The Marvel Cinematic Universe has never quite been on top of keeping a perfect canonical timeline. The basic, very minor timeline issues are well-documented. And, of course, the MCU really hasn’t cared to keep the timelines straight in the television (or Netflix) shows. That’s fine. The MCU, overall, has kept everything straight enough for fans to understand a cohesive canon. Minor issues like a line here or there that doesn’t perfectly fit won’t matter much. Heck, the entirely nonsensical timeline of the X-Men films hasn’t stopped people from seeing those movies, and the MCU is worlds better than that. Still, Marvel has done a great job keeping things more or less straight.
That is, until Captain Marvel came out this weekend. The newest–and 21st–installment of the MCU is the first to take place in the 1990s. Captain America: The First Avenger, was set back in the 1940s. The rest of the movies have been basically set around the year they came out. Captain Marvel, though, is the first “prequel” that takes place close to the action, and that causes problems.
MCU Timeline Issues in Captain Marvel
The first major issue, which possibly has a convoluted yet simple solution, is the Tesseract. This item–which we now know contains the Space
Gem Stone–was lost when the Red Skull touched it and was transported off his plane at the end of Captain America: TFA. Of course, at the end of the movie, we see that Howard Stark discovers the Tesseract.
So, how did the Tesseract end up in Nick Fury’s hands at the start of The Avengers? The simple timeline, until now, was that S.H.I.E.L.D had it all along, but Fury didn’t do anything with it until he needed to. And he also waited until he had Erik Selvig, someone Fury could trust to research the item.
Now, though, we know that’s not true. At some point, Mar-Vell took possession of the Tesseract, before it was returned to Fury at the end of Captain Marvel.
Is this a major plot hole in the overall timeline canon?
Well, yes and no. It’s certainly far more complicated than it had to be. If it was sealed in a S.H.I.E.L.D vault for almost 70 years (from 1945 until 2012), that would explain far better why no one ever came for it or cared about it. No one–save the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D–knew that it existed or where it was. Now, though, we are stuck with the fact that Nick Fury, only a Level 3 S.H.I.E.L.D agent at the time, had the item in 1995. What did he do with it? How did more people in S.H.I.E.L.D not know about it? And, most importantly, how did Mar-Vell get it from S.H.I.E.L.D in the first place? If S.H.I.E.L.D knew it was missing, wouldn’t finding it–the item that literally powered the Red Skull’s attempt at world domination–be the top priority?
When did S.H.I.E.L.D learn about aliens?
In The Avengers, Nick Fury tells Thor that he is the reason S.H.I.E.L.D started researching HYDRA weapons. Thor’s battle with The Destroyer taught S.H.I.E.L.D that not only were humans not alone in the universe, but that they were “hopelessly, hilariously outgunned.” Of course, now we know that isn’t true.
Back in 1995–a full 15 years before Thor’s battle with The Destroyer that leveled a small town–Fury knew just how outgunned the Earth was. Not only did he know that, he learned that the Earth wasn’t outgunned at all.
Yes, Captain Marvel’s battle with Ronan taught Fury that there were aliens with far superior weapons. It also taught him that he had an unbeatable ace in the hole. Captain Marvel can survive in space, deflect and destroy dozens of missiles that make nuclear weapons look like toys, and that she can destroy advanced military spacecraft with nothing but her body.
Not only was Nick Fury aware that he wasn’t alone in the universe in 1995, he was aware of just how outgunned Earth was. Over a decade before the Hulk or Iron Man even entered the picture, he had met people possibly even stronger. So why wasn’t he researching the Tesseract to make weapons in the 1990s? What made him wait until after seeing The Destroyer?
Fury losing his eye
So this isn’t necessarily a timeline issue, but it’s worth mentioning anyway. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Nick Fury tells Steve Rogers that the last time he trusted someone, he lost his eye. In Captain Marvel, we learn that being scratched by a flerken is what ruined Fury’s eye.
Now, it is true that Fury “trusted” the flerken. He played with the “cat” and treated it as a friendly pet. The flerken didn’t appreciate this, though, and took his eye in revenge.
Aside from this being an incredibly weak way for such an iconic moment to happen, it’s also an incredibly weak way to move Fury’s character forward. “The last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye” is a fundamental moment in Fury’s career and life. As is obvious from the line, he never trusted anyone again. It is a big and formative moment, and it’s not at all one that’s done justice by having him scratched by an alien he viewed as a pet.
Also, huge kudos to this guy for entirely predicting this development.
Main image credit: