Marvel has confirmed that the Infinity Stones have been well and truly destroyed in the main MCU timeline, shooting down a fan theory about the possibility of their return in future movies.
As noted by Digital Spy, Marvel posted on Instagram that each stone had been destroyed in a series of videos. Check them out below:
A photo posted by @marvel on Jun 26, 2020 at 2:04pm PDT
Unlikely fan theories persisted that the stones were somehow still around, paving the way for their potential return down the line. At the start of Avengers: Endgame, Thanos explains he destroyed the Infinity Stones to stop the superhero team from reversing his act of wiping out half of all life in the universe.
Avengers: Endgame directors the Russo brothers reportedly said the Infinity Stones had only been 'reduced to atomic level' at a 2019 event, according to a Reddit retelling. That led some to believe it was possible they still existed in some form.
Still, while the stones in the main Marvel timeline have been destroyed, those in the multiple timelines where the Avengers acquired the stones in Endgame are presumably still intact. Steve Rogers returned each stone to their respective timelines at the end of that movie.
So, unless someone else finds a way to travel between timelines or realities, it's unlikely the Infinity Stones could find their way back into the hands of a villain in future.
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When will we see the next Marvel big bad?
It's likely going to be a long time until Marvel establishes a new 'big bad' villain that'll become the focal point of the MCU. Thanos, for example, didn't appear for the first time until the very end of The Avengers, which was four years after Iron Man kicked off the movies, though the first Infinity Stone technically appeared via the Tesseract in the post-credits of 2011's Thor.
Who that next big villain will be is up for debate: Marvel Comics characters Kang the Conqueror and Galactus come up as frequent fan choices, but it's likely Marvel will want to avoid anyone with too much in common with a cosmic, omnipotent villain like Thanos.
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Samuel is a PR Manager at game developer Frontier. Formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor, he's an expert in Marvel, Star Wars, Netflix shows and general streaming stuff. Before his stint at TechRadar, he spent six years at PC Gamer. Samuel is also the co-host of the popular Back Page podcast, in which he details the trials and tribulations of being a games magazine editor – and attempts to justify his impulsive eBay games buying binges.