Thanos' 'Avengers: Infinity War' Stones May Be the Key to Who Lives and Who Dies

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

With Avengers: Infinity War quickly approaching, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 3 endgame becoming clearer and clearer, set photos, interviews, and promotional material provide a steady stream of tidbits of information regarding the plot of the third Avengers movie. The latest trailer, seen below, gave us our clearest picture yet… while raising even more questions.

Don't worry: We have theories. Dive in for the full picture... unless you're a spoilerphobe. Potential twists ahead.

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The Thanos snap, explained

"He only ever had one goal," Gamora says of her adopted father, Thanos. "To wipe out half the universe. if he gets all the infinity stones, he can do it with the snap of his fingers." The line happens to be a reference to Infinity Gauntlet #1, the kickoff to Marvel's six-issue crossover event from 1991 in which Thanos did just that, wielding all of the infinity gems and obliterating half the universe with a literal snap. Infinity War nods to the cataclysmic event, and what we actually know about the movie, plus what we see in this new trailer, points to a similar fate -- if Thanos can actually wrangle the stones. That's where things get tricky. But first...

thanos black order and loki in infinity war
Marvel Studios

Thanos, The Black Order, Infinity Stones, and the plot of Infinity War, explained

Taking place about two years after Captain America: Civil War, Infinity War follows Thanos and his "family," the Black Order -- which includes Proxima Midnight, Corvus Glaive, Black Dwarf, and Ebony Maw (who we later see torturing Doctor Strange) -- as they collect the Infinity Stones to place them in the Infinity Gauntlet, a giant gold glove that allows the being wielding it to have god-like powers, like (as has been reported from other Infinity War footage) hurling a moon at people.

In the earliest of promos shown for Infinity War, Thanos was seen wearing the gauntlet with all the stones in place. Since then, Avengers 3 and 4 have stopped being referred to as a two-part movie and are now sequels that were shot back to back. In recently released set visit interviews, the Russo brothers have compared Infinity War to a '90s heist movie like Out of Sight and said the Infinity Stones are the "bedrock" of the movie. Is Thanos the George Clooney-type criminal of the Marvel universe?

All of this tells us where the plot's going up to a point. Thanks to the final Avengers: Infinity War trailer and poster, we know for sure that Thanos will obtain three of the six Infinity Gems to place in the gauntlet. The purple Power Gem, the blue Space Gem, and the red Reality Gem, what does that tell us about Thanos's actions leading into the battle on Wakanda, and based on the new trailer, the epic showdown on the orange planet Titan? 

The entire movie may revolve around the collection of the missing Soul Stone. But let's show our work.

purple power stone guardians
Marvel Studios

The Nova Corps has the purple Orb (Power) Stone on Xandar

Is there a chance for a brief Glenn Close cameo at the beginning of this movie? We can only hope. The Power Gem, appearing as The Orb in the first Guardians of the Galaxy, was left on Xandar, the homeworld of the Nova Corps. The Novas are sort of policemen of the galaxy (even though they haven't featured prominently in any MCU movies besides the first Guardians) and were keeping the Power Stone on Xandar where it would be "safe." Apparently it's not safe enough, as the power gem has been in all shots of the Gauntlet we've seen from Infinity War, implying it will be the first, if not among the first, stone to be collected. What better way to set up the strength of Thanos and his forces by showing them lay waste to Xandar early on?

blue space stone infinity gems
Marvel Studios

Loki has the blue Space Stone (Tesseract) in space

A better way to start may be to have Thanos defeat two of the strongest Avengers very early on. In the Thor: Ragnarok after-credits scene, Thor, Hulk, and Loki took the surviving Asgardians on a spaceship that was already big before we saw it dwarfed by a larger, more imposing ship. Loki managed to sneak the Tesseract off Asgard before it was destroyed, and in the Infinity War trailers, we've seen him offer it up while surrounded by the members of the Black Order. In the first trailer, we saw Banner in human mode having fallen to Earth and landed in Strange's New York Sanctum even though we left him on a space ship in Hulk form. In the newest trailer, we see Thanos breaking the Tesseract, placing the Space Stone in the Gauntlet and crushing Thor's head. Things are NOT looking good for Loki's lifespan (i.e. if anyone's going to die, it's him). It also looks like... Thor gets tossed into space (where he meets the Guardians) while Hulk gets thrown to Earth? Crazy.

reality infinity stone thor the dark world
Marvel Studios

The Collector has the red Reality Stone (Aether) on Knowhere

The last we saw the Aether, it was being given by Lady Sif to Benicio del Toro's Collector character in the Thor: The Dark World post-credit scene. Reportedly, Thanos will head to Knowhere to get the Stone from Del Toro and the Guardians will be there to see that happen, before they are paired up with Thor and before they are on Earth. Not only does this scene include an Arrested Development Easter egg -- we wouldn't dare spoil -- but might help drive the Guardians towards Earth to find Thor floating in space.

green time stone doctor strange
Marvel Studios

Doctor Strange has the green Time Stone (Eye of Agamotto pendant) in New York

The Doctor Strange solo film was mostly isolated from the other MCU films, following Stephen Strange's rise to the status of Sorcerer Supreme. But the movie does hinge on Strange's Eye of Agamotto pendant, which encases the Time Stone. Based on the trailer, Strange is present in the final battle on Titan with Iron Man, Spider-Man, Drax, and Star-Lord, but they haven't shown us a shot of him that shows he still has the pendant by the final battle. We know he does have it in New York when Thanos's spinning ring spaceship shows up, and the newest trailer has Strange getting his head spiked by a mental attack from Ebony Maw. Is the Time Stone lost early on, or does Strange manage to keep a Stone to himself?

vision yellow mind stone avengers infinity war
Marvel Studios

Vision brings the yellow Mind Stone with him to Wakanda

Up until the final trailer and set visit reports were released, many assumed the Soul Stone would have to be in Wakanda because the first Infinity War teaser showed a climactic-looking battle between war-worn Captain America and a handful of Avengers leading the Wakandan Army.

However, pulling information from recent set visit reports, details gleaned from tie-in Lego sets (yes, really!), and final trailer, it's obvious that Vision makes it to Wakanda with the Mind Stone still in his head and that Captain America thinks the newly public nation will be the best place to protect him. A shot of Shuri from the trailer confirms that the smartest person in the MCU will be tasked with attempting to find a way to remove the Mind Stone from Vision without killing him.

Five down, one big mystery Stone to go...but where is it? Every other Infinity Stone has debuted on screen as something else. Nothing has shown up with a tangerine hue. So have we seen the Soul Stone already? Or is there a trickier answer. Here are the top theories on where that orange sucker could be hanging out.

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The orange Soul Stone is the planet Titan

Surprise, surprise: the current run of Marvel Avengers comics is also dealing with the Infinity Stones, allowing fans to bounce between the movies and comics they love and for everyone else to continue ignoring the paperbacks like they have for decades. Ahem.

In the comics, the Soul Stone is actually growing by absorbing souls. This lead some to speculate that Titan, the orange planet we see in the Infinity War trailer, the destroyed home world of Thanos, might actually be the Soul Stone that has expanded to planet size. That would explain why some key Avengers seem to be battling Thanos on the planet late in the movie. If it’s dead, why would they go there otherwise?

tony stark iron man in avengers infinity war
Marvel Studios

Tony Stark is the Soul Stone

Remember in Iron Man 2 when a Walt Disney like Howard Stark told Tony that his greatest invention was his son? Also, remember that Howard Stark is a founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D., which invented -- among other things -- an entirely new element for his son to discover decades later? The Stark Parents were a bit older in life when they had Tony, and marketing materials (cups!) that pair Iron Man with an orange glow have some suspecting that the Soul Stone is actually trapped or hidden inside Tony Stark, courtesy of Howard, who saw the danger in the Infinity object when it was discovered. Robert Downey Jr.’s character has been the center of the Avengers team since his debut in 2008, it would make sense if Stark’s entire existence was key, and his almost inevitable death -- either in Infinity War or by the end of the untitled Avengers 5 -- that much more powerful.

black panther avengers infinity war
Marvel Studios

The Soul Stone is in Wakanda

Although the Soul Stone doesn’t pop up in Black Panther, that hasn’t stopped fans from wondering if the Soul Stone could have descended to Earth as part of the Vibranium meteor that gives Wakanda it’s special metal. In Black Panther, we’re told the goddess Bast gave the Wakandans access to the heart-shaped-herb that gives warriors and kings the power of the Black Panther after they visit the Ancestral Plane. It’s the spirits -- or SOULS -- of the ancestors being so present and tangible that has some wondering if the heart-shaped herb isn’t growing out of a Soul Stone source.

heimdell in thor ragnarok
Marvel Studios

Heimdall has -- or is -- the Soul Stone

For a long time now, the tint of Idris Elba’s eyes as Heimdall and the Asgardian’s power to see people across limitless space has had some people (your humble author included) stanning for Heimdall being the living Soul Stone. His Stone power would allow him to view all souls where-ever they are in the universe, and Odin could have happened across the Soul Stone and hid it in a person just like Howard Stark could have had the same idea. The only problems with this theory are the lack of Heimdall in any of the Infinity War marketing and the lack of Soul Stone talk at all, even after we speculated that Thanos would come across the Asgardian ship (where we left Heimdall) early on in the film.

thanos in avengers infinity war
Marvel Studios

The Soul Stone... may not show up in Avengers: Infinity War

Look, the poster only has Thanos with three stones in the Gauntlet -- who said this movie was going to give you all six Infinity Stones? It's very possible the title of Avengers 4 could be some sort of spoiler that reveals Thanos doesn’t get all the Stones until next year’s installment. Friday’s final trailer shows the Mad Titan, his army of Outriders, and his motley crew of Black Order aliens are more than a match for our MCU heroes. The trailer features Thanos single-palming a grapple with Captain America and jump-punching a downed Iron Man on Titan. This guy doesn’t need all six Stones to kick ass.

Or perhaps the movie ends with Thanos having a full gauntlet, but never explaining where the Soul Stone was so we can spend most of 2018 and early 2019 theorizing just how he got his snap on. We're here for whatever happens. At least after Avengers 4, we immediately have the finale season of Game of Thrones to worry about. Geek obsession schedule locked down.

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Dave Gonzales is a pop-culture writer and podcaster who wields the internet's version of the Infinity Gauntlet. Follow him @da7e.