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What you need to know before 'Avengers: Infinity War': A Marvel movie refresher

POSTED April 26, 2018 8:59 a.m.
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SALT LAKE CITY — From its inception 10 years ago, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been an experiment unlike anything ever attempted before on film: a multibillion-dollar mega-franchise that, for better or worse, has forever altered the landscape of blockbuster moviemaking.

It’s easy to miss just how gutsy the whole endeavor has been, partially because Marvel Studios makes it look so easy. (With 18 movies already under its belt, it has yet to release a genuinely “bad” one. By comparison, no other studio so far has even managed to launch a shared cinematic universe — and not for lack of trying.)

For anyone who thinks Marvel is just resting on its laurels, though … well, they’re just not paying attention. After a string of genre-pushing films, including this year’s “Black Panther,” this weekend’s release of the MCU’s 19th installment, “Avengers: Infinity War,” marks not only the culmination of everything that’s come before but also possibly Marvel’s gutsiest move yet: bringing together virtually every part of the MCU in a single, massive spectacle on a scale that is genuinely unprecedented.

Even gutsier still, though, is the fact that all of it — the whole, decade-in-the-making, CGI-infused enchilada — is happening specifically so that entire chunks of what audiences know and love about the MCU can be destroyed. For good. Now that is crazy.

With so many moving parts and intersecting details, “Infinity War” is all but guaranteed to test even diehard fans’ knowledge of the MCU. So here’s a brief refresher of just the basics of what audiences will need to know about the Marvel universe going into “Infinity War.”

(Note: Light spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen all of the previous MCU movies.)

The Infinity Stones

If there is one thing that has unified even the most disparate elements of the MCU so far, it’s the Infinity Stones.

First appearing on screen back in 2011’s “Thor,” the Infinity Stones have now popped up in nine out the 18 movies leading up to the newest “Avengers,” although not always mentioned as such, nor in ways that would necessarily be recognizable to non-comics fans.

So what are they? Well, basically, super-powered (and color-coded) gems that control different aspects of the universe. As Benicio Del Toro’s character the Collector explained in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Before creation itself, there were six singularities. Then the universe exploded into existence, and the remnants of these systems were forged into concentrated ingots … Infinity Stones.”

The Collector then goes on to mention that only a being of “extraordinary strength” can hold an Infinity Stone.

Unfortunately for the plucky heroes of the MCU, one such being is Thanos, the Mad Titan (more on him later), and he doesn’t want just one; he wants all six — so much so, in fact, that he’s got a nifty gauntlet to hold them all, called, appropriately enough, the Infinity Gauntlet.

(A fake, right-handed Infinity Gauntlet was stored in Odin’s vault; the real deal, though, is left-handed and very much in Thanos’ possession, as shown during a mid-credits scene for “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”)

Here’s a rundown of each of the Infinity Stones:

1. Blue — the Space Stone (aka the Tesseract)

Appears in: “Thor “ (2011), “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011), “Marvel’s The Avengers” (2012) and “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017).

What it does: The blue Space Stone allows interdimensional travel, as seen in “The Avengers.” Loki used it to open a wormhole above New York City so that the alien species the Chitauri could invade Earth — an event in the MCU that is often referred to as the “Battle of New York.”

Current location: At the end of “The Avengers,” the Space Stone was returned to Asgard for safekeeping. Just before Asgard’s destruction in “Thor: Ragnarok,” however, it is implied that Loki might have swiped it, in which case it would be on the spaceship with Loki, Thor and the rest of the Asgardian survivors that gets intercepted by Thanos’ uncharacteristically pleasant-sounding ship, the Sanctuary 2, in a mid-credits scene after “Thor: Ragnarok.”

2. Yellow — the Mind Stone

Appears in: “Marvel’s The Avengers” (2012), “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015) and “Captain America: Civil War” (2016).

What it does: The yellow Mind Stone can control minds, granting the user enhanced intelligence and telekinetic and telepathic powers. This latter ability was a key element of “The Avengers,” allowing Loki to turn Hawkeye into a mindless grunt for 80 percent of the movie.

Current location: Thanos gave Loki a Chitauri scepter with the Mind Stone in it so that he could use it to take over Earth on Thanos’ behalf. After that, the Mind Stone passed through several hands, but it ultimately wound up embedded in the superhero the Vision’s forehead.

3. Red — the Reality Stone (aka the Aether)

Appears in: “Thor: The Dark World” (2013)

What it does: The red Reality Stone is capable of manipulating matter. In “Thor: The Dark World,” the dark elf Malekith tried to use it to transform the universe into “eternal night.”

Current location: After the defeat of Malekith, the Aether was given to the Collector by the Asgardians in order to avoid having both it and the blue Space Stone housed in one place. After the Collector’s museum is largely destroyed in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” it’s unclear where the Reality Stone ended up. The best bet is that the Collector still has it, though.

4. Purple — the Power Stone

Appears in: “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)

What it does: The Power Stone, as the name implies, grants immeasurable power to whoever wields it, including strength and the ability to emit destructive energy blasts.

Current location: Housed in a metal sphere called the Orb, the Power Stone was the big MacGuffin throughout “Guardians.” That film’s antagonist, Ronan the Accuser, tried to use it to wipe out the capital of the Nova Empire (the planet Xandar) and then go after the big guy himself, Thanos, before ultimately being thwarted by Star-Lord and Co. At the end of the movie, the Power Stone is given to the Nova Empire’s intergalactic police (aka the Nova Corps), and it is currently under lock and key on Xandar.

5. Green — the Time Stone

Appears in: “Doctor Strange” (2016)

What it does: The Time Stone can control … emotions. Just kidding. It controls time, as put to great effect by Doctor Strange when he created an infinite time loop in order to bargain for Earth’s safety with the cosmic entity Dormammu.

Current location: The Time Stone is housed inside the Eye of Agamotto, one of the mystic relics kept at Kamar-Taj under the watchful eye of Wong, Strange’s fellow Master of the Mystic Arts.

6. Orange — the Soul Stone

Appears in: Nothing so far.

What it does: Having not made an appearance as of yet in the MCU, it’s not clear what powers the Soul Stone will have. In the comics, it grants the user power over life and the ability to control the souls of both the living and the dead.

Current location: Nobody knows.

Characters

If you’ve heard statements to the effect that this might be the biggest movie ever made, they aren’t just hyperbole. According to Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, “Infinity War” will feature roughly 76 characters. Arguably the only other medium in which storytelling like this has ever been attempted before is, not too surprisingly, the pages of comic books.

With so many characters to keep track of, it’s a good idea to brush up on where and how the major players, at least, were last seen:

Captain America (aka Steve Rogers)

Played by: Chris Evans

Last seen in: “Captain America: Civil War” (in the flesh),“Spider-Man: Homecoming” (in a recording)

Current status: After the schism between Cap and Iron Man over the question of government oversight (and a few personal issues, too) broke into all-out war, Captain America left his shield and superhero identity behind. He is currently a fugitive and considered a war criminal.

Iron Man (aka Tony Stark)

Played by: Robert Downey Jr.

Last seen in: “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

Current status: At the end of “Spider-Man,” Tony is about to wing a proposal to longtime-girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) in the middle of a press conference. With Cap on the run, though, he is also the de facto leader of the Avengers, who still operate out of their state-of-the-art facility in upstate New York.

Thor (aka Thor Odinsson)

Played by: Chris Hemsworth

Last seen in: “Thor: Ragnarok”

Current status: After bringing about the destruction of Asgard to defeat his sister Hela (Cate Blanchett), losing an eyeball in the process, he and the few Asgardian survivors were on a ship in search of a new home — until that ship was intercepted by Thanos.

Black Widow (aka Natasha Romanoff)

Played by: Scarlett Johansson

Last seen in: “Captain America: Civil War”

Current status: Although Natasha initially sided with Tony during “Civil War,” at a crucial moment she decided to help Cap out instead. So, just like him, she’s on the run, trying to evade capture, waiting for things to get better — or a lot worse.

Hawkeye (aka Clint Barton)

Played by: Jeremy Renner

Last seen in: “Captain America: Civil War”

Current status: Along with Ant-Man, the Falcon and Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye was jailed in the underwater prison known as the Raft for helping Captain America escape — but not for long, as the movie ended with Cap breaking in and freeing them all.

The Hulk (aka Bruce Banner)

Played by: Mark Ruffalo

Last seen in: “Thor: Ragnarok”

Current status: After stealing one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Quinjets at the end of “Age of Ultron” and zipping off to who knows where, it’s revealed in “Thor: Ragnarok” that Bruce (as the Hulk) has been slumming it on the alien planet Sakaar as the reigining champion of the Grandmaster’s twisted gladiatorial games where he eventually encountered Thor. At the end, they were on the same spaceship that ran into Thanos.

Nick Fury

Played by: Samuel L. Jackson

Last seen in: “Avengers: Age of Ultron”

Current status: Fury has been noticeably absent since 2015’s “Age of Ultron,” in which he helped the Avengers defeat Tony Stark’s rogue A.I., Ultron, and his army of robot minions. However, Fury is alive and well.

The Vision

Played by: Paul Bettany

Last seen in: “Captain America: Civil War”

Current status: As arguably the most powerful Avenger, Vision’s participation should have singlehandedly decided the outcome of the whole Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man fight — were it not for Scarlet Witch and their budding romantic relationship. Distracted by her, he accidentally shot down one of his own team, War Machine, who was paralyzed in the fall.

Scarlet Witch (aka Wanda Maximoff)

Played by: Elizabeth Olsen

Last seen in: “Captain America: Civil War”

Current status: Just freed from the Raft by Captain America.

Quicksilver (aka Peter Maximoff)

Played by: Aaron Taylor-Johnson

Current status: Dead — he took several bullets during the Battle of Sokovia — but that may not mean much once the Infinity Stones come into play.

The Winter Soldier (aka Bucky Barnes)

Played by: Sebastian Stan

Last seen in: “Black Panther”

Current status: At the end of “Civil War,” a one-armed Bucky is put into cryogenic stasis in an ultra high-tech facility in Wakanda in order to protect him. However, the mid-credits scene of “Black Panther” shows him awake in a small African village where he encounters Black Panther’s sister, Shuri.

Falcon (aka Sam Wilson)

Played by: Anthony Mackie

Last seen in: “Captain America: Civil War”

Current status: Freed from the Raft by Captain America.

The Guardians of the Galaxy

Played by: Chris Pratt (Star-Lord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), Bradley Cooper (voice of Rocket), Vin Diesel (voice of Groot), Pom Klementieff (Mantis) and Karen Gillan (Nebula)

Current status: After spending much of the movie apart, the team is reunited at the end of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” — plus a couple additional members (Mantis and Gamora’s sister, Nebula). But by defeating his father, Ego the Living Planet, Star-Lord was forced to give up his newfound Celestial super-powers.



Spider-Man (aka Peter Parker)

Played by: Tom Holland

Last seen in: “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

Current status: His first solo outing in the MCU saw Peter fighting to earn an official spot on the Avengers. However, when finally offered the opportunity at the end of the movie, he chooses not to accept Tony Stark's offer.

Doctor Strange (aka Stephen Strange)

Played by: Benedict Cumberbatch

Last seen in: “Thor: Ragnarok”

Current status: Following his battle with Dormammu, the Sorcerer Supreme relinquished possession of the Eye of Agamotto and is currently serving as the Guardian of the New York Sanctum (one of the three home bases of the Masters of the Mystic Arts), which is where Thor and Loki encounter him in “Ragnarok.”

Ant-Man (aka Scott Lang)

Played by: Paul Rudd

Last seen in: “Captain America: Civil War”

Current status: Just freed from the Raft by Captain America.

Black Panther (aka T’Challa)

Played by: Chadwick Boseman

Last seen in: “Black Panther”

Current status: Having defeated the first threat to his homeland since his accession to the throne of Wakanda, “Black Panther” ended with T’Challa deciding to drop the veil of secrecy surrounding Wakanda and share its culture and technology with the outside world for the first time in history.

Thanos (aka the Mad Titan)

Played by: Josh Brolin

Last seen in: “Avengers: Age of Ultron”

Current status: Thanos, the big bad guy behind so much of what has gone on in the MCU to date (and the father of the Guardians of Galaxy's Gamora and Nebula), has been hinted at as far back as 2011’s “Thor.” He made his first brief appearance in “The Avengers” the following year and then showed up again, played by Brolin for the first time, in “Guardians of the Galaxy” in 2014. When he was last glimpsed, however, it was in the mid-credits scene for "Age of Ultron" as he put on the Infinity Gauntlet (sans Stones), saying, “Fine. I’ll do it myself.” Judging by the new movie, that line probably wasn’t referring to his laundry. And if the comics are any indicator, the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy and anyone else who winds up in his path could be in a lot of trouble. There's a reason it's taken 10 years to build to this moment.

Sources: Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki, Insider, Inverse

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