We’re beginning to establish a pattern here.
After one movie completely derails the timeline we’ve established, we get a nice, easy Thor movie with almost no concrete references to dates. These first two Thor movies are definite low points in terms of quality, but in this one, specific, dumb category, they are a delight. This one’s gonna be short, so let’s jump right in.
Rule #1: Only the movies are canon.
Rule #2: Title cards are always true.
Rule #3: References to dates in spoken dialogue are always true unless they conflict with rule #2.
Rule #4: Written dates that are prominently displayed in the world are usually true, unless they disagree with rules 2, 3, or each other.
Rule #5: Props and background objects that can be tied to a specific date almost never count.
Spoiler: we don’t actually get any information that helps place this movie on the timeline until the next-to-last scene of the film. Instead, what we’re going to be spending most of our time dealing with backstory thousands of years in the past. Right up front, we get a prologue detailing Malekith’s attempt to use the Aether to destroy the universe and his defeat at the hands of Bor. We also learn that the average life expectancy of an Asgardian is about 5,000 years.
It’s also worth noting that the scene of Loki’s trial seems to take place pretty immediately after the events of The Avengers (he’s wearing the same outfit and is bound in the same fashion as he was at the end of that film), but it only makes sense that the rest of the film takes place some time later. No time jump is made explicit, but by the time we get to the next sequence with Thor, the Bifrost has been repaired and Thor has just finished reasserting Asgardian control over the nine realms – both of which likely didn’t happen overnight.
That being said, once we get into the main portion of the story, things seem to move pretty quickly. Sif joking with Thor about the briefness of his revelries reinforces that Thor’s not just hanging out in Asgard for weeks or months, but instead returns to Earth to find Jane probably just a day later.
We also get a news report clarifying that Selvig’s naked rampage through Stonehenge happens on the same day as Jane finding the effects of the convergence.
Mostly this is just reiterating the information we got at the top of the movie, but there is one new piece of information: Malekith didn’t just use the Aether, he created it.
And now, finally, we have a concrete number. According to Erik Selvig, it’s been about 5,000 years since the last convergence (the aforementioned event when Malekith created the Aether and tried to destroy the universe), or roughly as long as the average Asgardian lifespan, meaning almost no Asgardians alive would be old enough to remember being present for the last one.
And again, nothing really that firms up the timeline, but at least we have a rough window for how long the events of the movie play out. It’s been more than a couple of days, but less than a week. Basically par for the course with most of these Marvel movies.
And finally, in the second-to-last scene of the movie, we get our one, solitary piece of information on when this movie is set: two years after the events of the first Thor, or, more precisely, sometime in 2013. When in 2013? Who can say? But it’s definitely 2013. You could make an argument here that the “two years” is in relation to Thor showing up in The Avengers, but given the context of the scene, specifically talking about Thor as a presence in Jane’s life, two years from 2011 makes more sense.
Not a ton to talk about with this one because it’s pretty straightforward. This was the period of time when, perhaps in effort to correct the inconsistencies of Phase One, Marvel intentionally went out of their way to avoid making explicit references to dates in these movies (more on that next week). That’s probably the better approach, but the problem is that because the damage was already done in the first six movies, grotesque dweebs like me have something to fixate on and obsess over, and there’s no way to put that genie back in the bottle.