We're still a couple weeks away from their second galaxy-hopping adventure, but when the Guardians Of The Galaxy team up for Avengers: Infinity War next year — alongside heroes from every corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — they won't necessarily be the same group you know and love already, thanks to a quirk in the franchise's timeline. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige himself confirmed the quirky GOTG timeline on Monday, telling Cinema Blend that the sequel film will be taking place in 2014, while Avengers: Infinity War will take place in 2018. So wait, what happened between Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Avengers: Infinity War in that four year gap?
"It was important for the story that [writer-director] James [Gunn] wanted to tell that they're still relatively fresh in their new group," Feige told Cinema blend. He also teased how the time jump with affect the Guardians the next time we see them: "They will have evolved slightly, in some recognizable ways."
When we catch up with the Guardians again in Infinity War, a full four years (2014-2018) will have passed off-screen for the team — despite the fact that the films will only be released 12 months apart. What does that mean, exactly? Given that the first two films in the franchise are taking place only a few months apart, a time jump of four years could have huge ramifications for the team; it's possible the line-up won't even be the same. Vol. 2 will introduce three new members: existing characters Nebula and Yondu, as well as brand new hero Mantis. Will all eight Guardians still be around in Infinity War?
Conversely, could there be even more Guardians like Adam Warlock, Major Victory, Moondragon, or Cosmo the telepathic dog — all of whom have been on the team's roster in the comic books? Furthermore, what will the group have been up to in the meantime? How will their relationships have changed in the intervening years? How many more times will they have saved the galaxy? Infinity War could drop some sly Easter eggs for Marvel fans by referencing a Guardians storyline from the comics, such as the War Of Kings, the Attack Of The Spartoi, or the Black Vortex. (Of course, they have to save something for Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3.)
Although most films in the MCU are never super specific when it comes to time period, it's generally assumed that each movie takes place in the year during which it came out. (Obviously the bulk of Captain America: The First Avenger takes place in the 1940s, but even the epilogue places the film back in its proper 2011 setting.) Oddly, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is the first film in the interconnected universe to buck that trend. Unlike most of its MCU brethren, the first GOTG very definitively placed itself in time, thanks to a prologue that started in 1988, followed by a "26 Years Later" title card that confirmed the movie did indeed take place in 2014.
However, the fact that Vol. 2 picks up only a few months after its predecessor left off (hence why Groot is still a baby) means that it most definitely does not take place in 2017. In fact, it actually means that the sequel technically takes place before the events of such films as Age Of Ultron, Ant-Man, Civil War, and Doctor Strange… making it more of a prequel, really.
This news definitely raises more questions than answers… but it does help to solve one lingering mystery. Way back in 2015, director James Gunn confirmed that Thanos wouldn't be in Vol. 2, news that seemed strange at the time. The first GOTG had featured the purple villain in a minor role, and given that Vol. 2 was going to be one of the last films before Infinity War, many people expected that it would feature Thanos even more heavily, and help lead directly to the events of that cosmic conflict.
"We're not subservient to the Avengers," Gunn told MTV in no uncertain terms two years ago. "Guardians 2 is not a movie that's made to move toward Infinity War." Now that we know there will be a four-year time jump between Vol. 2 and Infinity War, that pronouncement makes a lot more sense in hindsight. Now, without the added pressure of serving as the bridge towards the third Avengers movie, the Guardians can just relax and get down to the business of saving the galaxy in peace.