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The claim: A scene from Marvel 2011's "Captain America: The First Avenger" predicts the coronavirus  

Since the advent of the novel coronavirus at the end of 2019, rumors have circulated as to the Facebook post claims the pandemic was predicted in the 2011 film "Captain America: The First Avenger."

The post features a still shot of Steve Rogers, played by actor Chris Evans, in the middle of New York City's Times Square, where he ends up after fleeing S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, having just been revived from his nearly 70-year slumber in ice. Various billboards loom in the background, including one for Corona beer and another resembling an illustration for the coronavirus.

"Behind his right shoulder, a Corona Beer, & on his left, the image of a 'coronavirus' in New York City... Let that sink in," declares the text above the image.  

Exit the Matrix, an "entertainment website" that is among many pages on Facebook to publish the post, informed USA TODAY via Facebook Messenger that the image was obtained from another Facebook group (it could not provide details as to name). Exit the Matrix expressed belief in the image's claim although acknowledged never having seen the film itself.

Coronavirus or pasta? 

While there's no mistaking the beverage's billboard, the image of the supposed coronavirus, which appears to be in the original film (see the below clip at around timestamp 2:07), is a bit of a puzzle.

Film critic William Mullally, in a recent Twitter thread, was able to ascertain the identity of the blurry screenshot.

Finding it vaguely familiar, he said he first believed it was cover design of the "Divergent" trilogy written by young adult Veronica Roth. 

"I remembered the Divergent cover had the same color scheme, but not quite the same design," Mullally wrote. "Close, but no cigar."

A Wikipedia search helped him pinpoint the date the scene was shot on location in New York City — April 23, 2011— which then led him on a search for movies and Broadway shows airing around the time.

"I started watching random YouTube videos and looking for images from April 2011 in Times Square," he writes. "No clear view of the poster."

Mullally was finally able to track down an picture of Times Square, circa 2011, with the help of a friend. Above billboards for the Broadway shows "Wicked" and "Phantom of the Opera" stands a blue advertisement depicting a firework of tan tendrils.

"It's spaghetti," he tweeted, providing a close-up of the advertisement for Barilla pasta that matches the blurry image.

Marvel did not immediately reply to a USA TODAY request for comment. 

Snopes has also investigated the claim and reached Barilla for its reaction.

"This is definitely not the type of question we normally find ourselves in the position of being asked … Any potential reference to the current global pandemic we find ourselves in would be purely coincidental," a spokesperson said in an statement, which Snopes said was abridged for clarity. "If the Marvel Universe is able to predict the future, I sure hope I don’t come across any evil demigods who are intent on decimating the planet and the universe."

Our ruling: False

We rate the claim that the coronavirus pandemic was predicted by the 2011 film "Captain America: The First Avenger" as FALSE because it is not supported by our research. Of the two images integral to claim, the one resembling the coronavirus is actually a poster for Barilla pasta. The company denies any association or foreknowledge of the pandemic.

Our fact-check sources:

  • William Mullally, June 11, 2020, Twitter thread
  • Snopes, "Did the 'Captain America' Movie Predict the Coronavirus Pandemic?"

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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