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Spider-Man: Homecoming Breaks The MCU Timeline

Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark in The Incredible Hulk

The Dark Truth: Marvel Doesn't Care About Micro-Continuity

Since the very early days of Phase 1, the MCU's mantra has been that "everything is connected". And it obviously is, but increasingly this is only true on a macro scale. If you look at the broad scope you have this amazing tapestry of sixteen movies, ever more TV shows and so much more content that all interlocks. Dig even remotely deeper and try to have things match-up, though, and it gets messy.

This was to a degree inherent from the start, with The Incredible Hulk teasing Tony Stark's involvement with S.H.I.E.L.D. despite the subsequent-but-narratively-concurrent Iron Man 2 showing him kicked out of the Avenger Initiative. However, when these problems arose Marvel did a good job of addressing any major conflicts - that Iron Man flub was explained as a trick in Marvel One-Shot The Consultant. As we've gone on, though, mistakes appear more often and are just ignored.

A big part of this has to be the sheer size and breadth of content. The MCU already runs a week long and that's only going to increase in the coming years. Already the universe has become unwieldy, to the point where maintaining a continuity to an anal degree is simply an untenable position. Instead, they focus on the big picture and let fans course correct everything else in their headcanon.

Sometimes this gets too muddled. One of the coolest easter eggs in Thor was the Infinity Gauntlet in Odin's Vault, subtly laying cues for Infinity War a year before Thanos was even introduced. However, when Age of Ultron rolled around and showed the Mad Titan getting his mitts on the golden glove it was clearly in a different location, something later confirmed by Kevin Feige, who handwaved an explanation of their being two gauntlets. The harsh truth is that they've simply retconned the Thor easter egg, making it a replica or - worse - just pretending it doesn't exist. The message of all this is that Marvel is happy to override previous plot elements if it helps the new stories at hand. Indeed, now we're hearing that James Gunn may have to "break" continuity to do his desired story for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Two Infinity Gauntlets in Marvel Cinematic Universe

If this feels like a direct contradiction of the shared universe ethos that's because it is, although it's not inherently ruinous. If in each case it helps the individual movie work, then this should, of course, be allowed and frankly not fretted about. That said, some consideration of maintaining the continuity should be made, espcially when it's not got any real advantage to be broken.

That's what makes all this date altering so strange. It wouldn't make any real difference to Homecoming if Toomes spent the correct four years building up his alien weapons business instead of eight, and neither does it have any bearing on how we view Peter Parker's obsession with The Avengers. It's particularly remarkable given that eight is literally the only number of years that doesn't have a clear solution; it's four years since The Avengers in-universe, five in real time, six since Iron Man in-universe, seven since that year in the real wor;d, and nine since the MCU started. Eight years is the only time measurement that isn't some sort of franchise anniversary.

Now, some will surely feel this is a result of Homecoming being a Sony production and them - either by oversight or an attempt to shift the continuity ahead of their "same reality" shared universe - making an unwanted change but that's far too conspiratory; Marvel's had a major creative hand in the film, going to great extents to ensure the new Peter Parker gels perfectly in the canon so that is just unlikely. The only logical explanation is that it was a script placeholder that got carried over into the finished film, almost as proof that, while the MCU has a pretty solid continuous canon, you probably shouldn't try and look too deeply into it.

However, we may just have found a solution. And it's a doozy.

Key Release Dates
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) release date: Jul 07, 2017
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017) release date: Nov 03, 2017
  • Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018
  • Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
  • Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
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