Spider-Man: Homecoming, the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is now playing in theaters nationwide. The timeline of the Marvel films has been a bit confusing lately, but Homecoming only makes matters worse, and one title card in the opening scene is already generating more discussion among hardcore fans than almost anything in the rest of the movie. So when, exactly, does Homecoming take place in relation to the other MCU installments?
It turns out, the answer is complicated. Let’s take a look at all of the evidence and try to work through this new timeline.
At the beginning of Spider-Man: Homecoming, we see a flashback to the aftermath of The Avengers, and it’s then established that Homecoming is taking place eight years later. The Avengers seems to have been set in 2012, which would place Homecoming in 2020. Reports on the Battle of New York in the MCU have dated the events of The Avengers at May 4th, 2012. Also, Iron Man 3 takes place in December 2012, and it seems to be occurring not that long after The Avengers. Kevin Feige specifically said in an interview with Slashfilm that Iron Man 3 takes place six months after The Avengers, and since it’s Christmas in the movie, that fits with the idea that Avengers is May 2012 and Iron Man 3 is December 2012. Also, in Iron Man 3, Killian mentions 1999 as being 13 years ago. (However, a newspaper shown on screen reads December 2013, but this could have just been a goof.)
But wait. There’s a scene in Captain America: Civil War in which it is implied that the year is 2016, and obviously, four years have not passed between Civil War and Homecoming; it’s specifically said that two months have gone by since the events of Civil War. Vision says at one point in Civil War that it has been eight years since Tony Stark announced himself as Iron Man, referring to the end of the first Iron Man film. Iron Man came out in 2008, and Civil War came out in 2016, so from that the audience is led to believe that both of those movies took place the same year that they were released. Spider-Man: Homecoming also suggests Iron Man took place in 2008, as Happy Hogan mentions that he has been carrying around the engagement ring since that year.
In addition, co-director Joe Russo said in an interview that Civil War took place at about the same time that it was released, i.e. May 2016.
“We like to say that the amount of time that has passed in between films is the amount of time that has passed in the movies,” Captain America: Civil War co-director Joe Russo told Comicbook.com before the premiere of that movie. “So, it’s about that amount time.”
It’s also stated in Civil War that the Avengers have been together for four years, again supporting the idea that The Avengers is in 2012.
If Civil War takes place in early May 2016, and only a few months pass between Civil War and Spider-Man, that brings us to fall 2016 as the beginning of Homecoming. However, the eight year time skip after The Avengers implies one of two things: Spider-Man: Homecoming is actually taking place in 2020, or The Avengers is being retconned so that it did not take place in 2012 anymore. Perhaps Marvel is now pushing some of its earlier movies into the past so it can be said that the Avengers have been together for longer than they have in reality. They may also be messing with the timeline a bit so that Peter Parker can remain in high school for the Homecoming sequels.
One reading of all this, then, is that The Avengers now took place in 2008, the same year as the first Iron Man. That’s the only way to explain the fact that Vision in Civil War says it’s been eight years since Tony Stark’s press conference in Iron Man but it’s also been eight years since The Avengers in Homecoming; since Homecoming and Civil War take place the same year, Iron Man and The Avengers must have taken place the same year as well. That means Civil War and Homecoming remain in 2016, but The Avengers – which had previously been set in 2012 – has now been shifted back four years.
It’s also possible that The Avengers can remain in 2012, but in that case, Spider-Man: Homecoming is set in 2020. That would bring Civil War up to 2020 from 2016 as well, and it would turn Vision’s line in that movie into a continuity error, as it would have been 12 years since the Iron Man press conference, not eight as Vision says.
But one huge wrinkle in all of this is the fact that in Spider-Man: Homecoming, it’s said that Aaron Davis is 33 years old, and he was born in April 1984. This would suggest that Homecoming is set in 2017, and since the school’s Homecoming is taking place, it must be September or October 2017. This could just be a mistake like the Iron Man 3 newspaper, or it could mean that Civil War and Homecoming are now both set in 2017 and The Avengers is set in 2011, contradicting the previously established date of 2012.