As with all Marvel movies, Thor: The Dark World contained an end credits scene. Two in fact, but only one was important to future movies. It’s also probably the most confusing to mainstream audiences thus far. Whereas other “stingers” were clear references like Thor’s hammer at the end credits of Iron Man 2, the reference during the end credits of Thor: The Dark World probably left a lot of non-comics fans scratching their heads.
In an attempt to clear some things up, I’ve put together an explanation of the scene, and you can read it after the jump. Obviously, this explanation contains spoilers.
To briefly recap the scene, Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) take the dangerous Aether, a liquid that’s now been contained in a small chamber, to an odd place where alien creatures move about in glass cages. They’re escorted by a pink alien to meet the Collector (Benicio Del Toro), who as fellow critics Eric Snider and Christopher Campbell pointed out on Twitter, kind of looks like Mugatu from Zoolander. Sif and Volstagg explain they can’t keep the Aether on Asgard because they already have the Tesseract, and having two super-weapons in the same place is too dangerous. They give the Collector the Aether, and he promises to keep it safe. Once the Asgardians leave, the Collector looks up and ominously says, “One down…five to go.” All of this is a minor lead-in to James Gunn‘s Guardians of the Galaxy, which opens on August 1, 2014.
There are two things to explain here. First, who is the Collector? The character has been around since 1966, and to sum up the Wikipedia page, his name is not misleading. He collects lifeforms and artifacts throughout the universe for the sake of collecting them. He was originally one of the “Elders of the Universe” and, in what could be a relevant point to Guardians of the Galaxy:
“The Collector also had the power of prophecy, allowing him to foresee the rise of a being powerful enough to pose a threat to the Elders: Thanos. To protect life in the universe, the Collector created a massive museum of countless life forms to keep them safe from Thanos. For a time, he even possessed one of the six Infinity Gems, unaware of its true power, until Thanos took it.”
As for The Collector’s superpowers, most of the offensive ones come from weapons and creature he’s collected. He can also “manipulate cosmic energy for a variety of effects, including projecting concussive force beams, and the increasing of his size and mass (and hence physical strength) at will. He is also immortal, has the power of precognition, and “possesses limited shape-changing abilities.”
I’m pretty sure a lot of these traits will be absent from Guardians since it’s a crowded movie, and there’s probably not enough time to flesh out every single supporting character. He’s someone who will serve a purpose, and it looks like that purpose is to collect the Infinity Gems, which are referred to as “Infinity Stones” in Thor: The Dark World, thus building the Infinity Gauntlet.
As we explained in our breakdown of baddie Thanos last year, he is the wielder of the Infinity Gauntlet, a weapon Marvel has made no attempt to hide and was showing off as early as 2010. The Infinity Gauntlet contains six gems: The Soul Gem (Green), the Time Gem (Orange), the Space Gem (Purple), the Mind Gem (Blue), the Reality Gem (Yellow), and the Power Gem (Red). [Correction: I originally wrote "five gems"]
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Tesseract (which is Blue) and Aether (which is Red) have been referred to as powerful stones, a.k.a. the Gems. While the red Power Gem does somewhat line up with the ability of Aether (“Accesses all power and energy that ever has or will exist, and can boost the other gems’ effects. Allows the user to duplicate almost any physical superhuman ability and grants Omnipotence,”) the Tesseract doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the Mind Gem’s ability to strengthen and enhance mental and psionic powers, and “access the thoughts and dreams of other beings.”
In fact, the Tesseract doesn’t line-up with any of the other gems’ powers. The Soul Gem can “steal, control, manipulate and alter souls, living or dead”; the Time Gem gives the bearer “control over the past, present and future”, age or de-age beings, and can trap others in an unending time loops; the Space Gem is basically teleportation; and the Reality Gem allows “the user to fulfill wishes, even if the wish is in direct contradiction with scientific laws” (it also allows Patton Oswalt to come up with an epic Marvel/Star Wars movie).
Based on this lengthy explanation of what the gems do, I predict that it’s not about the specific abilities of each individual gem, but about bringing them together to give Thanos the ultimate weapon that may be able to perform some of the aforementioned abilities.
So what does this mean for Guardians of the Galaxy? The film’s plot could have Thanos’ right-hand man and main villain Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) attempting to gather the “Infinity Stones”, and it’s up to the ragtag Guardians to protect the valuable artifacts.
I know it’s a bit of a stretch to suss out the central conflict from a single scene, but I don’t think it’s an inconceivable plot. Next year, we’ll see if my prediction was correct. In the meantime, I hope I’ve made Thor: The Dark World‘s post-credits scene a little more understandable.