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The film Captain Marvel takes place mostly in 1995. But it didn't seem clear from the story why that particular time period was selected.

The time period seemed like a major element of the story and a lot of energy went into its realism - from soundtrack to settings to wardrobe, etc. So I had expected there so be some decisive plot rationale within the film why that point in time was necessary to the story - but can't identify what this is.

In a general way I can see that it fit in with the MCU time period, e.g., the status of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the time, Ronan of the Kree was still around, Captain America was still frozen, no Iron Man yet, etc. The world of 1995 was not really primed for Captain Marvel and that aspect contributed to the plot & characters. But if they just wanted an "old timey" effect it just as easily could have been set in 1975 as 1995. None of this was specific to 1995.

In contrast the time period of the first Captain America film was essential to the character's origin as a WWII soldier and the specific rationale for his being brought-into-being, etc. I don't see any equivalent in Captain Marvel.

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    My guess is they wanted to make the personal connection between Fury and Captain Marvel, when Fury was still young and giving him a reason to press on with forming the Avengers. Just hunch though, hence only a comment. – Rebel-Scum Mar 10 at 11:07
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    Voted to leave open, it doesn't feel opinion based, there could very well be an interview from the writers/Feige/ someone about this – Jenayah Mar 10 at 11:15
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    It could simply be for story-line issues / integrity ~ remember that Captain Mar-Vel dies in the comics from incurable cancer at a specific time that can be traced & connected to the various story arcs of a whole slew of other characters in the marvel universe, some of which they've already used in MCU films ~ he's part of Carol Danvers Captain Marvels backstory ~ so if the MCU thought they might want to use that same story arc sometime that may have limited them to a degree on when they can set this film. – Pelinore Mar 10 at 12:14
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    My guess was it was an excuse to bring Fury, Coulson, and Hill out again without conflicting with what's currently going on. That's just an opinion, though. – Chipster Mar 10 at 15:07
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    See it as a Nick Fury Origin Story. It had to be some years before the first Iron Man movie. – DavRob60 Mar 10 at 16:41
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This was addressed in an interview with Kevin Feige of Marvel. In short, it was driven by the fact that this was a previously unexplored period in the Marvel timeline.

EW: I wanted to ask you a little more about Captain Marvel. It’s set in the 1990s. How does shifting that timeline back open up new storytelling for the MCU?

KF We wanted to explore a period before Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury had any idea about any of the other heroes and crazy stuff going on in the world. You know, we first met Nick when he told Tony, “You’re part of a big universe. You just don’t know yet.” Well, we want to go back to a time when he didn’t know it yet, and really showcase and announce that Carol Danvers was that first hero that Nick came across. That meant she could be the singular hero, but place it within timing of the MCU. It also got us talking about different genres, exploring this notion of sort of the ‘90s action film. We hadn’t necessarily done anything like that before either, so there are definitely homages to our favorite ‘90s action films within Captain Marvel.

Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige on the future of Black Panther, Captain Marvel, X-Men — and beyond

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    Presumably the fact that the scenes on Earth in what's basically the current day (apart from a few posters and a Blockbuster sign) are super-cheap to film probably didn't hurt their decision-making. A solid twenty minutes of the film takes place in a parking lot and in a warehouse. – Valorum Mar 10 at 23:44
  • Gotta save the ducats for all that CGI... – Paul Mar 17 at 14:12
  • Yeah, that character space lasted for about forty-five seconds after which Fury acted exactly the same with no adjustment at all. – Chris B. Behrens Mar 18 at 23:12
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Plot-wise, once they decided to have Nick Fury working with Captain Marvel, they needed him to be old enough to have the skills and expertise to help her (as well as be credibly de-aged by their fancy special effects), but young enough for this to be his first encounter with anyone super-powered. That puts us in the ball park.

Perhaps more importantly, the movie’s theme of suppressing female power may have been strengthened by the setting. The 1990s is recent enough that the differences to now seem mostly superficial and comedic, but means that women in the American Air Force have only very recently been allowed to fly combat missions. It’s certainly a far cry from 2019, when we’ve completely got past our gender discrimination problems and everything’s absolutely fine.

More superficially, I suspect they wanted the movie to have a strong sense of nostalgia for a specific period cos, y’know, it’s fun. The 80s has been extensively done already (in the superhero genre alone by X-Men: Apolcaypse and the upcoming Wonder Woman: 1984), and the 90s is probably the latest period that currently has any nostalgia value for most of the audience.

Apparently 90s nostalgia is quite popular amongst the youth, with their meme cultures and their tumblers, even those too young to actually remember it. This move is so trending right now! (But please excuse me, I have to take my heart medicine and go draw my pension.)

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    Especially considering how well Guardians of the Galaxy did. – Chipster Mar 10 at 23:31
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    @Chipster: yup, Marvel’s already got the musical aspect of 70s nostalgia taken care of by Rocket & Co. – Paul D. Waite Mar 11 at 0:35
  • Also Thor Ragnarok for the 80s. – Junuxx Mar 18 at 18:15
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    @Junuxx Immigrant Song was released in 1970! – Paul D. Waite Mar 18 at 21:05
  • @PaulD.Waite:That's a good point, but have you seen the logo? I guess you could say 70s/80s (which is how the director described it) – Junuxx Mar 19 at 4:26
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I hesitate to offer essentially an Opinion Answer, but here goes:

Henry Pym broke off all relations with SHIELD in 1989. If Captain Marvel was set prior to that date, say in 1985, the story would have to explain why Ant-Man and the Wasp were not in the thick of an alien emergency. 1995 feels like a plausible amount of time for SHIELD upper-echelons to realize there was not going to be a reconciliation with Pym and don't bother calling him to action. 1995 is therefore a nice "blank piece of paper" between the departure of Ant-Man and thirteen years before the debut of Iron Man. Captain Marvel has plenty of historical elbow room to make a splash without bumping into other heroes. And to be all but forgotten by the time we get to the present day.

Why not earlier, like 1975? I think because Steve Rogers and Peter Quill already have that "out of step with history" covered. Carol Danvers won't know the latest memes or have a Twitter account, but 1995 did have personal computers, the interwebs and cell phones. She'll be more "out of touch with current events" as opposed to "what the hell are you talking about?"

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    I think it's a nice detail to observe the timeframe from the Ant Man backstory. It does tie together well. I wouldn't say this is opinion either because you are citing facts, although maybe drawing speculative (though reasonable) conclusions. But the mcu seems well constructed to me and that means the details have to hold together, as in this example. – DaveInCaz Mar 18 at 23:04
  • Given Carol Danvers only returned to Earth for a few days in 1995, having been taken in 1989, then (as far as we know) stayed away for the next 24 years, I wouldn't assume she has any useful familiarity with the Internet or cell phones. That said, she's clearly able to adapt to tech she doesn't understand pretty rapidly (see: Modifying pagers and pay phones to serve as FTL communicators), and the concept of networked computers and communicators is obviously not foreign to her, so I don't think she needed to have an explicit introduction to '95 era tech. – ShadowRanger Mar 19 at 4:44
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There was a specific comment in the film about the fact that female US aviators were not allowed to fly in combat at that time. This was part of the rationale for why Carol Danvers was working as a project Pegasus test pilot, and as such was a minor though crucial element of the backstory.

The era in which female pilots were allowed in the military but not yet in combat restricted the window of time when the story could be set. It seems that this policy in the US military ran from about 1976 to right after the time of the story (1995/6). Therefore for sake of realism the film couldn't have been set any later, though earlier was possible at least based on this aspect.

If it were set in a later time period they could have found another reason why she would be working a test pilot, but as it was the story may have required the least suspension of disbelief as it stands.

Also (my interpretation) the career limitation that Carol Danvers faced was a subtle reminder that we live in an era of advancing-yet-unequal opportunity for women which seems like the type of sentiment that would be 100% in keeping with some of the broader themes of the story -- and its marketing.

  • There was a six year gap between her time as a Pegasus test pilot and the timeline of the main story, so it could have been set a little later; if she disappeared in '95 and returned in '01, her career options at the time of Pegasus would have been roughly the same. And of course, she could have been with the Kree for more or less than six years if they wanted to push it further into the future. – ShadowRanger Mar 19 at 4:47
  • @ShadowRanger you're right, the time of the crash would have been more like 1989 I suppose, well within that period of US military policy. Maybe roughly 6 years was needed to establish that she had enough time to train and become well established in the Kree, but without so much time passing on earth that the timeline would intersect later MCU events, or that her own friends especially the young girl would have aged beyond what the story demanded. – DaveInCaz Mar 19 at 11:46
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It could be due to a lot of people who would be going to the cinema to see this; they would be in their 30's, and have a connection to the 90s, and the nostalgia of the 90s stuff would soften the crowd up to the story.

Also that they can't use 80s music/stuff as Guardians of the Galaxy already did that.

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    There's no rule that says you can't have a movie in a shared universe that takes place or has references to a decade already referenced or used as a time period for other movies in said shared universes. – TylerH Mar 11 at 21:00

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