Avengers 4 is going to be a massive movie in just about every sense of the word. It's being billed as the finale of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's unprecedented 22-movie arc and the expected cast will make Infinity War look moderate by comparison. That said, perhaps the most exciting thing is that it offers the MCU the chance to fix its myriad of timeline plot holes that have been created over the past ten years.
The continuity problem with the MCU is well known at this point. While early on the mantra was the "it's all connected", as we moved through Phases 2 and 3 and the series went from annual to three-a-year movies - meaning there are nearly a dozen projects on the go at any one time - cracks started to show and even big, hard-set facts began to slip. Add in TV shows across multiple networks and comic tie-ins, and the shared universe has begun to look rather scattershot.
But Avengers 4 can fix it. The 22nd entry in the shared universe isn't just a celebration of what will then be eleven years at the top, it's the groundwork on which the next decade will be built. Yes, Avengers 4 may be a finale, but it really isn't the end - and everything known about the film points towards it directly coming into contact with these problems.
This Page: Marvel's Broken Continuity Explained
Just How Bad Are The MCU's Many Plot Holes?
Over the past couple of years, the most prominent forms of plot holes in the MCU been its repeated timeline mistakes. Famously, Spider-Man: Homecoming obliquely stated it was set eight years after the events of The Avengers despite it having been otherwise presumed to be a mere four, although this had been a problem since the start of Phase 3: Vision said Captain America: Civil War (set in the same year as Homecoming) was eight years after Iron Man (despite being set a couple of years before The Avengers); Doctor Strange presumably spans years yet doesn't connect up in any way; and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's brief, Earth-based sequence appeared to forget it was set in 2014 not 2017 and thus at the height of the Avengers activity.
But there are bigger plot holes that actually upset the narrative flow beyond simply numbers, especially in the early days when the story thrust was still being figured out: Tony Stark is deemed unfit for the Avengers in Iron Man 2 only to be working with S.H.I.E.L.D. in The Incredible Hulk, chronologically set later that same week; Thor dropped an Infinity Gauntlet Easter Egg that clashed with how the arc was later set up; Thanos gives Loki what is later revealed to be an Infinity Stone so he can get another Infinity Stone and take over Earth (not a full-on gulf but a logic gap for sure). Many of these have been retconned - Tony's Hulk cameo was explained in Marvel One-Shot "The Consultant" and Thor: Ragnarok brushed aside Odin's "fake" gauntlet - but the franchise is littered with inconsistencies, often a result of putting single movies in a bigger framework; Iron Man 3 destroying all of Stark's suits or Captain America: The Winter Soldier's Hydra twist are undermined by the time we get to Avengers: Age of Ultron. That's an inherent problem with shared universes, but doesn't excuse that the only way to make sense of it is to view the most recent movie as the ultimate ruling.
It's worth clarifying that none of these really hurt the bigger picture per se. Unanimously they're done to benefit the individual movie at hand (even Homecoming's flub can be explained as establishing the jaw-dropping villain twist), and at the end of the day that standalone experience is what's important. But when you have a series that is so renowned for connectivity, for the continuity to be riddled with mistakes is a bit problematic and works against what's being done overall.
That may feel like it'll become more of a problem as we enter the final stages of the project, with Avengers: Infinity War and its untitled sequel bringing together all corners of the universe in a ten-years-in-the-making epic. However, they may be just what we need.
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- The Avengers 4 / Untitled Avengers Movie (2019) release date: May 03, 2019
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018