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The 'Captain Marvel' movie is set in the 1990s, injecting into the continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). A key plot point is the use of the Tesseract as (once again) a power source.

The Tesseract has changed hands repeatedly throughout the MCU movies, and the movies are not set strictly in chronological order.

Please could someone set out the history and movements of the Tesseract (including who has had ownership at particular times) in chronological order for the MCU, taking into account the events of 'Captain Marvel'?

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4 Answers 4

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So, official Tesseract timeline:

Captain America: The First Avenger

  • hidden for thousands of years in Asgardian mural, uncovered by Red Skull

  • burned through hull of plane, fell into ocean

  • recovered by Howard Stark soon afterward, taken into possession by Strategic Scientific Reserve, later to become SHIELD

Captain Marvel

  • given to Dr. Wendy Lawson to research for Project PEGASUS, a secret multi-billion dollar SHIELD research project. she was secretly Mar-Vell, a rogue Kree secretly using the tesseract to build a secret lightspeed engine to secretly save the Skrulls. secretly.

  • kept on Mar-Vell's ship in orbit above earth, used to power lightspeed engine

  • in SHIELD's possesion after being swallowed by Goose, vomited onto Fury's desk

The Avengers

  • presented to Dr. Selvig to research just before The Avengers

  • incorporated into portal machine, used by Loki to open portal for Chitauri

  • after Loki's defeat, used to transport Thor and Loki to Asgard, kept in Odin's vault

Thor: Ragnarok

  • stolen from vault by Loki while he was there to summon Surtur to cause Ragnarok

  • on Asgardian escape ship on path to Earth

Avengers: Infinity War

  • taken by Thanos, breaks casing to expose Space Stone, incorporates into Infinity Gauntlet

  • used for The Snap

  • chilling on the back of Thanos's hand on a farm somewhere

Link - by u/the_infinite

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    Besides the fact that the timeline itself is correct, I still have trouble with a little detail. In Captain Marvel, Fury gains knowledge about the tesseract the first time. In Avengers, chronologically after Captain Marvel, when he visits the science lab, he looks at the tesseract and asks what it is, which looks like he's never seen it before. But he has.
    – frank42
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 11:39
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    @frank42 Security clearance can be weird that way. If you're working on a classified project, you aren't allowed to talk about or acknowledge classified info even if that info appears elsewhere or is leaked so it could be that Fury isn't at liberty to admit that he's seen it before, because the mission where he saw it is still classified.
    – Jared K
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 19:25
  • A further point: In Avengers: Endgame, Tony Stark appears to accidentally create a new timeline where Loki escapes with the Tesseract in the events immediately following Avengers Assemble. Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 18:38
  • The MCU wiki says "The Tesseract, also called the Cube, was a crystalline cube-shaped containment vessel for the Space Stone, one of the six Infinity Stones that predate the universe and possess unlimited energy. It was used by various ancient civilizations before coming into Asgardian hands, kept inside Odin's Vault. Eventually, it was brought to Earth and left in Tønsberg, where it was guarded by devout Asgardian worshipers." Your answer alludes to it previously being in Asgardian hands, but you could be more explicit. Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 4:56
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Here is the history of the Tesseract and the Space Stone, based on Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe: An Official Timeline:

relevant part of the official timeline

March 1942 | Not For the Eyes of Ordinary Men

As total war rages across Europe, Johann Schmidt assumes command of Hydra, the Nazis' deep-science division. Schmidt becomes known as the Red Skull after being nightmarishly disfigured while experimenting on himself with an incomplete Super Soldier Serum. In March 1942, he leads Hydra forces on an invasion of Tønsberg, Norway, where he seizes "the jewel of Odin's treasure room"—the glowing blue cube known as the Tesseract. It not only contains the Space Stone, but will serve as the power source for the high-tech arsenal being devised by Dr. Arnim Zola.

relevant part of the official timeline

1942

The Red Skull obtains the Tesseract, which holds the Space Stone, and harnesses its power to produce advanced weapons. After the Red Skull vanishes. Howard Stark recovers the Tesseract from the ocean floor for the U.S. government.

1995

The Tesseract is researched by Project Pegasus, and taken to Mar-Vell's space-based lab. After the Kree fail to steal it. it's returned to S.H.I.E.L.D custody by Captain Marvel and Nick Fury. S.H.I.E.L.D continues to conduct experiments on it.

relevant part of the official timeline

Summer 1995 | Mar-Vell's Hidden Lab

Danvers, Fury, and Rambeau forge a tenuous alliance with Talos. They use the Quadjet to help him locate Lawson's laboratory, which is cloaked in invisibility in orbit just outside Earth's atmosphere. Here, they find the Tesseract, the power source of her engine technology. Also hidden aboard the space station is the long-lost family of Talos, along with other Skrull survivors who had been given sanctuary by Mar-Vell, and who were left stranded after she was killed.

Summer 1995 | "Mother... Flerken!"

Dr Lawson's cat, Goose—in reality a temperamental alien creature known as a Flerken—had swallowed the Tesseract to safely transport it back to Earth. Aboard the Quadjet, Nick Fury loses an eye when he gets too friendly with the creature.

relevant part of the official timeline

Spring 2012 | Opening a Gateway

Nick Fury is summoned to Project Pegasus after the Tesseract's energy starts spiking. Before they can evacuate the facility, the Tesseract triggers and opens a portal, through which Loki appears. Upon Loki's arrival, he immediately steals the cube and uses the scepter to fully possess the minds of both Dr. Selvig and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Clint Barton. Loki's short-lived portal creates an energy vortex that builds in intensity until it completely destroys the Joint Dark Energy Mission facility. "l am Loki. Of Asgard. And I am burdened with glorious purpose."

relevant part of the official timeline

2012

Loki steals the Tesseract from S.H.I.E.L.D. and uses it to open a portal for Thanos' army to invade Earth, but is defeated by the Avengers. The Tesseract is taken to Asgard to ensure its protection.

2017

Thor sends Loki to Odin's vault to summon the fire demon Surtur, triggering Ragnarok in order to defeat Hela. Loki takes the opportunity to retrieve the Tesseract before evacuating.

2018

Thanos tracks the Tesseract to Loki's vessel and intercepts it. He kills Loki, extracts the Space Stone from the Tesseract and places it into the Infinity Gauntlet.

relevant part of the official timeline

Spring 2018 | Heimdall and Loki's End

Thanos spears Heimdall through the chest for casting away the Hulk, and the all-seeing gatekeeper's watch is ended. Thor insists the Tesseract was destroyed back on Asgard, but Loki reveals he has been hiding it since their departure. "You really are the worst, brother," Thor says. These will be his last words to Loki. After Thanos shatters the Tesseract and places the Space Stone into his gauntlet, Loki strikes at his throat—but the blue stone halts his blade inches away. Thanos snaps the trickster's neck, and leaves his body beside Thor as he departs, incinerating the Statesman in his wake. "No resurrections this time," Thanos says.

relevant part of the official timeline

2018

The Avengers lose the battle in Wakanda as Thanos rips the final remaining Infinity Stone from Vision's head. With all the stones within his grasp, Thanos enacts his plan and snaps his fingers, erasing half of all life in the universe. His work complete, he flees the battlefield.

relevant part of the official timeline

Late Spring 2018 | "Gone, Reduced to Atoms."

The Titan is wounded and burned, but not from their battle weeks ago. The gauntlet, which had been badly damaged by the Snap, is now totally destroyed and fused to his hand. The Infinity Stones are gone. Thanos tells the Avengers he used their power one more time to destroy them. That way, he reasons, they cannot be used to reverse his victory. "The stones served no purpose beyond temptation," he says. "It nearly killed me, but the work is done. It always will be. I am inevitable."

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According to The Captain America: The First Avenger and Iron Man 2, the Tesseract was found by Howard Stark post-World War II and studied by Stark. Eventually, Nick Fury comes to possess it.

This is where Captain Marvel starts to fill in some of the blanks. In Captain Marvel, we learn that the Tesseract was somehow possessed by Mar-Vell in 1989 (and perhaps some years prior) — the year she died and that Carol Danvers was captured by the Kree army.

It gives us a hint of what was going on with the Tesseract before we witnessed Loki stealing it from Fury in 2012’s The Avengers (which takes place around 2008 or 2012 in the MCU ) Fury defended his decision to allow Thor to take the Tesseract back to Asgard along with Loki.

Later, the Tesseract was locked in the Odin's Vault. During Ragnarök, where Loki was about to resurrect Surtur in order to defeat Hela, he decided to take the Tesseract before taking the Crown of Surtur

Thanos and the Black Order attacked Thor's the ship and captured Thor and Loki. Thanos tortured Thor in order to make Loki give him the Tesseract. Afterward, Ebony Maw retrieved the Tesseract and presented it to Thanos, who proceeded to effortlessly crush the Tesseract in his hand and placed the Space Stone in his Infinity Gauntlet.

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Watch Marvel Studios Legends S1:E8 The Tesseract followed by Loki, and, optionally, What If... Or read a canonical history as follows:

The Tesseract, also called the Cube, was a crystalline cube-shaped containment vessel for the Space Stone, one of the six Infinity Stones that predate the universe and possess unlimited energy. It was used by various ancient civilizations before coming into Asgardian hands, kept inside Odin's Vault. Eventually, it was brought to Earth and left in Tønsberg, where it was guarded by devout Asgardian worshipers.

Captain America: The First Avenger

In 1942, the Tesseract was retrieved by Johann Schmidt, the leader of HYDRA, who used the Tesseract to power enhanced weaponry in order to defeat the Allies during World War II. Following Schmidt's defeat at the hands of Captain America in 1945, the Tesseract fell into Arctic waters, where it was recovered by Howard Stark. The Tesseract was then kept at Camp Lehigh in New Jersey, where it remained until at least 1970.

Captain Marvel

Attempting to harness its power, Stark eventually helped found Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S., to whom he relinquished custody of the Tesseract in the 1980s.

Mar-Vell, an undercover Kree scientist, joined P.E.G.A.S.U.S. and harnessed the Tesseract's power to create the Light-Speed Engine to assist the Skrulls in their war against the Kree and took possession of the Tesseract, storing it in her laboratory in orbit. In 1989, Yon-Rogg killed Mar-Vell to obtain the Tesseract, but pilot Carol Danvers destroyed the Light-Speed engine, causing her to be doused in Tesseract energy. Six years later, Danvers, now Captain Marvel, recovered the Tesseract from Mar-Vell's laboratory and renounced custody of it to S.H.I.E.L.D.

Avengers:Assemble

The Tesseract remained in S.H.I.E.L.D's possession until 2012, when it was stolen by Loki who used it to open a wormhole and allow the Chitauri to invade New York City. Following the ensuing battle and defeat of Loki and his allies by the Avengers, the Tesseract was surrendered by S.H.I.E.L.D to Thor for safekeeping, who brought it back with him to Asgard.

Thor: The Dark World

After using the Tesseract to repair the Rainbow Bridge, Odin tasked Heimdall, the realm's gatekeeper, with the task of protecting the Tesseract. However, after Loki usurped the throne and disguised himself as Odin, he charged Heimdall with treason, forcing the gatekeeper to flee, while the Tesseract was placed within Odin's vault once more.

Thor:Ragnarok

Amid the ensuing destruction of Asgard by Surtur, Loki spotted the Tesseract and quietly took it for himself before the vault, along with the planet, were destroyed.

Avengers: Infinity War

Thanos later seized the Tesseract from Loki and crushed it to unveil the Space Stone within and then inserted the stone into his Infinity Gauntlet. He would ultimately use the Infinity Gauntlet to wipe out half of all life in the galaxy.

Avengers:Endgame

His plan for the Infinity Gauntlet complete, Thanos destroyed all the Infinity Stones at great risk to himself. This seemed to be the final end of the Tesseract.

In 2023, the Avengers initiated a Time Heist in order to retrieve the Tesseract and the other Infinity Stones. They visited New York in 2012. However, as a result of their interference, Loki was able to get the Tesseract and use it to teleport to the Gobi desert, escaping his rightful custody at the end of the Battle of New York (see below), creating a variance in the timeline.

Undeterred by this failure, Captain America and Iron Man improvised and travelled further back in time to 1970 to retrieve the Tesseract. With the Time Heist complete, they incorporated the Space Stone at the heart of the Tesseract into a new Infinity Gauntlet and reversed Thanos' action, resurrecting billions of lives. This Space Stone was briefly claimed by an alternate Thanos during the Battle of Earth, but Iron Man intervened and used the power of all six stones to wipe out Thanos and his entire army. This deed cost Iron Man his own life.

In the aftermath, the Avengers sought to undo the interference caused by the Time Heist. Captain America time-traveled to 1970 to return the Space Stone, albeit no longer housed in the Tesseract.

Loki

An alternate of Loki inadvertently created as a result of the Time Heist escaped custody at New York in 2012 and used the Tesseract to teleport to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. However the Time Heist had not gone unnoticed and Loki and the Tesseract were swiftly found and taken by the Time Variance Authority (TVA) to their headquarters. The Tesseract was confiscated by the TVA. Later, Loki retrieved the Tesseract and attempted to use it to escape the TVA, but discovered that it had no power within the confines of the TVA headquarters. This alternate version of the Tesseract presently rests in TVA custody.

What If...

'What If...' examines possible alternative 'realities' created by changes at key moments in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

  • What If... Captain Carter Were The First Avenger? (S1:E1) An alternate Steve Rogers did not take the Super Serum, resulting in Peggy Carter becoming Captain Carter. Howard Stark, after being given the Tesseract, used it to build an armoured suit for Rogers who used it to help Captain Carter fight HYDRA. Johann Schmidt, the leader of HYDRA, captured Rogers, the powered suit, and the Tesseract. He used the Tesseract to open a portal to bring a tentacled monster to Earth, the Champion of HYDRA. Captain Carter pushed the creature back through the portal and vanished. The Tesseract was left in the hands of Howard Stark. Almost seventy years later, the Tesseract was activated by S.H.I.E.L.D. at the Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. Facility. When a portal opened, Captain Carter returned, after which Fury told her that World War II had ended in victory many decades ago.
  • What If... Captain Carter fought the HYDRA Stomper? (S2:E5) Following the events above, the Tesseract remained in S.H.I.E.L.D's possession until 2012, when it was stolen by Loki who used it to open a wormhole and allow the Chitauri to invade New York City. Following the ensuing battle and defeat of Loki and his allies by the Avengers (led by Captain Carter), the HYDRA Stomper Armour: Mark II with Steve Rogers in cryostasis was discovered by S.H.I.E.L.D. and put on the Lemurian Star for transportation. The HYDRA Stomper Armour: Mark II is presumably not powered by the Tesseract, having been used intermittently by HYDRA over several decades when the Tesseract was secure in S.H.I.E.L.D. hands.
  • What If... Zombies!? (S1:E5) In an alternate universe a Zombie plague ravaged the Earth some time before the events of the Infinity War. Thanos was infected and became a zombie, but nevertheless arose as the holder of the Infinity Gauntlet with five Infinity Stones, including the Space Stone. Spider-Man, Ant-Man and Black Panther, planning to cure the Zombie plague with the Mind Stone, could unwittingly cause further catastrophe by curing Thanos as well.
  • What If... Ultron won? (S1:E8) In an alternate universe, after defeating the Avengers and devastating the whole of Earth, Ultron met Thanos and bested him, seizing the Space Stone along with other Infinity Stones. Ultron used the power of the Infinity Stones to access the Nexus and travel to other universes to continue his campaign to eradicate all life.
  • What If... The Watcher Broke His Oath? (S1:E9) Ultron, having gained access to the Multiverse, was opposed by the Watcher and his chosen champions, the Guardians of the Multiverse. A bid by an alternate of Gamora to destroy the Infinity Stones with the Infinity Crusher failed. An alternate of Erik Killmonger betrayed the Guardians and seized Ultron's Infinity Armour himself. Eventually an alternate of Doctor Strange ('Strange Supreme') trapped Ultron, the alternate Killmonger and the Infinity Stones in a pocket dimension.
  • What If... Kahhori reshaped the world? (S2:E6) Following Ragnarök which brought the Destruction of Asgard, in this alternate universe the Tesseract landed on Earth in the lake of the Akwesasne. Breaking on impact, the Cube released its Space Stone energy, gifting its power to the lake. Kahhori fell into the lake and through her exposure to the Tesseract's energy, her physical abilities were enhanced to superhuman levels. Kahhori later learned to use her cosmic energy for other purposes such as energy projection, telekinesis, and portal creation.
  • What If... The Avengers Assembled in 1602? (S2:E8) An alternate Captain America faced Thanos wielding a near-complete Infinity Gauntlet (including the Space Stone) in battle in Wakanda - but struck at the gauntlet itself, accidentally causing the Time Stone to alter the universe to the year 1602.
  • What If... Strange Supreme Intervened? (S2:E9) Following the success of the Guardians of the Multiverse against Ultron, Strange Supreme proceeded to capture and incarcerate various powerful individuals who threatened their universes in his Sanctum Infinitum. However, he secretly began to plan once again to prevent the death of his beloved Christine Palmer, and hoarded resources to that end until discovered by Captain Carter. With the help of Kahhori, Captain Carter dispossessed the alternate Erik Killmonger of the Infinity Armour and donned it to give battle against Strange Supreme. Victorious, Captain Carter surrendered the Infinity Armour before joining with the Watcher to see more marvels of the Multiverse on the way to her normal place and time.

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