‘Spider-Man’ Fans Aren’t Convinced the Character Will Ever Truly Belong to the MCU

Spider-Man has fought many villains over the decades, including the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus and the Vulture, among many others. However, there is one villain that towers over all those: Corporate shenanigans.

By now, most Marvel fans understand that Marvel Studios, owned by Disney, does not own the screen rights to Spider-Man. Sony does. And that has been a thorn in fans’ sides, especially since the deal between Sony and Disney to share the character fell apart for a while last year. This has led to fans wondering if the web-slinger will ever truly be part of the Marvel family. 

A short history of Sony, Spider-Man and Disney

Tom Holland
Tom Holland | Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Disney

Whole books could be written solely about the Sony/Spidey/Disney tangle, but to lay the groundwork, it’s important to understand why fans are confused, upset or both. When people refer to Marvel movies these days, they generally mean the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, which have been going strong since 2008. However, Spider-Man kind of lives outside of those movies. 

Sony bought the screen rights to Spider-Man in the 1990s. At first, they were going to make a movie with a script by James Cameron, but that never got off the ground. Once Fox’s X-Men franchise scored a big success 20 years ago, that gave Sony the impetus to start their own series of superhero movies, and they made the very successful trilogy starring Tobey Maguire and directed by Sam Raimi. 

Then, Sony felt the need to reboot the franchise, and generally speaking, the Andrew Garfield movies were not as well-liked as the Tobey Maguire movies, and the perception was the franchise was adrift.

By this time, Disney’s Marvel movies were going strong, so Sony and Marvel hammered out an agreement to share the character. Sony would still make the movies with Spider-Man as the main character, but he could also appear as a supporting player in Disney’s movies.

That arrangement went south last year when Disney and Sony could not agree on money, before a last-minute save at least partly engineered by Tom Holland. That dispute left a bad taste in fans’ mouths. 

What does Sony own besides Spider-Man?

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Ever since that rupture in 2019, fans have debated in many a forum about how Sony and Marvel could share the character going forward. Some have even speculated that maybe Disney ought to buy Sony, just like they bought Fox, but that seems very unlikely. One fan on Reddit said, “Sony will never sell Spider-man. Never. They already lost James Bond, it’s the only major Ip they got.”

That isn’t true for a couple of reasons. First, Sony never really “had” James Bond. Those rights have always been owned by Eon Productions, who work through MGM. Sony distributed the Daniel Craig Bond movies, but lost those rights to Universal for the forthcoming No Time to Die

Second, Sony has the rights to more than Spider-Man or (at one time) 007. They also own the rights to Ghostbusters, Men in Black, and Jumanji, the reboot movies of which have been big hits.

However, few would dispute that Spider-Man is Sony’s biggest cash cow, and the company isn’t about to let him go without a very handsome paycheck and/or an extraordinary set of circumstances. So the two Tom Holland Spider-Man movies so far aren’t about to appear on Disney+ in America for instance. 

Do we know Spider-Man’s future for sure?

All this makes fans feel like Spider-Man, despite being the very face of Marvel comics, isn’t fully part of the MCU.

A fan on Reddit posted a video that showed the Tom Holland movies as part of the Disney+ lineup, but it was an ad for Latin American territories, where the rights aren’t quite the same. 

One fan pointed out that Disney not owning Spider-Man could actually be advantageous, writing, “I don’t want Disney to own all Marvel properties as that would make it unlikely to ever see another marvel film that isn’t PG 13, except for maybe Deadpool. We’d probably never get another Logan anytime soon for example under Disney.”

So for now, Sony and Disney share the character with the third Holland Spider-Man movie, which recently started shooting. Meanwhile, Sony is forging ahead with the Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel characters, which include the upcoming Venom sequel and the Morbius movie, as well as a sequel to Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse.

So we’ll see plenty of Spider-Man related product. It’s just that for now, only one pending movie is part of the MCU.