By KAYLEE BREWSTER
“Avengers: Infinity War” is a tale 10 years in the telling.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is a franchise that has slowly built characters, worlds and storylines for a decade, leading to the mega crossover film “Avengers: Infinity War” that opens Friday.
When “Iron Man” was released in 2008, few had any idea of what would follow: a franchise and promotional campaign that changed film forever.
Following “Iron Man,” and Disney’s purchase of Marvel properties, MCU was born. The idea was to create a shared movie universe of characters and even plots, much like how comics work.
After that came films like “Incredible Hulk,” “Thor” and “Captain America: First Avenger,” and the first team-up with characters from all those films in “Avengers.” That film was a huge success, both financially and critically, earning around $623 million and a 92 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Central to the new film is the Infinity Stones plot line, which began with the first Captain America movie in 2011. The past 10 years and 18 films have led up to this moment: The Infinity Stones and the battle with Thanos.
Although shared universes have been done before in film and TV with crossovers and spinoffs, Marvel has taken it 10 steps further. The MCU connects movies and TV shows under the hashtag #itsallconnected. Marvel is not just a simple franchise but a machine; its moving parts also include comics, merchandise, even theme park rides, leaving Disney rolling in the dough and fans flocking to consume the product.
The shared universe idea spreads
As the popularity for the shared universe model of entertainment grows, other studios are using the concept with varying degrees of success. Here’s a look at some of them.
- Like its comics rival Marvel, DC has its own shared universe with “Man of Steel,” “Wonder Woman,” “Batman v. Superman” and “Justice League,” DC’s answer to “Avengers” with all its superheroes together in one film. Upcoming DC film plans include “The Flash,” “Aquaman,” “Wonder Woman 2” and a new Batman movie. The shared universe has a lot of catching up to do with Marvel as it is still collecting its central characters and searching for a new producer.
- Universal studios tried a shared universe called the “Dark Universe” that would have featured classic monsters from its vaults like the Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula and Frankenstein. However, the kick-off film, “The Mummy” with Tom Cruise, was not a success, and the franchise was more or less dumped.
- A King Arthur universe was planned by Warner Bros., starting with Guy Ritchie’s “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.” Later films were to feature characters such as Merlin and Lancelot. The idea was scrapped when the film didn’t turn audiences’ heads.
- Legendary and Warner Bros., teamed up for 2014’s “Godzilla” and went on to make a shared giant monster universe with “King Kong: Skull Island” and a planned “Godzilla vs. King Kong” film to be released in 2020.
What are the Infinity Stones?
Infinity Stones are relics in Marvel comics with special powers. Whoever possesses the stones can control or wipe out half the universe. That’s what the big baddie, Thanos (a powerful warlord who made his first cameo appearance in “Avengers”), wants them for in “Avengers: Infinity War.” The stones have made their way through various films since 2008 and are one of the things that tie the movies, plots and characters together.
Space Stone: Blue
Power: Traveling through space to anywhere in the universe
MCU history: The space stone, aka Tesseract, was used in “Captain America: First Avenger” by the Red Skull to power his weapons, then later by Loki in his attack on New York City in “Avengers.” Since then, it spent some time in Asgard, but its current location is unknown (although it’s assumed to be in Loki’s possession).
Mind Stone: Yellow
Power: Mental abilities such as mind control and increased intelligence
MCU history: The mind stone was concealed in Loki’s scepter in “Avengers” and later taken by SHIELD. Then Hydra (an evil organization) used it to give Wanda and Pietro Maximoff their abilities as the superpowered twins Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. In “Avengers: Age of Ultron” the mind stone was used to create Vision, a synthetic humanoid, who now possesses it.
Reality Stone: Red
Power: Ability to bend reality to the user’s will
MCU history: The red infinity stone, called the Aether, appeared in “Thor: Dark World” in a liquid form and it infected Jane Foster as a host. The Dark Elf Malekith tried to use the Aether to plunge the universe into darkness, but his attempts were foiled by Thor and company. The Aether was then taken to the Collector, a buyer of relics from across the universe.
Power Stone: Purple
Power: Ability to manipulate energy, including leveling planets
MCU history: The orb which housed the purple infinity stone was seen in “Guardians of the Galaxy” where it is stolen by Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord (he and the Guardians fail to sell the orb to the Collector). The stone was taken by Ronan the Accuser who was supposed to give it to Thanos. Instead, he attempted to use it to destroy the planet Xandar. The Guardians of the Galaxy stopped him, and the orb was kept by Nova Corps., an intergalactic military force on Xandar.
Time Stone: Green
Power: Ability to control and manipulate time
MCU history: The time stone was revealed as the Eye of Agamotto in “Doctor Strange” and used by Doctor Strange to defeat Dormammu. Afterward, it was placed back at Kamar-Taj, a secret facility for sorcerers.
Soul Stone: Orange
Power: Regarded as the most powerful stone for its ability to control all life in the universe
MCU history: The soul stone hasn’t yet appeared in MCU. Some think it is kept in Wakanda. Other theories have it placed with various characters or even trapped somewhere in the past. Fans will only find out for sure in “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Films to watch to prepare for “Avengers: Infinity War”
There are more than a dozen MCU films so binge-watching them all before “Avengers: Infinity War” might not be in the realm of possibility (at least not without employing the Time Stone). Recent films with the most direct ties to the events of “Avengers: Infinity War” include:
- “Captain America: Civil War”
- “Doctor Strange”
- “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2”
- “Spider-man: Homecoming”
- “Thor: Ragnorak”
- “Black Panther”