This is it. Spider-Man: Homecoming. The movie that supposedly broke the timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movie whose depiction of events has been famously called “incorrect” by some of Marvel’s most prominent filmmakers. The movie that – in a roundabout way – inspired me to do this whole dumb series in the first place.
Turns out it actually doesn’t change the timeline much at all (at least not the version of it we’re currently working with).
Before we get into all that, a quick recap of the rules…
Rule #1: Only the movies are canon.
Rule #2: Title cards are always true.
Rule #3: References to dates in spoken dialogue are always true unless they conflict with rule #2.
Rule #4: Written dates that are prominently displayed in the world are usually true, unless they disagree with rules 2, 3, or each other.
Rule #5: Props and background objects that can be tied to a specific date almost never count.
Spider-Man: Homecoming opens with a prologue set amid the immediate aftermath of The Avengers‘ battle of New York. This itself isn’t controversial, but it sets the stage for the controversy to follow:
Here it is! Here’s sequence that launched a thousand articles. After the post-Avengers prologue, we jump forward eight years to… the events of Captain America: Civil War. What? But that can’t be right! The Avengers takes place in 2012, and Civil War is 2016. That’s only four years! Ah, but if you’ve been following along with this series, you’d know you’re wrong on both counts!
To recap: because Phase One of the MCU was meant to take place over the course of about 15 months, while Phase Two assumed that the movies were happening in roughly real time, the timeline is sort of irreparably broken. If you’re looking at just the Phase One movies, The Avengers probably takes place in 2009 – about a year after the first Iron Man. If you’re looking at Phase Two, it probably takes place in 2012, or the same year the movie was released in theaters. In Phase Three, though, Civil War re-establishes the original Phase One timeline with Iron Man back in 2008 and, by extension, The Avengers back in 2009. Not only that, but Civil War itself seems to take place in 2017 – a year after the movie was released in theaters. So this supposedly incorrect time jump that sent fans everywhere into a tizzy is merely staying faithful to the chronology of events established by Civil War. It just presents it in a more obvious way.
This time jump does, however, move things around just a little bit. We’d previously assumed Civil War took place in the spring of 2017 (thanks to a newspaper ad in the beginning of the film for an upcoming event), but with Homecoming set a mere two months after Civil War, that changes things. Homecoming dances typically take place in late September or early October (or in this case maybe both? We’ll get to that), so that would put Civil War in either July or August. According to our rules, the title card supersedes the date on the newspaper, and besides, we’d already thrown out the newspaper’s year thanks to some of the dialogue in that film, so we’re now just disregarding it entirely. If you want a No-Prize, maybe those weren’t current newspapers, and Wanda just brought along all the relevant information they had on Rumlow. I dunno, that’s the best I’ve got.
There’s also the problem that moving the events of Civil War into the summer invalidates my previous No-Prize for Vision’s comment about eight years. Instead, we’ll say he’s counting calendar years instead of counting the traditional way. His brain is part computer, so whatever. The timeline’s nonsense, there’s only so much I can do.
Here we get a firm date for upcoming Academic Decathlon that winds up being the setting for the midpoint of the movie, so this would seem to put the movie in October of 2017. It’d be great if it were that easy, but nothing ever is…
Now, some of you might be saying to yourself, “wait, they’ve never established that this is for sure happening in 2017. Maybe The Avengers does take place in 2012 and this movie is happening in 2020! Ever think of that, wise guy?” First of all, I don’t appreciate your tone, and second of all, here’s a bag of gummy worms that expires in 2018. Assuming Peter’s favorite bodega isn’t selling candy years after its sell by date, and knowing that the shelf life of gummy worms is 12 months (the things I now know thanks to this deeply absurd project…) that means this is almost certainly happening in October(?) of 2017.
Happy establishes that moving day is about a week out from the start of the film, which means the film takes place over the course of about a week.
With Civil War moving forward, we also have to move Spidey’s origin. At this point it would have been about eight months since Peter got his powers and Uncle Ben was subsequently murdered, putting that somewhere in early winter of 2017.
None of this is hugely significant, but we do get to see the years of Midtown High’s various championships – the most recent of which was in 2009. We also get to see a wall mural donated by the class of 1989.
Remember how I said Homecoming typically take place in either September or October? Well, in this case, it could be both, since the Academic Decathlon happening just prior to the dance is either happening on October 13-15, or September 14th. I don’t know, man. Maybe the Decathlon was moved forward an entire month at the last minute and somehow no one on Peter’s team is worried about it? Maybe there are two Academic Decathlons happening within a month of each other with the exact same poster design? Or maybe it was pushed back a month and Peter just never brought home an updated version of the poster. Your No-Prize guess is as good as mine, but we’re just gonna cover our bases and call this “fall.”
And now, in case you still wanted to refute the title card, we have the eight year time jump reiterated in dialogue.
For all the talk of the timeline in this movie being “incorrect,” this is the only movie that actually gets the amount of time Cap was frozen correct. Back in The Avengers they did a very generous rounding up to 70, and in Age of Ultron Steve says it’s been 75 which doesn’t make sense at all. 65, though, is pretty much right on the money for an instructional video series that would have been shot pretty shortly after the events of The Avengers.
More clarifying of the internal timeline of the movie, though this perhaps makes it less clear. Liz’s party was on a Friday, we see an entire day pass after the party while Peter and Ned track Toomes’s goons, and then Peter leaves with Ned for the Decathlon where they spend at least two days. That would happening on a weekday, which I suppose is possible, but it makes less sense than it being on a weekend. Anyway, I’m nitpicking.
What’s more significant is we get Aaron Davis’s (Miles Morales’s uncle) age and birthday. He’s 33, born in April of 1984, which once more establishes this film as taking place in 2017 (y’know, in case you didn’t believe the gummy worms).
Looks like Peter had only been back from Germany for about two weeks before he decided to quit band to focus on his “internship.” Moving on.
We don’t know Peter’s exact birthday yet, but if he’s 15 in 2017, he was probably born some time in 2002.
Flash’s dad’s car is a 2017 model, further reinforcing that this movie takes place in 2017.
And finally we learn that Happy’s been carrying an engagement ring that Tony bought for Pepper all the way back in 2008. Once again, placing the events of Iron Man back in 2008 where they belong (we never see Tony buy the ring, but he and Pepper were not actively dating until after the events of that first movie).
And that’s it. For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth this movie inspired, this was actually pretty painless. We had to move Civil War just a hair, but other than that, it’s pretty dang consistent with what’s been established before.
We’re in the home stretch now, and it should be mostly smooth sailing from here. Thor: Ragnarok should be easy, and I don’t anticipate many problems with Black Panther. If anything is going to give us trouble at this point, it’s going to be Infinity War and I suspect Infinity War is going to give us problems.
The Timeline So Far…