Earth's Mightiest Heroes will finally take on Thanos next year in Avengers: Infinity War. Here are the important story lines to remember.

Feature Rob Leane

Apr 13, 2018

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

This article contains spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok, and various MCU movies before it.

Avengers: Infinity War is set to be the culmination of everything we’ve seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have written the script, with Joe Russo and Anthony Russo handling the direction. With Infinity War, they are working with a bigger stable of heroes than ever before. The film’s official poster shows off well over a dozen heroes, but right at the center of the image is Josh Brolin’s Thanos, the big purple space bastard that will show up on Earth – after years of teasing – during Infinity War.

Let’s start with him, as we venture into our primer on every story line you need to remember before this gargantuan crossover film finally reaches our eyeballs…

Who is Thanos?

In the comics, Thanos was an alien Eternal born on the planet Titan. He was born mutated, with a giant body and hide-like skin. He has superhuman intelligence, strength, speed and stamina, as well as being immortal, telepathic and nigh-on invulnerable to pain. 

As a child, Thanos became obsessed with death. And as an adult, he actually met her: the personification of death is a female Grim-Reaper-esque figure in the Marvel Comics universe, and Thanos became infatuated with her. Thanos decided to acquire more power to make himself a worthy companion to Death herself.

Over years of comic book storytelling, Thanos acquired various Infinity Gems, which endow him with even more abilities. Thanos has used these gems to embark on many a galactic conquest, battling pretty much every superhero going at some point in his rampant quest for power. As of yet, the heroes of the MCU have not faced a threat this massive.

What are the Infinity Stones?

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has its own colorful gems, of course, known as the Infinity Stones. In Guardians Of The Galaxy, Benicio del Toro’s Collector explained that there are six of these stones. They were originally singularities, which predated the creation of the known universe. Four beings known as the Cosmic Entities forged the singularities into six color-coded stones.

So far in the MCU, we’ve seen all but one of these stones. First came the Tesseract, which was located and utilized by HYDRA during Captain America: The First Avenger. The villainous Red Skull ended up getting sucked inside it at the end of the movie, with the cosmic cube falling into the possession of Howard Stark and S.H.I.E.L.D. afterwards.

Years later, during The Avengers, Loki arrived on Earth and stole the Tesseract from S.H.I.E.L.D., before using it to try and take over the world. Earth’s mightiest heroes banded together to defeat him. The Tesseract went into Odin’s vault on Asgard. It’s heavily implied that Loki stole it back at the end of Thor: Ragnarok.

Loki’s sceptre, also seen in The Avengers, was later revealed to contain another Infinity Stone. The stone was removed from the sceptre during Age Of Ultron, and it wound up being plonked in the Vision’s head. As things stand, that’s where it remains.

The red Aether, used by Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith during Thor: The Dark World, is another one of the Infinity Stones. When Thor defeated Malekith, the Aether was sent to The Collector, who as far as anyone knows, is still keeping an eye on it. It wasn’t put in Odin’s vault because it was deemed too dangerous to keep two Infinity Stones in the same place.

The purple Orb, used by Lee Pace’s Ronan during Guardians Of The Galaxy, is also an Infinity Stone. After Star-Lord took it from Ronan in dramatic fashion and put an end to the blue baddie, the galactic peacekeepers known as Nova Corps took possession of the Orb.

The green Eye of Agamotto, used by Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange during Doctor Strange, is also an Infinity Stone. Strange used it to warp time and defeat Dormammu. Strange remains the current owner of the stone.

Each of these stones has an official fancy title, hinting at what they can be used to control/manipulate: The Tesseract is the Space Stone; the sceptre contained the Mind Stone; the Aether is the Reality Stone; the Orb contained the Power Stone; and the Eye of Agamotto is the Time Stone. There is also one called the Soul Stone, which hasn’t shown up in the films yet.

Basically, if you put all of these stones into a glove called the Infinity Gauntlet, you can warp time, space and reality to your will, as well as gaining incredible physical power. This is what Thanos wants to do. And presumably he will achieve that during Infinity War, providing the MCU with its most hard-to-beat baddie of all time.

One Infinity Gauntlet was seen in Odin’s vault during Thor, but in Ragnarok, Cate Blanchett’s Hela deemed it a fake and knocked it quite literally off its perch. Thanos owns another Infinity Gauntlet, which appears to be genuine. But as far as we know, at the moment, he doesn’t have any of the stones to put in it.

Thanos’ beef with Earth

Let’s backtrack a bit, and remember Thanos’ story so far. He might not have any Infinity Stones right now, but he did own a few in the past.

Thanos bankrolled Loki’s invasion of Earth during The Avengers, providing a powerful sceptre (later revealed to be an Infinity Stone) and a Chitarui army to aid the God of Mischief’s cause. Describing the nature of Thanos and Loki’s mission earlier on the film, Thanos’ underling The Other said this to his purple master: “The world will be his, the universe yours. And the humans, what can they do but burn?”

Thanos’ face was first glimpsed during the post-credits scene of The Avengers, with The Other updating Thanos on the events of the movie, with another creepy little statement: “Humans… they are not the cowering wretches we were promised. They stand. They are unruly, and therefore cannot be ruled. To challenge them is to court death.”

Thanos let out a little smile at this announcement. Perhaps this version of Thanos just ruddy loves a challenge, or maybe he is already infatuated with Death and sees a conquest of Earth as a good way to impress her. Either way, he’s clearly keen to have another pop at our planet.

Instead of burning, the human race – with help from Thor – stood up to Loki and thwarted his plans. Thanos lost one Infinity Stone (the one in sceptre) and failed to gain another one (the Tesseract). Plus, a lot of his foot soldiers were killed, all thanks to the Avengers. Thanos’ revenge has been a long time coming.

Thanos’ family matters (and beef with the Guardians)

Thanos was next seen in the first Guardians Of The Galaxy movie. Once again, he was the puppet master pulling the strings of the film’s main villain. This time, Thanos was working that blue Kree chap, Lee Pace’s Ronan. Thanos lent Ronan some of Ronan foot soldiers for his conquest of the planet Xandar, on the promise that Ronan would locate the Infinity Stone known as the Orb and deliver it to Thanos.

Ronan’s lackeys located the Orb on the planet Morag, but Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord beat them to it (you’ll remember that this was the planet where Star-Lord danced his way through the opening credits of the movie). Star-Lord brought the Orb to Xandar, hoping to sell it to the Broker.

Thanos sent his ‘favorite daughter’, Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, to intercept the Orb. Gamora had her own ideas, though, planning to take the Orb for herself and use it against her Mad Titan of a father. Thanos had been known to torture his kids, providing Gamora with motivation.

But the galaxy had a plan of its own, too: Gamora’s quest for the Orb put her on a collision course with Star-Lord, Groot, Rocket Raccoon and Drax, which ultimately led to the formation of the Guardians of the Galaxy superhero team/bunch of a-holes.

Seething from Gamora’s betrayal, Thanos teamed up his other daughter – Karen Gillan’s Nebula, who he painfully upgraded with technological implants – with Ronan. Nebula and Ronan succeeded in stealing the Orb from the Guardians, and Ronan decided to take the Orb for himself. Fed up with being demeaned and bossed about, Ronan threatened to come for Thanos after he had destroyed Xandar.

But, of course, the Guardians put a stop to Ronan, obliterating him with the power of the Orb. For the second time, Thanos was left without an Infinity Stone and down a lot of soldiers. Plus, both of his daughters had gone AWOL.

At the end of Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Thanos showed his face again. He donned his Infinity Gauntlet and said, “Fine, I’ll do it myself.” 

How Thor fits in

Also in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Thor had a vision quest in a cave. He saw the Infinity Stones whizzing about in space, spliced in with some images of destruction. At the end of the movie, Thanos vowed to leave Earth in order to work it all out.

“I have no choice,” he explained to his Avengers teammates. “The Mind Stone [now in Vision’s head] is the fourth of the Infinity Stones to show up in the last few years. It’s not a coincidence. Someone has been playing an intricate game and has made pawns of us.”

Thor: Ragnarok picks up two years later, with Thor explaining to a skeleton that he “didn’t find any” Infinity Stones. Thor also appears to be none the wiser regarding Thanos, who is surely the one making pawns of the Avengers. Loki doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to clue his brother in about the purple-faced menace, either.

In the first of Ragnarok’s two post-credits scenes, a giant spaceship intercepts the newly homeless citizens of Asgard. This large ship has been confirmed to be Sanctuary 2, Thanos’ new ride. (Sanctuary 1, apparently, is the pile of rocks where his throne is based.)

There are a couple of ways to read this scene: either Thanos has managed to track Thor and Loki of his own volition, or Loki has summoned his former collaborator deliberately. I prefer the second option, which plays into the on-going narrative merry-go-round of Loki saying he will change his ways before promptly doing the opposite.

Perhaps Loki did steal the Tesseract from Odin’s vault during the third act of Ragnarok. And maybe, knowing that Thanos is obsessed with the Infinity Stones, he decided to contact the purple mega-villain and rebuild their alliance. This would certainly chime quite nicely with what we know about Infinity War from the footage screened at D3. 

The footage from D3

There are various reports on the web describing the Infinity War footage that Marvel screened at both the D3 fan event and the San Diego Comic Con earlier this year. All accounts agree that the footage begins with Thor floating around in space, before bumping face-first into the Guardians of the Galaxy’s Milano spaceship.

This opening moment is interesting, especially when you put it together with the post-credits scene from Ragnarok: Thor and Loki’s ship is met by Thanos’ giant craft shortly after the events of Ragnarok, and some time later, Thor is on his own in deep space. It seems plausible that there is a Loki betrayal in the middle of those two events, with the God of Mischief teaming up with Thanos once again and deciding to ditch his brother.

Further details from those footage descriptions seem to back up this idea, with Loki seen holding the Tesseract and Thanos battling the heroes of Earth. Having been defeated in The Avengers, this villainous duo seems to be really upping their game. Apparently there’s even a moment when Thanos, wielding a partially-filled Infinity Gauntlet, pulls a moon from space and hurls chunks of it at our beloved Marvel heroes.

It will be interesting to see what the relations are like between all of these superheroes. Apparently Cap is bearded and Black Widow bleached blonde, suggesting that both of them have remained in hiding/on the run since turning against the government in Captain America: Civil War.

There’s also a mention in one of those descriptions of the Hulk-buster armour. Has Tony whipped it out to use against Thanos, or is he fighting the Hulk again? Of course, we’ll just have to wait and see to find out how all these pieces slot together.

Before that…

Before Infinity War arrives in April 2018, Black Panther will hit screens in February. Black Panther, as well as being a highly exciting prospect in of itself, represents Marvel’s last big-screen chance to lay some more groundwork for its biggest crossover film yet.

Given that Bucky and T’Challa will both appear in Infinity War, it doesn’t seem outlandish to predict that the Black Panther film might do something to tease the upcoming crossover, even if it’s just another brief post-credits moment.

Some have predicted that the final Infinity Stone could be powering the technological wonders of Wakanda, providing Black Panther with a personal motivation (defending/maintaining his nation) to wade into the fight against Thanos during Infinity War. Personally, I think that theory feels like a long shot, but all guesswork is valid at this stage.

After that…

It’s also worth remembering that Infinity War will not be the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We already know that Ant-Man And The Wasp (July 2018) and Captain Marvel (March 2019) will be released after Infinity War, with the as-yet-untitled Avengers 4 coming after that (May 2019). It’s even been confirmed that the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming will arrive  in July 2019.

Avengers 4 was previously known as Infinity War Part II, so it seems safe to expect that the story of Thanos and the Infinity Stones will not end with Infinity War in April 2018. Exactly what will happen in this gigantic film, and how it will end, is anyone’s guess at this stage. So feel free to leave your predictions and wishes in the comments below…