Guest written by Mark Gundle
It’s okay, Marvel. We’re smart. We’ve pieced it together. And we know that there are a boatload of reasons (namely; timing, good storytelling, lack of space, leaving room for expansion, discussion among the fanbase that led exactly to this sort of thing being written, etc..) for not expanding on a plot point that has had several geek friends and I chomping at the bit since the double-whammy of Thor and Captain America when seen in the context of the Iron Man films. But at this point, it’s less a titillating plot point and is quickly becoming an elephant in the room; eventually, keeping it in the dark is going to be counter-productive.
Just outright say it in one of the next films so some of your more dedicated fans can finally have a good night’s sleep; the finished Arc Reactor and the Tesseract are the same blasted technology.
Now, why does this bug the crap out of some people? For some, it’s an issue akin to one a detective would face; all the evidence is there and the hypothesis is just begging to be proven, and we just have to know if we’re right or wrong. For some, it’s a matter of personal pride; what, does Marvel think the audience won’t get it, so they’re not telling us? And for others, it simply bugs them because at this point- now that the Avengers have assembled and the idea has its roots in at least two of the preceding films – they really might as well just out and say it, like it’s a playground super-secret that Boy X likes Girl Y but just can’t spit it out despite half of the jungle gym kids knowing already.
The discussions pertaining to the topic have been happening since movie-goers first started to piece it together, and from what this humble writer has started to gather, such speculation is starting to get a little old (even though it couldn’t possibly have been addressed yet, we know, we geeks are flawed creatures).
But some of you reading this probably haven’t the faintest idea what I’m smoking. As with any trial, let me present my evidence to you, the jury.
The second scene in Captain America had Hugo Weaving’s deliciously over-the-top Red Skull find the Tesseract, which he describes as being part of Odin’s treasure room (often considered to be where he kept the Infinity Gauntlet, the Destroyer, the Casket of Ancient Winters, and of course the mighty Mjolnir in Thor). For bonus nerd points, the place it’s kept was also used as the setting for a battle between Frost Giants and Asgardians in Thor’s prologue, but that’s for another day.
No, we’re introduced to a blue, glowing thing that holds the untapped potential for unlimited power. The Tesseract was used to develop new weaponry, which was itself used to great effect; imagine playing Halo or Call of Duty with a pistol that shot through walls, shot in a straight line, had no real need to reload, and turned every enemy you’ve faced thus far into blue goo / ash, and that’s more or less what we’re dealing with. One can imagine what fun a megalomaniac like the Red Skull would have with such toys in his chest.
Right off the bat, we get two movies that provide an explanation for what the Tesseract is; a treasure of Asgard that somehow found its way into human custody and protection, glows with an obnoxious blue light, and has enormous civilian and military application.
So that’s the Tesseract. What about the first piece of awesome that the Marvel Cinematic Universe introduced us to? Built in a cave (yes, yes, with a box of scraps, we know it’s funny) to replace a car battery, the Arc Reactor’s humble beginning skyrocketed to being the battery equivalent of a rock star when it was used to power Tony Stark’s Iron Man weapon / tool / hi-tech prosthesis. Using palladium in some fashion, it’s noted that the Arc Reactor supplies clean energy – and a lot of it, let’s face it, three gigajoules per second on the first attempt can’t be wrong – but isn’t particularly cost-effective. So, we have a blue glowing thing that has enormous civilian and military potential (hence Obadiah Stane’s willingness to just pluck the damn thing out of Tony’s chest).
But here’s where the plot thickens, children.
As Nick Fury tells Tony in one of Iron Man 2’s quieter scenes, the Arc Reactor was unfinished and that, when it finally was completed, it would be the be-all end-all of energy. His father, Howard Stark, had originated the idea and also served in WWII alongside Captain America himself (if strictly in a technological capacity). After the good Captain liberates a camp and acquires a sample of the enemy’s tech – itself based on the Tesseract guns that Skull’s been making – he has Howard experiment with it. And towards the film’s end, Howard recovers the Tesseract after it fell from the site of Cap and Skull’s final brawl.
Leading American genius recovers an obnoxious blue glowing power source and develops an obnoxious blue glowing power source. Hmmm…
Now, as Iron Man 2 goes on to say, Howard died before he could perfect the Arc Reactor, though he left a clue behind for his son to complete it (for the truly nerdy among us, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot shows a drawing of a hypercube in Howard’s notes, Google it for a rather telling synonym). Tony being Tony, he does so, and assuming we didn’t remember that tidbit about the completed Arc Reactor being significantly more powerful, we have the lovely Black Widow’s analysis that Iron Man’s repulsor output reads significantly higher. What’s more, this seems to completely cure his palladium poisoning, which should be impossible even with Tony’s genius; remember that this is a guy who – by his own admission – has tried literally everything else.
Obnoxious blue power source seems to inspire a knock-off obnoxious blue power source which in turn is perfected into the original obnoxious blue power source. As the still-fanon theory goes, Tony Stark, using clues from his father, successfully recreated the Tesseract.
And that has some of the more ardent geeks in an absolute uproar over its lack of acknowledgement.
Now, before this ends, I should say that there are two clinchers to the theory that all but confirm it, which certainly doesn’t help the case. For one, watch the breakout scene from Captain America again, where everybody’s running amok and the big damn factory’s being blown up. Some of the Allied troops start fiddling with one of the Hydra guns in the middle of the battlefield, and it makes an odd noise before firing its blue ray of destruction. Watch it. Listen to it. Sound familiar? It should; you’ve had two movies to listen to it. That sound is the exact same noise made by Iron Man’s repulsor blasts just before they fire.
Tesseract-based weaponry making the exact same sounds as Arc Reactor- based weaponry? The House of Ardent Geeks agree; there’s no way that’s a coincidence. The other allusion to the connection between the two technologies comes in The Avengers; during the typical misunderstanding fight between Thor and Tony, Thor opts to summon up the lightning and uses it to try and fry the Iron Man suit. It backfires; JARVIS helpfully states that the attack not only did nothing to damage the suit, it actually ramped up the Arc Reactor to four times its capacity. Not something that one typically thinks when the weapon of one world discharges itself onto the weapon of another. Hell, that scene alone probably could have made the argument itself.
Yes, it’s all there. Yes, we’ve pieced it together. Yes, it’s an incredibly clever piece of world-building. But it’s okay, Marvel, you can tell us now.
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