Spider-Man dispute between Sony, Marvel draws fans into the crossfire

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Spider-Man’s future might hang in the balance, but the dispute between Sony and Marvel over the character — having spilled into the public — is another prime example of super-powered silliness, exposing the limits of turning fans and click-hungry websites into foot soldiers in a corporate standoff.

For those preoccupied with, well, practically anything else, the issue appears to boil down to money, as it so often does, and how it’s divided. Sony has long controlled the rights to Spider-Man (Marvel gave them up before becoming master of the pop-culture universe), but after director Sam Raimi’s first two movies, the studio has demonstrated that it doesn’t really know what to do with him.

Marvel, meanwhile, welcomed the opportunity to usher one of its signature characters back into its Marvel Cinematic Universe, providing a helpful boost — especially with the casualties suffered during “Avengers: Endgame” — and enriching the experience for longtime fans.

Having reached an accommodation that gave Marvel creative input in Spider-Man, the companies reportedly began haggling over the deal. The parties aren’t commenting, but that hasn’t stopped concerns about the corporate divorce since the story broke a few days ago.

As leverage goes, Sony would clearly miss Marvel’s knowhow, while Marvel — a unit of Disney — would have to go back to the drawing board, a bit, in terms of building around other characters, something that it has admittedly exhibited a knack for achieving.

It’s around here, though, where the impasse can easily be dismissed, if you think about it, as a big “So what?,” despite the hand-wringing that has played out.

That’s largely because the loudest voices weighing in about the matter are the ones least likely to actually change their behavior based on which way it’s resolved, no matter how passionate and concerned they might sound.

Think about it: Will those folks who are majorly engaged in the direction of the Spider-Man franchise skip a Spider-Man movie, based on the production company logos or producer credits on it? For that matter, will their appetite for whatever Marvel churns out next be diminished if its next assemblage of heroes doesn’t include the teenage wallcrawler?

To be fair, fans have grown savvier about using their collective outrage — or enthusiasm — to try steering beloved properties in directions they would like to see them go. And there have been victories, including the resurgence of Deadpool as a major box-office hit. (That franchise’s star, Ryan Reynolds, even got inexplicably drawn into the Spider-Man crossfire.)

For the most part, though, the most ardent supporters can wind up coming across as a trifle delusional when they talk about boycotts or otherwise seek to register their displeasure, and while studios and networks generally say all the right things seeking to mollify them, they’re usually prone to take those constituencies for granted, mostly because history shows they can.

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