The Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline is broken - that much is certain. And while Marvel Studios say they're going to fix it, is that even possible at this point?
There's never been an official MCU timeline, but from information in the films, fans have been able to construct intricate and seemingly accurate versions. However, that's all begun to fall apart in Phase 3. First, Vision suggested Captain America: Civil War took place eight years after Iron Man - true in real time but flawed in-universe due to shifts in the early films (it's actually seven). Then Doctor Strange spanned years with seeming disregard to the wider Avenger antics (something Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continued). The whole thing was finally blown open by Spider-Man: Homecoming, where a text card stated it was set eight years after The Avengers, despite following on from Civil War and thus presumably being a mere four.
Confused yet? You should be. As we outlined at the time, there's no simple way to consolidate the timeline without accepting either a great deal of contradictory retconning or that Homecoming made a knowing change just to allow their teenage characters be old enough to have properly grown up with Earth's Mightiest Heroes in the spotlight. But it sounds like Marvel are actually going to address it.
Speaking with Screen Rant, Kevin Feige said he's aware of the problems we and other were raising and that Marvel are working on releasing an official timeline to iron out any issues. That's all well and good, but what actually can their solution be? Let's use everything we know to try and crack the case.
Kevin Feige is Wrong - The Timeline Is Seriously Broken
First things first, it's worth responding to what Feige's said about fan perception of the timeline. In his conversations with us and other websites, the producer has claimed the confusion stems from an erroneous belief the movies take place somewhat in real time. As he puts it, "I think people assume that whenever the movie is released is when is when the movie is taking place, and that is not the case."
Now that is a common assumption by fans, although it isn't as baseless as the producer makes it sound; in fact, it's what Marvel has repeatedly said. Scarlett Johansson once stated that The Winter Soldier took place two years after The Avengers and the Russo brothers that Civil War was two years after that. Feige himself even played into this, confirming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (set in 2014) has a four-year gap before Avengers: Infinity War (placing that film in its release year). As far as we're concerned, the official line from Marvel has been that, unless a detail requires a date shift (such as Iron Man 3, released in May but taking place over Christmas), a movie is set around its time of release.
But even if that wasn't the case, the dating goes beyond what's said in the real world. When we constructed our timeline to highlight the Homecoming plot hole, we did so entirely off in-movie context; whether it's lines or easter eggs, the movies are connected in an intricate web with little leeway. Listing every movie is tricky, but for the sake of Spider-Man argument, Homecoming is set a few months after Civil War, which is a year after Age of Ultron, itself a year on from The Winter Soldier. There's nothing in-film to say Captain America 2 is explicitly two years after The Avengers, but to not have that leaves a massive gap after Thor: The Dark World and further complicates the Guardians/Infinity War placement. In short, Feige's movies contradict what Feige is now saying.
Of course, the point Feige's trying to make in a less pedantic way, and indeed has been when discussing that Infinity War connection, is that Marvel doesn't obsess too much over the minutiae and aims to keep focus on strong, individual stories; the micro-continuity that made Phase 1 so thrilling is needless in the sprawling mega-universe they're now working with. That's somewhat acceptable if the resulting movies are good but will make fixing the timeline tricky. Allow us to show just how much.
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017) release date: Nov 03, 2017
- Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019