One of the more annoying think pieces to come out since Spider-Man: Homecoming swung into theaters last week is how the movie allegedly breaks the MCU timeline in half. I’ve seen some articles go so far as to say that the movie creates a franchise-wide plot hole that will swallow the entire franchise whole, because a little continuity clarification is evidently too much for the layman to handle.
The issue being raised is some clarification offered in the movie about how the events of the last ten years of movies actually line-up. It’s established early in the film that Homecoming takes place eight years after the events of The Avengers. Because that paradigm-shifting team-up came out in 2012, and the movies since have taken pace roughly in real-time, a lot of people have taken that to mean that the latest Spider-Man movie takes place in 2020.
That’s it. That’s the alleged plot-hole that will crumble the entire franchise to its knees. If Spider-Man: Homecoming takes place three years in the future, it’s evidently the cinematic end-times.
Beyond the obvious fault in their doom saying logic, however, I think most people are just straight up missing the point. The events of Homecoming are still taking place in 2017. It’s all of the other movies that have shifted slightly backwards in time.
Near the end of the movie, Tony Stark asks Happy for an engagement ring that he wants to give to longtime love-interest Pepper Potts. As he enthusiastically pulls the ring from his pocket, he happily says that he’s been holding onto it “since 2008.” Since their romantic back-and-forth began in the first movie, which came out in 2008, it’s safe to assume that that is the start date for the MCU’s modern timeline.
One thing that people tend to forget is that despite stretching out over five years, the events of The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and the last scene of Captain America: The First Avenger all take place during the same one week: playfully nicknamed “Fury’s Big Week.” If Iron Man took place in 2008, and Spider-Man: Homecoming – which takes place in 2017 – takes place eight years after the events of The Avengers, then “Fury’s Big Week” has to have taken place in 2009: roughly a year into Tony Stark’s new life as a full-time superhero.
Most people had always just assumed that Phase 1’s timeline was compressed prior to The Avengers, but that that capstone movie’s 2012 release date corresponded with its in-universe timestamp. Actually, the reverse was always true: Iron Man’s release date was accurate, but everything following it was condensed into a shortened timeframe.
The only modern dates that were ever given were relative to the events of Iron Man. Events in the MCU were referred to as either BIM – “Before ‘I Am Iron Man’” – or AIM – “After ‘I Am Iron Man’” – referring to the moment at the end of the first film when Tony Stark revealed his heretofore secret identity to the world. They purposefully withheld any information that ascribed the events to this or that particular year.
Everything after The Avengers scoots back a little to fill in the gaps. Each still takes place a few months apart from one another, and still roughly in real time, just not quite as up-to-date as we had assumed: that is, not until Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Everything still fits in place. There are no new plot holes to contend with. A few movies get pushed a little further back in time than we had assumed, but nothing is directly contradicted.
As somebody who still holds out hope that Uncle Ben died during The Avengers’ climactic Battle of New York while trying to help New Yorkers caught between the Chitauri and a hard place – with a scared young Peter paralyzed by fear, unable to help his uncle before watching him collapse under falling debris – this also fits nicely into Peter’s timeline of personal grief. By the time Homecoming comes around, Uncle Ben has been gone for some time: long enough for his once fresh absence to dull into a quiet ache.
Peter and May are still dealing with his death – sometimes poorly – but enough time has passed for them to work through its immediate aftermath. He’s also been Spider-Man for a good long while before Stark approached him during the events of Civil War, enough to gain a small Youtube following, at least. Ben dies, Peter gets radioactive spider powers, then moonlights as a superhero to work through the tragedy.
It all fits within this revised timeline. I can only hope that they’ll address it more directly in the movie’s sequel.