffs them into that little gauntlet of his, the Avengers and all their friends may be in some serious trouble.
But they’ll win, right?
Well … maybe? Probably? But maybe not right away. Infinity War is designed, essentially, as a two-parter, with the second (and as of yet unnamed) part landing in 2019. The Avengers have to have something to keep them busy next year.