10 of the WORST Timeline Mistakes in the MCU

A transcription of this video is available below!

How’s it going guys and geeks? Welcome to Geekritique, my name is Dakota. Now that we’ve gotten those pleasantries out of the way, enough’s enough! I’ve had it up to here with the Disney+ MCU Timeline. They’ve just misplaced Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and instead of just making another video mapping the MCU Timeline, I wanted to take a moment to talk about some of the biggest timeline errors that Marvel Studios has ever made, effectively breaking the continuity of the MCU again, and again, and again. While there are many, many times that we’ve seen timeline mistakes or mishaps, today we’ll be talking about 10 of the biggest, and some of these mistakes are actually a combination of multiple. I’ll start with a few smaller ones and work my way up to what I perceive to be the worst offender. I’d like to hear your thoughts are as to the absolute worst timeline mistake in the comments below, so please don’t forget to let me know.

Now, the MCU is a massive endeavor. There’s no way you can ever keep everything 100% in check. Plot holes open up, and some details fall through the cracks when you have so many teams working to produce so much content. Some of these mistakes are retcons, some could be just awkward storytelling elements, but many are just downright genuine errors. I don’t want this video to seem in any way disparaging. I have the utmost respect for Marvel Studios and the universe that they’ve built. Hopefully they’ll hire someone, or have already done so, to keep track of their continuity moving forward. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun at their expense.

Please be sure to like this video so that as many people as possible can see it, and hopefully Marvel will eventually fix some of the mistakes that we detail in the video! Also, subscribe if you’d like to see more MCU Timeline content like this. Let’s begin.

10 – Birth Year Errors
The MCU has gotten dates wrong before, and it’s definitely gotten a number of character’s birthdates incorrect. There are a few that spring to mind. Somehow Bucky’s plaque in the Captain America exhibit states he was born in both 1916 and 1917. The best fit is 1917 though, so we’ll stick with that. We also have Wanda Maximoff’s birth year in question, thanks to WandaVision. “Quick history on our subject: born in Sokovia in 1989.” That’s contradicted by the very same scene, where this graphic reads she was born in 1988. Scripts hold more weight than outsourced graphics though, so we can conclude she was indeed born in 1989.

The most recent example of a birth date mistake is from none other than Black Widow. Way back in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Arnim Zola’s HYDRA AI claimed “Romanoff, Natalia Alianovna, born 1984.” What is the likelihood that one of the most intelligent AI’s in the MCU could be mistaken? Well, in the entirety of Black Widow, only one date is featured. December 3rd, 1983 is Natasha Romanoff’s date of birth, according to her birth certificate in the opening credits. It’s not a huge error, in fact, it’s only about a month off the mark, but it begs the question about which is correct. Could the AI have missing information about Natasha Romanoff, or did the more recent movie simply forget about this line? When in doubt, always presume the most recent title to be correct, unless it’s outright wrong, which we’ll see soon enough. It’s very likely that her true birth information and legal documentation was destroyed during her time in the Red Room. This is a possible retcon by Marvel Studios, and one that can be easily explained away. The next item on our list isn’t as easy to explain away.

9 – 2 Months Later
The Jon Watts Spider-Man films are notorious for breaking the timeline, and you’ll see Homecoming pop up more than once on this list. Far From Home is significantly better represented on the timeline, but it’s not without its mistakes as well, like the inclusion of the Signal Lights Festival in Prague in the month of July, when it’s usually in October. But let’s talk about Homecoming. It’s a film that takes place in 2016, but thinks it takes place in 2017, if the age of weapons dealer Aaron Davis is to be believed. “Aaron Davis, Age 33.” But this is supposed to be 2 months after the fight at the airport in Civil War, so we know it has to be in 2016. But there’s a problem there as well. That fight occurred in early April 2016, according to a number of in-film dates and references which you can learn about by clicking the card above, but this film is supposed to be set at the start of the New York school year. Homecoming has to take place in September, so it’s closer to 5 months after Civil War. But then we find out the upcoming Decathlon takes place in October… oh no wait, they changed it back to September. You get the point. Remember what I said about how when in doubt, always assume the newer title is correct? Well yeah. Don’t do that for Homecoming. It is by far the worst offender to chronology in the entire MCU.

That said, the errors seem entirely ignored in future films, so no harm done. While they’re pretty major chronological errors, whether Homecoming occurs in June, September, or October 2016, doesn’t really matter. It wouldn’t change its position on the timeline any. But for what it’s worth though, Homecoming takes place in September 2016.

8 – Thanos and his Gauntlet
This is a simple mistake that many overlooked, but considering What If…? is technically canon through the multiverse, it bears explaining. On the Sacred Timeline, which is Earth 616.432 according to the TVA, Thanos went in search of the Infinity Stones in 2018, with the Mind Stone being the last left to collect. But in 2015 Ultron lost to the Avengers after the Vibranium container was given life via the Mind Stone instead of Ultron’s consciousness, giving birth to Vision.

Now the premise of What If…? episode 8 is simple. What if Ultron won? The episode explains that by taking the Synthezoid body, he would eventually win out over the Avengers and lay waste to earth. This would occur rather quickly, providing the Mind Stone’s infinite power being pushed to its destructive limitations, so we can surmise this all occurs in Summer 2015. But if that’s the case, why did Thanos show up in 2015 when he wouldn’t normally do that until 2018? It’s a clear anachronism, and it doesn’t make much sense. It was clearly done to speed up the procuring process of collecting the Infinity Stones. Sure, you can argue that because it’s another universe anything can happen, right? Well not according to Loki, which explains that Nexus events occur when one variable is shifted out of alignment with the Sacred Timeline, and this is a clear example of a Nexus event altering this universe.

The best reasoning I can come up with to potentially remedy this timeline issue is that Thanos somehow noticed that the Mind Stone was being used and began his hunt early. But this doesn’t account for the many times the Stones were used before 2018, like the Space Stone, the Time Stone, the Reality Stone, the Power Stone, and yes, even the Mind Stone. So yeah, that’s definitely just a huge plot hole. Also, how did Thanos acquire the Soul Stone if we find out later that Gamora was still alive in that universe? It’s best not to think too hard on it, but we’ll be talking more about What If…? later in this video.

7 – Who’s the president anyway?
This is a strange one. And it ties in with number 4 on our list because it strongly connects with Iron Man 3 and it’s possible placement. But a quick recap for those of you who aren’t American. Barack Obama was the 44th President of the United States, and served two 4-year terms in office, totaling 8 years between 2009 and early 2017. Certain indicators in Iron Man 2, namely this derivation of the Hope poster suggests that Barack Obama was the president at the time, serving his first term. In Iron Man 3 we see that a character named Matthew Ellis is now the President, meaning Barack only served the single term in the MCU.

When Iron Man 3 occurs is hotly debated, because if it occurs in Christmas 2012, as the time frames and quotes in the film suggest, then Obama should still be President. But this and an in-film date are also the best evidence that this occurs in 2013, because the next President would have been rightly inaugurated by that date. It gets even more confusing when you consider this quote from Ellis in 2011, whom the Smithsonian exhibit claims was the President at that time as well. It’s all a bit messy. But while we’re on the topic, we have no idea who the MCU’s President is between the years of 2017 and 2024, but that’s not exactly a plot hole so let’s move on.

6 – Eternals 2500 year gap!
Yep, you heard that correctly. There’s a massive plot hole in Eternals that spans millennia. This will be mostly spoiler free, and I’ll keep it as brief as possible, but if you haven’t seen the film yet and you’d like to before watching this, please find in the video Timeline below the next title so that you can skip this part. But the gist of it revolves around Sersi and Ikaris, and their supposed 5000 year relationship. Well, at least that’s how long Sersi and Phastos claim Ikaris and Sersi’s relationship lasted. But shortly after a victory against the Deviants in Babylon in 575 BC, Ajak tells Ikaris to go ahead and tell Sersi about his feelings for her, which he subsequently does.

Now, I don’t know about you, but between the years of 575 BC, and 2024 AD that’s, that a span of about 2600 years, and noting the two broke up a century before present day, that leads us to conclude that they were together for only 2500 years, which is exactly half of what the film claimed their relationship to be. This is undoubtedly a mistake that likely came up during reshoots. Maybe they needed more motivation for Ikaris to pursue Sersi, so they had to throw in that conversation in Babylon – but in so doing they wrecked their own timeline. It’s a pretty big plot hole, but thankfully it doesn’t affect any other films in the series, unlike our next timeline mistake.

5 – The Watcher’s Informant
This is one of the more common examples of a chronological plot hole that nearly everyone can spot, and I’m not even mad about it, because I love it so much. Stan Lee had 37 Marvel movie cameos throughout his life and even appeared in some tv shows, and one fun fan theory that went around for a while was that he was a Watcher, an alien whose job it is to simply observe the universe. Well James Gunn decided to take that concept and instead make him an informant of the Watchers, giving his many appearances in the films a canonical basis.

As fun as this cameo is, it unfortunately carried a huge plot hole with it. Stan talks about a time when he was playing a FedEx driver, an event that wouldn’t occur for another two years chronologically. Remember that both Guardians of the Galaxy films occur months apart from one another in 2014, and the FedEx cameo occurs in Civil War, a film that takes place in 2016. James Gunn has gone on to admit this is a mistake, but it’s a fun one, and it’s another excuse to just enjoy Stan Lee on screen, so no harm done.

4 – The Disney+ MCU Timeline
One of the coolest features on Disney+ has to be that they organize all the Marvel Studios content currently streaming there into a huge viewing timeline. And as a huge timeline nerd, it’s awesome. I don’t know if the person organizing the playlist is just a Disney employee or has some inside communication with Marvel Studios, but when a new Marvel title drops, they’re pretty quick about placing it timeline-wise. However, as you’ve probably gathered by now, it’s not perfect. There are a couple instances where they flip titles on the list that I downright disagree with. I think the Disney+ MCU Timeline is my Joker origin story…

The first is the long-standing dispute between whether Iron Man 3 occurs before or after Thor: The Dark World. We know Iron Man 3 occurs around Christmastime, but the year isn’t clear. The film has a date suggesting 2013, which would place it a month after Thor: The Dark World, but it’s generally disputed because the time elapsed according to dialogue seems to usually add up to 2012 instead. And if you still consider Agents of SHIELD canon, Iron Man 3 needs to occur before Thor: The Dark World. If you don’t, then it doesn’t matter either way. Disney+ chooses to place Iron Man 3 after Thor: The Dark World. However, it’s worth noting that in the lead up to Infinity War the Russo Brothers posted a timeline order of each film, and they have Iron Man 3 before the Dark World. I tend to agree with them and not with Disney+.

Another weird example of Disney+ making odd choices is the placement of Black Widow, which initially they got correct. They originally had it placed before Black Panther, which made sense. Both films are almost directly after Captain America: Civil War, but Black Widow begins the day after Tony tells her to go on the run, which has to happen several days before T’Challa finds Nakia in Black Panther. Both films elapse 3-4 days respectively, meaning the bulk of Black Widow occurs before Black Panther. Some time after placing it on the timeline, Disney+ decided to flip the placements. No answer was given. This is obviously wrong and just makes zero sense. There’s no point in breaking it down further. You can learn more about Black Widow’s timeline placement in this video right here.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the next bizarre placement. Disney+ places it directly after Falcon and the Winter Soldier. This is very, very incorrect, and completely ignores a pivotal date in Shang-Chi that revolves around the Chinese lunar calendar. But let’s back up and set the scene. Falcon and the Winter Soldier claims several times to be 6 months after Endgame, and since Endgame takes place mid-October, that places the start of Falcon in mid to late-April 2024. We know Endgame takes place in October because Far From Home occurs 8 months after it, and that film lands during the New York school year’s summer break, so June and July 2024. Anyway, Falcon and the Winter Soldier elapses a much longer time period from start to finish than Shang-Chi does. It’s about a month or two, whereas Shang-Chi is closer to 8 days. Shang-Chi begins in late March and ends in early April 2024, several weeks before Falcon and the Winter Soldier even begins. We know this because the one day per year that Wenwu can enter Ta Lo safely is the third day of the Qingming Jie festival, which is on April 5th in 2024. It is literally impossible for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings to take place after Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Most likely Disney+ got confused by this poster that pops up several times throughout the film that reads July 21st through 28th, but if that were true it would completely invalidate the entire purpose of placing the climax on a Chinese holiday.

While I think it’s awesome that Disney+ has a timeline viewing order feature, I also think that these regular mistakes are hugely irresponsible, because it goes against common sense, and removes viewer immersion from the whole of it. We don’t know if it’s the official Marvel Studios timeline, but we can only assume they’re partially responsible for these placements. If only there were someone they could consult about timeline placements…

3 – Retcons on top of retcons
Moving on from Disney+, let’s talk about Phase 1, and the many retcons it took to somehow fit all these stories together. Because it’s crazy. In 2008, Iron Man came out. The movie took place in 2008, at the time. Also in 2008, The Incredible Hulk came out. That film took place in 2007, at the time. Then in 2010, Iron Man 2 came out, and that took place in… well, that’s when it starts getting muddy. Because twice it suggests it’s 6 months after Iron Man. Either it took place in early 2009, or we would have to move the first Iron Man up to 2009. Let’s just suppose it’s the latter and say that Iron Man 2 occurs in 2010, with a strange Easter egg of the Culver City attack from the Hulk. So maybe that’s moved up to 2010 too? Then Thor comes out in 2011, we assume it takes place in 2011, but a weird one-shot short film on one of the DVDs connects the events of Thor to other films, so maybe that’s 2010 too? Now Iron Man 2, Thor, and the Incredible Hulk all take place at the same time, in 2010 presumably. And then, boom. Avengers comes out in 2012, which also takes place in 2012, and suggests that both The Incredible Hulk and Thor occurred the previous year in 2011, meaning both Iron Man films also need to be moved up a year as well. And oh, we’re not done, it keeps going, it keeps getting more confusing.

But let’s recap. Iron Man moved from 2008 to 2010 probably, if that 6 month later thing is to be believed. Incredible Hulk moved from 2007 to 2011. And Iron Man 2 from 2010 to 2011. But then in Civil War we have this tricky line from Vision that changes it up again. “In the 8 years since Mr. Stark announced himself as Iron Man, the number of known enhanced persons has grown exponentially.” Civil War definitely occurs in 2016, so that retcons the retcon of the retcon back to 2008 again. Iron Man now occurs in 2008, and the “6 month later” line in Iron Man 2 is now meaningless. This is all because they decided to retroactively bunch all these films into something called Fury’s Big Week for some asinine reason. More like Fury’s Big Mess.

2 – Competing Explanations for the Multiverse
This one is a bit harder to follow, but I believe it’s a very big deal because it breaks our understanding of the multiverse and could potentially affect how all the future titles interact with it. Our introduction to the multiverse in Loki is confusing as is. We know that there are branched timelines created by Nexus Events that eventually extend into their own universes, presumably when they redline, but He Who Remains also detailed parallel universes that aren’t inherently connected to the Sacred Timeline. So keep those two ideas in mind. Nexus events create branched timelines of events that weren’t supposed to occur, while parallel universes, if I’m understanding He Who Remains correctly, are literally just different universes that run concurrently to the Sacred Timeline, but aren’t necessarily connected to it.

What If…?, the second MCU title to truly explore the multiverse, made it clear most of the episodes took place in universes that were offshoots of the Sacred Timeline we know and love, and that Nexus Events created these variants and variations. But in What If…? episode 4, we receive a look at a universe that doesn’t match either of the multiverse definitions from Loki season one. In this universe Christine Palmer must die. No matter what choices are made, or how far back in time you go, Christine Palmer was always going to die that night. It’s what’s known as an Absolute Point. The issue is it’s only an Absolute Point in this universe, because we know this is an event that never happens on the Sacred Timeline, and it can’t be a Nexus Event because Nexus Events are reversible, as shown in Endgame and Loki. In fact, the very idea of an Absolute Point is the opposite, the antithesis of what a Nexus Event is. There is no Nexus Event defined to create this side universe, and the Absolute Point precludes itself from being a Nexus Event in the first place. It’s a paradox, unless we are to believe this is a parallel universe, and not necessarily a universe that’s branched off of the Sacred Timeline.

It may seem like I’m arguing semantics, and you’re right, I am, but it could be a bigger narrative problem down the road. It wasn’t until Loki and What If…? and No Way Home were written and filmed that Marvel Studios decided to sit all it’s writers down to discuss the rules of the Multiverse, meaning there’s potentially going to be bigger plot holes facing multiverse stories in the future, because they should have ironed out these rules in advance. Time will tell, but I’m worried that the multiverse is going to get real messy.

1 – 8 years later
You all knew what this list was leading towards. The now legendary blunder, the biggest, most confusing timeline mistake of them all. 8 years later. Forget breaking the timeline, this broke me. We’ve already established that Spider-Man: Homecoming occurs in 2016, but it claimed to occur 8 years after the Battle of New York, the one in the Avengers which we knew to occur in 2012. What this was suggesting, if true, was that either Homecoming took place in 2020, or Avengers took place in 2008. Neither can be true. This is supposed to be Peter’s Sophomore year in high school, and seeing as how he was a Freshman in Civil War, this definitely occurs in 2016.

This is just a really terrible plot hole, which made it through multiple scripts, multiple production companies, uhh, multiple screenings before it even graced our eyes. The best explanation is that they needed to explain away this scene with Adrian Toomes’ daughter’s drawing. Clearly it’s the work of a child, but 4 years later isn’t enough time to elapse for the Liz we see in Homecoming, who’s two years older than Peter and a Senior, so they stretched the 4 years into 8 and hoped we wouldn’t notice. We did.

As much as I love Marvel Studios, and respect their output time and again, their handling of the timeline is at best lazy, and at worst neglectful. Just as there are six Infinity Stones that correlate with the elemental laws of nature in the MCU, I truly believe there are six elemental properties that all stories need to abide by and play with, and Time is one of them. In most stories, time moves unnoticeably. But when you’re dealing with a series, or a universe, or a multiverse, time is ever more important to get straight, because when it’s not apparently cohesive, cracks form. And those cracks will turn into fissures and chasms in the overall narrative that an ongoing project like the MCU cannot afford.

It’s my firm belief that Marvel Studios needs to hire someone to manage their timeline, or at least someone to consult with. I’d obviously love to be that guy, I mean I already do it for free anyway, so heck. Marvel, if you’re watching this, I’m sorry about the backhanded application, but I’m formally putting my name in the hat for consideration… for uhh Timeline Manager? Uhh. Director of chronology? Chrono-coordinator? Time Keeper perhaps? That said, I’ll be happy if Marvel finds anyone for the position because it’s a role that clearly needs filling, even if it isn’t me, especially with all the projects currently in development.

Now that I’ve gotten all that off my chest, it’s time to tackle the big one. Our next Complete MCU Chronological Timeline is coming soon. Guys, for regular updates on the MCU Timeline’s progress, please be sure to follow me on Twitter because I’m most active there. Shout out to our Patrons who will get to see that massive project early, because they make projects like this possible. You don’t want to miss our MCU Timeline v7.0, because it’s gonna be something unlike we’ve ever done, so I’m really excited for that. So please don’t forget to like this video, subscribe if you want more content like this and be sure to hit that bell icon to be notified when we do release our next MCU Timeline. Thanks guys, have a good one.

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