SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Marvel Studios' Black Panther, in theaters now.
Director/co-writer Ryan Coogler's Black Panther is already set to win big at the box office, but fans are questioning why the 18th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn't tie into the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War by revealing the final Infinity Stone.
Over the past decade of Marvel movies, we've seen five of the six Infinity Stones, as Thanos has emerged as the franchise's biggest villain. As the Mad Titan collects the powerful gems to place in the Infinity Gauntlet, fans already know this will be the focus of the next two Avengers movies. Many had assumed that Black Panther would reveal the location of the orange-colored Soul Stone, but we now know that it doesn't appear in the film.
The mystery of the Soul Stone is the one that just keeps on giving. Just as Thor: Ragnarok didn't fulfill the theory that Idris Elba's Heimdall possessed the Soul Stone, Black Panther did not unveil its location. However, speaking to IGN, Coogler revealed why Black Panther didn't see the Soul Stone come into play:
"I love the Infinity Stones as much as any comic book fan, it’s just Wakanda already has its thing, which is Vibranium. For us, that was special enough, so to throw in something like another special thing didn’t feel right. It felt like we should stick with our one MacGuffin for the country and explore that, let that be the important thing because, frankly we didn’t need to have another piece like that. [Marvel Studios] never really was interested in putting a stone in there, either.”
As the final movie before the supersized ensemble that is Infinity War, it would've been easy for Coogler to include the plot point, however, it's understandable why he wanted to keep Black Panther as totally its own separate entity instead of a prelude to another movie.
Interestingly, there were several theories floating around that the Soul Stone could appear in Black Panther. Some guessed the orange sand in Wakanda's palace was the form that the Stone was taking. Remembering that Infinity Stones can appear as substances like a liquid (the Reality Stone), it was entirely possible that this was the case for the Soul Stone. Elsewhere, others guessed that the vibranium meteor that his Wakanda contained the Soul Stone, which would effectively make all of the realm the final piece of Thanos' puzzle and explain why he's there in the Infinity War trailer. Coogler has seemingly shot down all those possibilities (for now).
Ultimately, it looks like it is up to Infinity War directors the Russo Brothers to decide exactly what the Soul Stone is and where it is hiding. If Thanos gathers the six stones, anyone familiar with Infinity Gauntlet will know it would make him an almost unstoppable force across the galaxy, and set up the devastating end to the MCU's Phase 3 that fans ae expecting. Either way, viewers will have to wait a little longer for a definitive answer on where the Soul Stone has been hiding for all these years.