The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a remarkably complex creation, and Marvel insiders put in phenomenal effort to ensure that everything lines up so that it makes sense. Unfortunately, this year's Marvel movies are making the timeline more awkward than ever, and it's beginning to become noticeable. In the case of Spider-Man: Homecoming, there's one moment where the continuity throws the entire timeline out of whack. Unsurprisingly, expect some light spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming to follow.
Just When Is Spider-Man: Homecoming Set?
The film starts off in the aftermath of the Chitauri invasion of New York, which until now, had been dated at 2012 (the year The Avengers was released). Text on the screen then tells us we're jumping to a time "Eight Years Later," where we run through a Peter-Parker-focused summary of Captain America: Civil War. It's tremendous fun, and Spider-Man's reactions to key events — such as Ant-Man going all 'Giant-Man' — is hilarious.
But here's the catch: How is that eight years later? Here's the timeline according to Civil War:
- 2008: Tony Stark reveals to the world that he is Iron Man.
- 2012: The Chitauri invasion of New York.
- 2016: Eight years after Tony Stark outed himself as Iron Man, the Sokovia Accords are passed.
There's no fixing this. You can't simply move the events of The Avengers to 2008, and assume that everything in the MCU's first phase all happened in the same year; it introduces far too many problems for the overarching continuity. Meanwhile, if #SpidermanHomecoming was actually set eight years after the events of The Avengers, the film would take place in 2020. That directly contradicts Peter's entire character arc in the film, while set details for the Staten Island Ferry feature adverts for 2018's Stark Expo, which would be two years out of date.
I'm afraid these two details have to go down as a mistake on Marvel's part, and literally the only way to make the MCU's continuity work is to assume this should read "four years later."
Another Complicating Factor
Now let's add another complicating factor; Aaron Davis, a petty thief played by Donald Glover (whose nephew is none other than Miles Morales). According to Spider-Man's AI, Karen, Aaron Davis was born in April 1984, and is 33 years old. That means Homecoming must be set in Fall 2017 (Homecoming dances are usually in the Fall term). So the timeline doesn't exactly get simpler, I'm afraid!
The Perils Of Playing With The Timeline
This year's Marvel films fit awkwardly into the MCU's overarching continuity. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is set just a couple of months after the first film, meaning those events actually take place in 2014. Spider-Man: Homecoming is actually set two months after Civil War, in 2016. And Thor: Ragnarok is expected to span from 2015 through to the present day, as it will tell us what Thor's been up to since Avengers: Age of Ultron.
The problem is, the more you jump around the timeline, the more likely you are to make mistakes. James Gunn slipped up through the much-loved Stan Lee cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. As he explained:
"Yes, I know I made a mistake. I'll own up to my mistake because Guardians of the 'Galaxy 2' theoretically happens in 2014 which is before 'Infinity War'. And Stan Lee in the movie says, 'That time I was the Fed Ex guy,' which is what he is in 'Civil War'. I screwed up; I wasn't thinking."
That one could easily be explained away — There was already evidence the Watcher's Informant isn't bound by the laws of time. This time round, though, there's no fix. The text is simply wrong, and has to be dismissed.
Ultimately, this doesn't really affect the plot of Homecoming at all. The narrative still works — For years now, Toomes has been making his fortune by dealing scavenged tech on the black market. As for how many years he's been doing it? That doesn't really matter. What does matter, though, is that this offers a cautionary note to #Marvel Studios. The more you mess around with the #MCU's timeline, the easier it's going to become to make mistakes.