The first movie in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is very clear as to where it takes place in film, but future films disrupt the timeline immensely. This is part 1 of a 20-part video series dedicated to determine where each Marvel film takes place. So when exactly does Iron Man occur?
“Jarvis. Sometimes you gotta run before you can walk.” – Tony Stark
We know Iron Man must occur after January 2008, as this Wired Magazine is dated to that month. We also know he was captured by the Ten Rings before the month of June, as the MIT commencement speech always occur on the first week of June. “The MIT Commencement Speech… Is in June.” Upon being captured by the Ten Rings, he was imprisoned for 3 months. We get our first tangible onscreen date on May 4, 2008 during this Mad Money skit, and Tony likely arrived back the day before. This solidly places the film in 2008, for now.
“Some claim he’s suffering from post-traumatic stress and has been bed-ridden for weeks.”
Some time, likely 2 weeks, pass and Tony creates Mark II and Mark III of his Iron Man suits. His 3rd suit was finished on May 16th according to his watch. Agent Phil Coulson makes an appointment for Stark and him to meet on the 24th, which turns out to be the same day that Pepper finds incriminating files on Obadiah Stane’s computer, and also the day that Obadiah becomes the Iron Monger. The next day, on May 25th, Tony Stark claims “I am Iron Man.”
The sequel to the film, as well as the now questionable timeline called Fury’s Big Week, retconned Iron Man from 2008 to 2009, as many assumed the “6 MONTHS LATER” title card referred to this first film. We’ll speak more about why that may not be the case in Part 3. Using that logic, Fury’s Big Week was subsequently moved up a year thanks to the Avengers, meaning Iron Man may take place in 2010, but again, we don’t think so and we’ll discuss why in Part 6. Ultimately, Civil War firmly places the events of Iron Man 8 years prior to itself. “In the 8 years since mr. Stark announced himself as Iron Man the number of known enhanced persons has grown exponentially.” Iron Man takes place between February and May 2008, with 100% of its runtime dedicated to that year.
I hope this series will be informative and a powerful resource for everyone who loves Marvel films.
More information collected from Iron Man (timestamps taken from German 4K Blu-ray release):
2008: (100% of runtime)
– January: Featured on Wired magazine Jan 2008 (frame at 00:04:47). Magazine from The Washington Times dated Friday, December 17, 1991 claims Howard, Maria Stark die in car accident (00:05:08). Tony is 17. 4 years later, likely 1995, Tony Stark takes control of Stark Enterprises.
– February: Presumably this was when he was captured, and early February is likely the time Pepper was born. At (0:12:05) we find the the MIT commencement speech occurs in June, which is some months away. In real life the MIT commencement speech always take place the first week of June.
– May: Presumably when Tony comes back from captivity. Tony claims to have been in captivity for 3 months. (00:43:19) Mad Money broadcast is dated May 4, 2008, meaning Stark likely arrived back the previous day. Access Hollywood claims he’s been bedridden for weeks, meaning MRK3 was finished mid-May (01:07:16). Stark’s watch claims it’s May 16th (01:07:51), though that should fall on a Friday, not a Thursday; likely this was filmed on August 16th, 2007. Agent Coulson wants to meet on the 24th (01:09:26). That’s the date Pepper finds the files on Obadiah’s computer, and Obadiah becomes the Iron Monger. The next day Tony Stark claims that he is Iron Man.