Explaining the complicated Soul Stone narrative in Avengers: Infinity War

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Apr 28, 2018

The greatest mystery going into Avengers: Infinity War was, undoubtedly, the location of the Soul Stone. While the other five Infinity Stones have been skipping their merry way around the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the Space Stone was first introduced as the Tesseract in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), the orange-tinged Soul Stone has remained elusive — that is, until Infinity War.

The narrative surrounding the Soul Stone is arguably the most complicated part of Infinity War, so it only seems natural that we spend some time unpacking it.

**SPOILER WARNING: The post contains major spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War.**

Fan theories about the Soul Stone’s location ranged from it being in Black Panther’s home country of Wakanda to being kept behind Heimdall’s eyes to being buried in Tony Stark’s head (seriously). So to have it be on Vormir, guarded by the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) after he was cast out and cursed by the Space Stone, is… something.

If the reactions in your theater were anything like the ones in mine on opening night, then the room devolved into a screaming match when the Red Skull lowered his shadowy Grim Reaper hood. Between the people in my theater yelling “What the f***” and the couple of folks who jumped bodily from their seats to scream more effectively at the screen, it seems fair to say that the Red Skull cameo was a shock.

After all, we haven’t seen the Red Skull since he disappeared in a flash of blue light and was dragged into space in The First Avenger.

But more on the Red Skull later. Let’s talk about the Soul Stone itself first.

According to the Red Skull, the Soul Stone “has a certain wisdom” about it. “You must lose that which you love” and trade “a soul for a soul.” Hence, why Thanos tosses his adopted daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) over a cliff and spends the rest of the film in a state of mourning.

Thanos earns the Soul Stone for his (or, rather, Gamora’s) sacrifice, thus taking hold of four of the six Stones.

As the Red Skull says, though, the Soul Stone is the wisest of the Stones. The way Skull and everyone else speaks about the Soul Stone, it’s almost like it has a personality, a goal it wants to achieve. The other Stones are treated with amazement and a little fear — the Soul Stone is treated with reverence.

In Marvel’s comics, the Soul Stone (referred to as the Soul Gem) is the most sentient of the six. It works with the innate desire to collect souls, which is why it demands a soul in Infinity War. It also traps souls within itself, in some sort of idealistic pseudo-world where the soul is kept safe. The Soul Gem also has the ability to “revert beings to their natural state,” which includes reanimating the dead.

So, here’s a theory for you:

Maybe Gamora’s soul wasn’t so much killed for the sake of the Soul Stone but trapped inside it. That might be why Thanos is momentarily transported to that weird orange-tinged world with the mirror-water floor upon snapping his fingers. The gauntlet is gone and Thanos approaches child-Gamora/Gamora’s harvested soul, who turns to him and asks if he achieved his goal.

“What did it cost?” she asks, expression unreadable.

“Everything,” Thanos tells her right before we (and, supposedly, Thanos’ consciousness) are transported back to the battleground.

In short, Gamora might be alive in a sense of the word, and the weight of carrying his beloved adopted daughter’s soul around with him might start to weigh on Thanos. The question is: Will Thanos try and find a way to bring Gamora back, either with the Soul Stone (which seems unlikely, since her sacrifice was the reason he’s allowed to have it in the first place) or, maybe, the Time Stone?

Credit: Marvel Studios

As for the Red Skull? He tells Thanos and Gamora that he was cursed by the Stones to play guardian and guide for the Soul Stone when he was sucked up into space at the end of The First Avenger. Now, the Red Skull never touched the Soul Stone. He was trying to use the Space Stone for his own (and HYDRA’s) benefit — but it seems that the Soul Stone (the most sentient of the group) didn’t like his plans, so when he was pulled into space by the Space Stone in 1942, he was dropped on Vormir. Or so we presume. Either the Red Skull has been the guardian of the Soul Stone for 76 years pre-Infinity War or he’s seen some stuff…

He’s definitely a more reasonable person in Infinity War, so at least he has that going for him.

Much of the narrative surrounding the Soul Stone leaves us with more questions than answers. Hopefully, we’ll learn some of those answers in Avengers 4 when it premieres in theaters on May 3, 2019.