Ever since the first Iron Man movie had Samuel L. Jackson turn up to essentially promise an Avengers movie, Marvel’s post-credits teasers have been as much of an event as the movies themselves, giving easter eggs to fans, teasing the events of future films and offering hints at where the Marvel Cinematic Universe might be going next. Thor: The Dark World is no different. There are two end credits scenes, but one is much more cryptic than the other.
We’ll warn you now: Don’t read any further unless you want the surprise (and some plot elements of Thor: The Dark World) completely spoiled for you. We’re going all in with this one. This is a SPOILER HEAVY article. We’re even going to put a picture in the way of the next block of text to stop your eyes accidentally reading things you don’t want them to.
Here it is.
Still here? Right then. Spoilers it is. While the film’s final scene requires no explanation, the one that appears in the middle of the credits might seem confusing if you’re not a comics reader. So allow us to explain.
Set shortly after the events of Thor: The Dark World, the mid-credits teaser shows Sif and Volstagg delivering the Aether to Taneleer Tevan – the alien known as the Collector – in the space-station museum/menagerie where he houses the artifacts he acquires.
First introduced in Avengers #28 in 1966, the Collector (created by Stan Lee and Don Heck) is one of the elders of the universe – a group of virtually immortal beings who were members of the first races to achieve sentience after the Big Bang. To prevent himself becoming bored with life in a directionless universe, he has dedicated himself to amassing the universe’s rare and unique treasures, holding them in his private facilities where no-one else can reach them.
He might not be particularly trustworthy, but you can trust him to keep things where others can’t get to them. Sif and Volstagg tell the Collector that they want him to keep the Aether safe because Asgard’s armoury already houses the Tesseract (which you’ll remember as the cube-shaped MacGuffin from The Avengers and Captain America: The First Avenger). They reason that two objects of such great power should not be kept in close proximity, and the Collector, eager to expand his portfolio, naturally agrees.
Played by Benicio del Toro, the Collector is due to appear in next summer’s Marvel blockbuster, Guardians Of The Galaxy, and this scene explicitly ties the existing Marvel Cinematic Universe to the world of the Guardians, helpfully establishing that there are definitely more than nine worlds and reminding us that the Asgardians are as much alien as god.
But all that is secondary to the way the characters describe the Tesseract and the Aether. In the scene, they specifically refer to them both as “Infinity Stones”. When Sif and Volstagg have departed, the Collector turns to his companion and states, simply: “One down, five to go.”
If the appearance of Thanos in the mid-credits scene of The Avengers didn’t confirm it, this does: The Marvel Cinematic Universe is heading towards an adaptation of The Infinity Gauntlet.
In case that doesn’t mean anything to you, let’s back up a little. In the comics, the Infinity Stones are a set of six different coloured gems which give the holder vast power over a specific domain: Reality, Time, Space, Soul, Mind and Power. Anyone holding all six has the power to reshape the entire universe to their will. It’s safe to say they’re pretty desirable, not least to power-mad alien warlords.
In The Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos – one of the aforementioned power-mad alien warlords – was the first being to assemble all six gems, despite the best efforts of the Avengers and their allies. Once he had them, Thanos mounted the gems onto a glove that became known as the Infinity Gauntlet. While the Avengers were eventually able to stop him, the gems and gauntlet have appeared in multiple storylines since, always an object of great desirability and power.
While the comic versions of the Infinity Stones are literal gems, it seems that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is representing them in a slightly more practical manner. The Tesseract clearly represents the Space Stone, which gives the holder power to travel great distances and warp space. The Aether appears to be the Power Stone, which gives the holder access to unimaginable energy. And you can bet money that we’ll see at least one more of the gems appear in Guardians Of The Galaxy.
But where is this going? Even though his disciples appear in the film, we know that Thanos isn’t the main villain of Guardians Of The Galaxy – that honour belongs to Ronan the Accuser. And Ultron is the main enemy in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, so there isn’t much space for an Infinity Gauntlet in that story. And smart money wouldn’t bet on Ant-Man or Captain America: The Winter Soldier having a huge amount to do with space, aliens and intergalactic war either.
But Robert Downey Jr. has signed up for Avengers 3. So if we had to speculate, maybe Avengers 3 is where it’ll all go down: a battle royale crossover bringing together the Avengers, the Guardians, and anyone else that Marvel Studios can scrape together, fighting Thanos for control of the Infinity Gauntlet.
We’re guessing, of course. It could be a stand-alone movie, it could be a Guardians Of The Galaxy sequel. And an Infinity Gauntlet prop already appeared as a background easter egg in the first Thor movie, so maybe that’ll tie in somehow, maybe it won’t. Maybe they haven’t even decided what they’re doing with any of it yet. But one way or another, the Infinity Gauntlet movie is coming.
If you thought Samuel L Jackson promising the Avengers was ambitious, we can’t wait to see where this goes…
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