The Big Picture

Marvel Studios has finally addressed the major timeline mistake in Spider-Man: Homecoming that has confused fans for years. The mistake, which claimed that the Battle of New York happened eight years after Iron Man, has been retroactively explained as a TVA error in the official timeline book. Marvel’s self-deprecating response to the mistake shows growth and a sense of humor, reminiscent of the old Marvel Comics days of the No-Prize award.

Even Marvel Studios can get things wrong now and then. Marvel Studios has finally come clean about one of the biggest timeline mistakes in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that has been bugging fans for years. In 2017 with the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, the opening prologue for the film has a title card that reads “Eight Years Later.” The problem with this title card is that it makes no sense. While Marvel Studios CEO Kevin Feige and other filmmakers have addressed the issue before, it’s still been confusing fans for the last six years. While it hasn’t truly been rectified, there’s finally been a breakthrough with the timeline error that nicely fits in with The Multiverse Saga shenanigans depicted in the hit television series Loki. It’s time to take a deep dive into how a significant plot continuity error of Spider-Man: Homecoming became canonical to the rest of the MCU.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Peter Parker balances his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens with his superhero alter-ego Spider-Man, and finds himself on the trail of a new menace prowling the skies of New York City.

What Was the Plot Hole of ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’

To rewind a bit, Spider-Man: Homecoming was a major breakthrough between Marvel Studios’ parent company, Disney, and Sony Pictures. Disney and Sony Pictures managed to create a co-production deal to share Spider-Man so that Marvel Studios would produce the new live-action Spider-Man films, and Spider-Man could also appear in Disney’s MCU franchise. The new live-action version of Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) made his MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War, which was released in 2016. Just over a year later, Sony Pictures released the new Spider-Man: Homecoming film, which would be the first in a new series of Spider-Man films set within the MCU. Therein the problems began.

Spider-Man: Homecoming establishes that it is the start of a new film series deeply embedded within the MCU timeline by opening with a prologue set right after the events of the Battle of New York from The Avengers, which was released in 2012. Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) and his cohorts are introduced as salvage and construction workers assigned to do cleanup work on the Chitauri Invasion before their operation is taken over by the Department of Damage Control. Toomes and his group acquired some stolen Chitauri weapons and technology from Grand Central Station and used it to engineer some of their own tech to conduct heists. During the prologue, there’s a time jump, reflected by a title card that says, “Eight Years Later.”

Scratch, rewind, hold on a minute. Eight years later? How is that possible? During Captain America: Civil War, there’s a line of dialogue by Vision that specifically sets the events of MCU’s first Iron Man movie eight years earlier, meaning Iron Man takes place eight years before the events of Captain America: Civil War. Going by the depiction of Homecoming, Peter Parker’s storyline in the film picks up right after the battle at the Leipzig-Halle Airport in Germany. Peter’s vlogs show him traveling to Germany and going back to New York leading into the events of Homecoming. But the prologue of Homecoming claims that the Battle of New York happened within the same timeframe as the first Iron Man movie! To quote Johnnie Cochran from South Park, “That does not make sense!”

Kevin Feige himself later addressed the issue during an October 2017 press junket for Thor: Ragnarok, telling CinemaBlend, “All of that debate has made us go, ‘Okay, at some point, I’m not sure exactly when, we’re going to publish a timeline and see what it all is.'” Feige continued in his explanation, “It wasn’t meant to flummox anybody exactly, and I’m not sure I’d do it again the same way, but it does all connect to where we placed it.”

MCU veteran filmmaker Joe Russo also weighed in on the timeline issue, considering he was the one who helped introduce the new version of Spider-Man to the MCU. Russo was decidedly less diplomatic than Feige during an April 2018 interview with Ashish Chanchlani. During the interview, he was asked about the time gap between The Avengers and Homecoming, stating, “It was eight years, I believe. It was a very incorrect eight years.”

Image via Marvel

Clearly, there is some dispute on that timeline issue. Regardless of what year any MCU movie is supposed to take place, indicating that Homecoming is set eight years after the Battle of New York which took place in Avengers, is rather perplexing and confusing. Now, it appears Marvel Studios has finally addressed the error, retroactively presenting it as the result of Multiverse and Time Variance Authority (TVA) shenanigans, as featured in The Marvel Cinematic Universe: An Official Timeline.

The newly released book features none other than Miss Minutes of the hit series Loki referencing the error that took place in Homecoming. The tome features the mascot character chiming in to offer explanations for factual errors that occur across the MCU timeline. Regarding the timeline error that was blatantly depicted in Homecoming, Miss Minutes says in the book, “Hi again! Adrian Toomes says the Battle of New York was eight years ago, but that event was only four years prior. This one’s a real head-scratcher for us — I reckon an analyst misplaced the case file.”

One must give credit to Marvel for addressing the timeline issue in an official book release. Not to mention, they do so with an appropriate, self-deprecating sense of humor. The response in the book addresses that the mistake happened, and the co-authors Anthony Breznican, Amy Ratcliffe, and Rebecca Theodore-Vachon do their best to offer an in-universe, canonical explanation through the character Miss Minutes. That is probably the best explanation that fans can hope for. Considering the events of Loki, and how the TVA and other characters are meddling with the timelines, along with the Avengers using the Infinity Stones, the idea that there are inconsistencies in the timeline may stress credulity to some degree, but at least the book offers an explanation for the error.

The Correction Is in the Spirit of Marvel Comics

The reference in The Marvel Cinematic Universe: An Official Timeline is amusing in that Marvel addresses the error and turns it into an in-universe, canonical joke that feels like the company hearkening back to the olden days of Marvel Comics. Marvel Comics used to have a satirical award called the Marvel No-Prize. Previously, any readers who spotted or noticed continuity errors or mistakes in Marvel’s comics would be recipients of this not-so-prestigious award.

The Marvel No-Prize award would be given to readers who spotted or explained a continuity error. The process entailed Marvel Comics mailing out a special envelope congratulating the reader, with notice that the envelope contained the official “No-Prize” Award. The envelope was filled with nothing, meaning the fans who spotted the error won…absolutely nothing. Obviously, Miss Minutes referencing the mistake isn’t exactly the same, but Marvel Studios displays a sense of humor about the mistake and addresses it in an amusing way that feels on brand for the history of Marvel. The explanation may not satisfy all continuity experts, but it’s better than nothing. At the very least, it’s an official reason published in an authorized resource book. Not to mention, it’s beyond what Marvel Studios has done in the past regarding previous errors, so it does show a great deal of growth, even if it’s done as a bit of a joke.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe: An Official Timeline book is available now wherever books are sold. Meanwhile, new episodes of Season 2 of Loki, featuring the TVA and Miss Minutes, debut Thursdays on Disney+, with the finale set to air on Nov. 9.

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