The Marvel Cinematic Universe is on an indefinite break right now because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The virus can spread with ease, which makes going to the theater practically impossible. That’s why Disney postponed Black Widow and all of its other productions that are currently in the works. As US states have reopened, there has been a massive surge in new COVID-19 cases, and some local governments are already instituting new restrictions that include closing theaters once again. The pandemic also makes it impossible for Marvel to continue shooting some of its upcoming projects.
Several films and Disney+ TV series are in production, but work was paused several months ago to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As it is right now, Disney can’t launch any new Marvel film or TV show, and it can’t release teasers or trailers either. What good would it be to promote MCU Phase 4 titles without being able to offer fans actual launch dates? But Disney is teasing something else on social media, the Marvel movies of the Infinity Saga that make up the previous three phases of the story. And it’s doing it in a way that offers the definitive answer to one of the last key questions we had left after Avengers: Endgame.
What happened to the Infinity Stones? Endgame offered us two sets of answers. First of all, the original stones from the main MCU universe were destroyed early in the first act. At least, that’s what we think happened since we never saw Thanos destroy them. He apparently used the Infinity Gauntlet to disintegrate the stones after completing his lifelong mission. Now that half of all living beings in the known universe were turned to ashes, there’s no need to have Infinity Stones around. The temptation to use them would be too great.
Facing this particular problem, the Avengers had to figure something out and it took them five years before they realized they could borrow Infinity Stones from alternate realities to create their own Infinity Gauntlet and undo the snap. The plan worked, but we learned in the process that the stones had to be put back in the various places they were collected at the exact times they were taken. Otherwise, those parallel realities would risk unfathomable consequences — The Ancient One explained it best:
The Infinity Stones create what you experience as the flow of time. Remove one stone and that flow splits. Now, this may benefit your reality but my new one, not so much. In this new branched reality, without our chief weapon against the forces of darkness, our world will be over run. Millions will suffer.
To put it differently, the stones bring balance to the universe they’re part of. Naturally, the Avengers had to put them all back, and that was Captain America’s final mission. He left with the stones and then he retired.
That’s what we know about all the Infinity Stones that were present in the main MCU timeline during Endgame. One set was destroyed and another was seemingly returned to alternate realities.
A post shared by Marvel Entertainment (@marvel) on Jun 26, 2020 at 2:04pm PDT
This brings us to Disney’s most recent social media campaign that stars none other than the Infinity Gauntlet and the Infinity Stones. In the short clips above, Disney explains that all of the stones have since been destroyed, listing all the Marvel movies each of the stones appeared in. This is a marketing ploy meant to promote Disney+, where all your favorite MCU films are playing along with all of their intact Infinity stones.
What Disney makes it clear with the help of this unexpected promo campaign is that the stones in the main MCU timeline do not exist in a physical form. That’s not to say the world is about to be overrun by darkness — let’s remember what destroyed means. According to Thanos, the stones have been “reduced to atoms” and those atoms apparently still let the stones serve their purpose. The Russo brothers previously confirmed as much. The stones aren’t present in the material form as they used to hold, but they still exist.
It’s unclear whether Disney’s marketing campaign has any ulterior motives. By clarifying that the stones are destroyed, Disney seems to imply that whatever storyline comes next will not integrate this particular element in any way. Well, Loki did escape in another universe with a different version of the Space Stone, so the Tesseract might still be referenced in the Disney+ series Loki. Then again, the Avengers could always manufacture more Pym particles to revisit any other timeline and borrow stones if needed. In fact, it’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness that will ultimately reveal how Doctor Strange plans to protect the world without having access to his most powerful weapon — or whether he plans to somehow get himself another Time Stone.
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