As Avengers: Infinity War gets closer, we're learning more and more about the Mad Titan known as Thanos. From his background as an outcast, to his overall motives for collecting the Infinity Stones which have been seeded all over the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2012's The Avengers, it seems the villain may actually be Marvel's most complex and layered to date.
Apparently, he wants the artifacts to fill his Infinity Gauntlet so he can save the universe in his own twisted way. Thus far, the MCU has accounted for five of these Infinity Stones, leaving the location of one unknown. This final item is the Soul Stone, which did not pop up in Black Panther despite fervent speculation.
What's more, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler has made it clear that the Soul Stone isn't even located in Wakanda. With this confirmation, fans began guessing where it will appear in Infinity War. However, if Marvel Studios wants to make the next two chapters in the Avengers franchise a truly unpredictable adventure, the Soul Stone shouldn't be revealed in that movie at all. Instead, it should be kept in reserve in the next film and then broken out as the main plot driver of Avengers 4.
Thanks to the trailers, we already see Thanos wielding a couple Stones: the Power Stone from Xandar, and the Space Stone (which Loki has as he took the Tesseract in Thor: Ragnarok). With Doctor Strange and Wong joining Iron Man's team, they're most likely protecting the Time Stone (which is in the Eye of Agamotto in Kamar-Taj). Previously leaked footage also has Thanos ambushing the Collector for the Reality Stone (which the Asgardians gave to him in the form of the Aether). As for the Wakanda battle many assumed would be for the Soul Stone, it turns out that is actually to protect Vision and his Mind Stone.
In the Infinity War prelude comic, which is in MCU canon, Wong reveals the importance of the Soul Stone and its potential to be the most dangerous. This is all the more reason why it deserves to have a quest of its own, a standalone MacGuffin that properly illustrates the Stone's importance and the gravity of its existence. The other Stones are powerful in their own right, but this could be the one that levels the playing field or even outshines the rest. Assuming Wong's description is accurate, it shouldn't be underplayed.
From what we've seen so far, all signs point to Thanos and his armies going after the aforementioned five Stones, not this sixth. And while the Soul Stone may indeed end up appearing at the end of the movie -- maybe even in the post-credits -- the advantage of leaving it out completely is that it would help shape the ensuing chapter as a film with even higher stakes, the final part of a universe-altering puzzle.
Another advantage of not revealing the Soul Stone in Infinity War is that it would help Avengers 4 cultivate a different dynamic from its predecessor. Infinity War will have the MCU's superheroes on the defensive throughout, as Thanos' minions help pull off a series of smash-and-grab jobs to steal the Stones. Everyone now chasing the Soul Stone in a follow-up would put them all on an even keel and shape a rollicking treasure hunt a la The Goonies, Indiana Jones, National Treasure or even Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but with super-powered individuals and godlike entities rather than Jedi or pre-teenage kids.
It's worth noting that the official title of Avengers 4 has yet to be revealed because Marvel Studios believes this will spoil things and actually help audiences prematurely figure out what actually happens with the Infinity Stones and the subsequent fate of the MCU. With that in mind, it makes the likelihood of the MCU saving the Soul Stone for the next massive Marvel team-up all the greater, which in turn will help the studio raise the stakes even further -- which is no small feat, considering the level of massive superhero action we're already expecting in Infinity War.
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War stars Robert Downey Jr., Josh Brolin, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Olsen, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Bettany, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Benedict Wong, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Holland and Anthony Mackie. The film opens April 27.