Marvel has released an official MCU timeline. It's just a shame that it's still broken. Over the past ten years, Marvel Studios has crafted an unprecedented shared universe, with 20 films (and multiple less-connected TV shows and tie-in comics) telling an epic and intimate story of Avengers, Guardians, Titans and giant ants. It's a masterful patchwork of cinematic storytelling - as long as you don't look too closely.
While the MCU movies flow fairly well into each other - Spider-Man: Homecoming, Black Panther and Ant-Man and the Wasp are all directly influenced by Captain America: Civil War, for example - if you try and construct a cohesive timeline of the films, it gets a bit tricky. It used to be that Marvel movies were set in the year they released, period adventure Captain America: The First Avenger notwithstanding. However, as events stacked, movies released years apart are said to happen around the same time. In making this change, though, Marvel didn't make any major considerations for, say, a 2018 blockbuster being set in 2016. Because of that clear flow and a bevy of wider-reaching Easter eggs, slowly the MCU timeline began to - on a micro, obsessive sense - not make sense.
This isn't necessarily a problem for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a blockbuster force, especially considering that its character-focused stories make the when of it all a moot plot point, but for a franchise that's prided itself on interconnectivity, it's a rather lacking approach to continuity.
To combat this, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige promised an official timeline that would address the mounting continuity issues. Now, thanks to Titan's Marvel Studios: The First 10 Years, we have an endorsed timeline. Unfortunately, it doesn't fix the biggest of the Marvel canon breaking problems, and creates a lot more of its own.
- This Page: What The MCU Timeline Gets Right & Improves
- Page 2: What The MCU Timeline Gets Wrong & Makes Worse
- Page 3: Our Fix Of The MCU Timeline
What The Marvel Timeline Gets Right
Before breaking down the problems maintained and created by the new MCU timeline, it's worth highlighting that it gets a lot right. Indeed, Phases 1-2, the first 13 movies in the shared universe, are right where they should be.
Phase 1 of the MCU consists of six movies released between 2008 and 2012, but in Marvel time that's truncated: 2008's The Incredible Hulk, 2010's Iron Man 2 and 2011's Thor all take place in the same week (dubbed by fans as "Fury's Big Week"), revealed by surprisingly coherent Easter eggs. From The Avengers being set in 2012, this has been set to have happened in 2011, with Iron Man a year earlier. This can be tracked using quotes in the films, and is reaffirmed by the MCU timeline.
MCU Phase 2 was even simpler: nearly every movie was set in the year it released. The only exception is Iron Man 3, which is set at Christmas 2012, not Summer 2013. Again, the MCU timeline maintains this, with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 also taking place in 2014 mere months after the first.
What The Marvel Timeline Improves
On top of nailing Phase 1-2, the MCU timeline also provides a couple of smart improvements to how we view the continuity. The biggest is an official dating of Doctor Strange. The mystical origin story was always an odd one in the timeline due to the sheer length of time it spans; from Stephen Strange's previous life as an arrogant doctor to taking up resident in New York's Sanctum Sanctorum could be as long as four years, although director Scott Derrikson later confirmed it was just one. Still, with an Avengers Tower Easter egg, that means it's been in the background of Phase 2 all along or set in the future (something later appearances disproved). The timeline places it as happening in 2016 to 2017, presumably Fall to Fall. This is the best fit proposed for Doctor Strange, and also allows for a cool Captain America: Civil War reference to be taken as canon.
Aside from dating movies, the timeline also provides key info on various key events in the MCU's past. Perhaps the most cohesive is the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D. in 1949, lining up with various clues dropped in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Page 2 of 3: What The MCU Timeline Gets Wrong & Makes Worse
- 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 02, 2019