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There's no shame in admitting some confusion over the convoluted timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The collection of superhero films — and now television shows — are constantly jumping forward and backwards in time. Hell, Eternals chronicled 7,000 years of human history over the course of two-and-a-half hours. And when you add stuff like the Time Variance Authority and a blossoming multiverse into the concoction, things only get infinitely more complex.
With Spider-Man: No Way Home set to rip a new hole in the Marvel space-time continuum later this month, we thought it might be helpful to explore how Tom Holland's third solo outing as the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler fits into the ever-growing sequence of events. In terms of chronology, the film will pick up in the immediate aftermath of Spider-Man: Far From Home (itself taking place after the victory against Thanos in Avengers: Endgame).
With Far From Home revealing Spidey's secret identity to the entire world, with help from the late Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), Peter Parker finds himself in the center of both a media blitz (led by the jingoistic J. Jonah Jameson) and a murder investigation. Unable to live a normal life, the young hero heads to the Sanctum Sanctorum in an effort to convince Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to somehow make the planet forget that Spider-Man and Peter Parker are the same person.
Strange agrees to the favor — after all, the two heroes previously bonded over the battle to save the universe during the events of Infinity War and Endgame. Wong (Benedict Wong) is firmly against using the spell, but what he doesn't know won't hurt him... right?
Strange puts this problematic magic into motion, but when Peter starts asking for certain people to be exempt from the effects of the spell, something goes terrible wrong and the multiverse splits wide open. Now, villains from other universes — from Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin, Jamie Foxx's Electro, and everyone else in-between — are now arriving in the MCU and wreaking all sorts of bedlam.
Ok, here's where things get...well, strange.
It's unclear how much of No Way Home is tied into the events of two previous Marvel Studios projects that first gave viewers a taste of the wider multiverse: WandaVision and Loki. The death of He Who Remains/Kang (Jonathan Majors) caused the Sacred Timeline to start branching off into an infinite number of realities, so we're left wondering how much fault can actually be laid at Strange's feet? Is the Sorcerer Supreme's botched spell the root of the entire problem or simply the straw that breaks the temporal camel's back after all of the respective damage deal by Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino)?
Some viewers — like ScreenRant's Nicolas Ayala — argue that No Way Home is set at the exact same time as the Season 1 finale of Loki, which could go a long way in explaining why reality is tearing apart so easily. Whatever the answer turns to be, Strange seemingly won't fully solve the problem in No Way Home, which sets the stage for the wizard's own sequel: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (out in theaters next May).
To conclude, we know for certain that No Way Home kicks off in a post-Endgame world. The only unknown here is when the movie takes place in relation to the aforementioned Marvel series that began to tinker with the very building blocks of existence. A much smaller concern is the gap between the Far From Home stinger — in which Peter is publicly outed by by The Daily Bugle — and the start of No Way Home. Will it be a matter of days, weeks, or months? Perhaps even a year or more?
All of those questions and more will be answered in just a few weeks' time.
Spider-Man: No Way Home arrives on the big screen Friday, Dec. 17. Tickets are now on sale.