Spoilers! The MCU’s cosmic cube found its way into Captain Marvel. But how exactly?
Warning: Spoilers, of course, follow for Captain Marvel.
So… Marvel just can’t get away from those darned Infinity Stones, can they? Captain Marvel is just the latest movie to feature one of the Stones, in this case the Tesseract, even though it’s set about 20 years before the Great Decimation seen at the end of Avengers: Infinity War where Thanos used the stones to wipe out half of all life everywhere.
But before that universe-altering event, Carol Danvers had to contend with just one of the Stones — the Space Stone. At that point in its history (the film is set in the 1990s), that particular cosmic power source was still contained within the cube known as the Tesseract. And not surprisingly, the appearance of the Tesseract in Captain Marvel has some fans confused. Does its presence there really make sense, or did Marvel goof? How did S.H.I.E.L.D. get the Tesseract? How did Annette Bening’s Mar-Vell get the Tesseract for that matter? Well, as it turns out, Captain Marvel may be pulling a bit of a ret-con here, but it all makes sense in the final analysis. Let’s break down the timeline of the Tesseract!
Pre-History and Asgard
The Space Stone was one of six Infinity Stones created way back when. Like, before the universe even existed. Eventually the Stone was placed inside the Tesseract and wound up in Asgard, where it became “the jewel of Odin’s Treasure Room.” But at some point the powerful item found its way to Earth, where it was hidden for many generations by worshippers of Odin in Tønsberg, Norway.
Captain America: The First Avenger
By 1942, the nasty Red Skull was on the hunt for the legendary treasure, and he found it in Tønsberg. Utilizing its power to create enhanced weapons for his HYDRA agents with the goal of taking over the world, the Skull nonetheless fell victim to the Tesseract when he dared to try to hold the thing in his hand during a battle with Captain America in 1945. Apparently rejecting the villain, the Tesseract teleported the Red Skull across the galaxy to the planet Vormir, where he became the spooky guardian of another Stone, the Soul Stone. And he’s still there to this day, even if he’s played by a different actor now!
Meanwhile, the Tesseract fell to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean at the same time that Captain America was seemingly killed, though in fact he had gone into suspended animation. Eventually Howard Stark discovered the Tesseract while searching for Cap, and he began studying the object. (These studies would help Stark discover a new element that would save his son Tony’s life years later when his Iron Man suit’s energy core was discovered to be poisoning him in Iron Man 2.)
Decades after it was found by Howard Stark, the Tesseract was being used as part of Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S., a top-secret initiative by SHIELD and NASA. Run by Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening), who was secretly the Kree scientist known as Mar-Vell, the objective of this project was to build a light-speed engine using the Tesseract as a power source. But Mar-Vell was killed by the Kree Starforce while testing the engine, and her test pilot, Carol Danvers, was seriously injured… but not before gaining superhuman abilities after the Tesseract-powered engine exploded, bathing her in its energies.
As for the Tesseract, it was hidden on Mar-Vell’s ship in orbit around Earth in the years after her death. During the climax of Captain Marvel, Danvers and Nick Fury find the object, and the alien cat Goose swallows it for safekeeping. By the film’s post-credits scene, Goose vomits the Tesseract up onto Fury’s desk like the all-powerful cosmic cube hairball that it is.
It seems that in the years after Goose upchucked the Tesseract, Fury’s team continued to study it at Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. And by the end credits of the first Thor movie, he introduced Dr. Selvig to the device, asking for his help in unlocking its secrets. One supposes that those warrior gods showing up on Earth got Fury thinking. But bringing in the scientist turned out to be a bad movie since it turned out Selvig was already under the control of Loki at that point.
By now, Thanos was looking for all of the Infinity Stones, and he sent Loki to Earth to retrieve the Tesseract and the Space Stone inside it. And so the Avengers were assembled for the first time!
Using the power of the Tesseract, Selvig opened a portal above New York City which would allow Loki’s army of Chitauri to attack Earth. But the Avengers avenged some s#!t, and were able to stop the Asgardian when Black Widow used another Infinity Stone — the Mind Stone hidden inside Loki’s scepter — to shut down the portal.
Thor returned the Tesseract to Asgard shortly after the Battle of New York, but it wouldn’t stay there for too long.
Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War
That brings us to Thor: Raganarok. While battling the fire demon Surtur, Loki visited Odin’s Treasure Room where he couldn’t help but pause before the Tesseract. Come on, Loki, not again!
It wasn’t clear what happened next until Avengers: Infinity War, as Thanos fought Loki and Thor. Loki, of course, had taken the Tesseract from Asgard, and while he tried his best to trick and then murder Thanos, in the end the god of mischief would die and Thanos would have his precious Space Stone.
And soon after that, he snapped his fingers and… well, you know.
For more on Captain Marvel, check out our review, find out what our biggest WTF questions about the film are, dive into our breakdown of the end credits scenes, learn the reason why Nick Fury hasn’t mentioned Captain Marvel before, discover which classic Marvel character was gender-swapped for the movie, learn all you need to know about Captain Marvel’s cat Goose, and read up on how the film pays tribute to Stan Lee.
Talk to Executive Editor Scott Collura on Twitter at @ScottCollura, or listen to his Star Trek podcast, Transporter Room 3. Or do both!