Does 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' Break The MCU Timeline?

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige generally runs a tight ship when it comes to continuity and linking multiple movies together in his Marvel Cinematic Universe. But does Spider-Man: Homecoming commit an egregious error when it comes to keeping the order of the MCU? Read on to discover the Spider-Man Homecoming MCU timeline issue.

Heads up: extremely light spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming ahead.

The film opens with a prologue involving Michael Keaton's Adrian Toomes sinking his life savings into a salvage operation in the wake of the Battle of New York that happened at the end of 2012's The Avengers. So far so good. But after Tony Stark indirectly drives Toomes out of business and Keaton's character decides to establish himself in the criminal underworld, the movie jumps ahead eight years. That means the events of Spider-Man: Homecoming take place in 2020, not 2017.

As ScreenRant points out, Phase 1 of the MCU featured a lot of overlap when it comes to a larger narrative timeline. Iron Man came out in 2008, but apparently has since been retconned as taking place in 2010, and Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, and the first Thor were all set during the same week in 2011. Since The Avengers came out, the subsequent films in the MCU have mostly been set close to when they were released, with a few exceptions. (Example: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 came out earlier this year but takes place only a few months after the first film was set in 2014.)

ScreenRant speculates that Homecoming's break of the MCU timeline may have been to shift the overall timeline in order to better fit Spider-Man's high school journey. They dive into specifics that make my head spin, but the gist is that if Homecoming were set in July of 2017, Peter Parker would be in his senior year of high school by the time the Homecoming sequel comes out on July 5, 2019. And Feige has said the next film will pick up when Peter is a junior (he was a sophomore in Homecoming). Considering that Spidey is one of Marvel's major anchors moving beyond Phase 3, it makes sense that they'd want to revamp the timeline around him. Theoretically, this means that Homecoming 2 will take place in 2021 (after the events of Infinity War) and Homecoming 3 will take place in 2022, after the events of 2019's Avengers 4.

In the past, Feige explained how he and his filmmakers avoid getting bogged down in the minutiae of continuity:

"I think people like to talk about our long term plans, which we certainly have. But very rarely do those long term plans dictate the specificity of any individual film. It's usually the opposite. It's focusing on a story, and focusing on the individual movie that we're making to do what's best. And then, if something changes that we weren't quite expecting down the line because it was made for a better movie, then we deal with it down the line."

Even if there are some inconsistencies that pop up along the way, that mentality seems in spirit with the comics on which these MCU films are based – many of which have been rebooted and retconned so many times that it can be tough to remember what timeline you're even in anymore. Ultimately, this level of nitpicking is likely only debated by the top 1% of hardcore Marvel movie fans, and the rest of us are willing to take things as they come and not worry too much about any incidental deviation from the overall timeline.

Update: Someone on Twitter pointed out that there's a different interpretation of the timeline floating around:

The information about Aaron Davis's birthday is the most powerful argument I've seen that suggests Homecoming actually is set in 2017, but I'm not so sure about the validity of the rest of those claims. Example: in an interview we did with Kevin Feige a few years ago, he confirms that Iron Man 3 takes place six months after The Avengers, but this newly-presented timeline says that film took place three years after The Avengers.

The point is that the MCU timeline is murky at best, and until Feige lays out a specific, movie-by-movie timeline that locks these films into place, it seems like it'll be tough to nail down a satisfying answer to some of these nagging questions.