The official timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has some serious problems, and now that we know when Thor: Ragnarok is set, the issues are going to continue. The question of whether the MCU timeline makes sense, and if that should even matter to fans are two separate issues entirely. But for those fans paying attention to the details offered up by individual writers and directors, we have our first confirmation of just how long after The Avengers: Age of Ultron the next chapter in Thor's story takes place.
During our visit to the set of Thor: Ragnarok, the filmmakers unfortunately didn't roll out that legendary MCU timeline scroll the studio keeps under lock and key. They did tell us when fans should imagine Ragnarok taking place, how long Thor has spent exploring the cosmos, and how far out the film will be from the coming Infinity War. The most important takeaway, however, is that fans may want to stop worrying about keeping exact track... because it seems like the studio isn't worrying themselves.
As the film was described to us on set, the general impression is that, since his Ultron glimpse of a possible future, Thor has spent "a couple of years" on his own mission. When asking producer Brad Winderbaum for a more specific idea of where Ragnarok falls in comparison to Civil War, a few facts became clear. First, the explanation that Thor missed Civil War while living with his roommate Darryl is, sadly, non-canonical. And possibly more relevant to fans, efforts to mark Ragnarok on an MCU calendar should probably stop:
"It's not like, five minutes after Ultron ends we start this movie. It's a couple years later... This movie takes place basically… You know, it’s hard. In the timeline of the MCU, things kind of happen on top of each other, especially now in Phase Three. They're not as interlocked as they were in Phase One, you know, during Fury’s Big Week and everything. So [Thor: Ragnarok] happens maybe on top of Civil War, on top of Spider-Man [Homecoming]. Somewhere in that ball park.
First, let's dissect that addition to the MCU timeline, since the issues fans have come to expect are more obvious than usual. The directors of Captain America: Civil War previously stated that their film takes place approximately one year after Age of Ultron, with Spider-Man: Homecoming beginning around that same time (before jumping forward for the rest of Peter Parker's story). So if Ragnarok returns to Thor after having spent "a couple of years" (with "two years" stated elsewhere among production) away from Earth... he's already as much as a year into the MCU's future.
In Marvel's defense, both the completely separate story being told by Taika Waititi in Thor: Ragnarok, and the intentionally vague dates offered by Winderbaum give them plenty of wiggle room. In other words, this isn't a repeat of Spider-Man: Homecoming breaking the MCU timeline unequivocally. Yet even Homecoming had a reason to alter time, and specific dates are even harder to nail down when Earth is only a speck among the stars in a distant corner of the cosmos (for example: we know that when the Guardians of the Galaxy meet Thor in Infinity War, it will be years after their previous movie).
What Winderbaum's words emphasize is that as much as fans might enjoy drawing up timelines and world maps, those specifics don't have a massive impact on every film in the MCU. We know Ragnarok will barely be set on Earth at all, aside from the Doctor Strange crossover - which only compounds the timeline problems. So the questions such a time frame explain are obvious. Where were Thor and Hulk during Civil War? Watch Ragnarok to find out. Does it make sense for them to be able to seek Strange's help in his New York Sanctum? Well... maybe just try to enjoy the ride.
What do you think of this approximate timeline for the MCU? Is it a sign that fans should just stop demanding Marvel adhere to a sequence of events the studio is already breaking away from? Or is it a sign of imperfect details on the filmmakers' part?
Thor: Ragnarok advance tickets are now on sale wherever tickets are sold.
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017) release date: Nov 03, 2017