Why These Spider-Man Villains Didn't Show Up In No Way Home

The long wait is finally over. "Spider-Man: No Way Home" has arrived in theaters after countless months of breathless speculation, rumors, and maybe even an unfortunate leak or two. Fans crammed into multiplexes around the country and the rest of the world, providing a much-needed jolt at the box office just as the year is winding down to a close. 

While audiences have proven their love for Spider-Man again and again over the years, this latest film has turned into something else altogether. This is no ordinary "Spider-Man" adventure, as the multiverse has well and truly exploded and set its sights squarely on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Three generations of "Spider-Man" franchises have all converged in "No Way Home," in the form of five separate villains who initially appeared in either Sam Raimi or Marc Webb's previous films.

Of the many surprises and reveals throughout the film, however, one question fans may have revolves around the ones who didn't show up. Throughout the events of the film, we're given a good reason why Rhys Ifans' Curt Connors/the Lizard, Jamie Foxx's Max Dillon/Electro, Alfred Molina's Dr. Otto Octavius/Doc Ock, Thomas Haden Church's Flint Marko/Sandman, and Willem Dafoe's Norman Osborn/Green Goblin have found themselves in a universe they don't belong in. But that doesn't fully explain the absence of a few other notable names. Read on for our breakdown on the shortlist of villains who were Missing In Action.

Be warned that major spoilers for "Spider-Man: No Way Home" will be discussed in this article.

Adrian Toomes/Vulture

Who could forget the time that Spider-Man went up against Batman? No, this wasn't some Marvel vs DC crossover extravaganza, but the fun meta aspect of Tom Holland's Spidey going up against Michael Keaton's Adrian Toomes in "Spider-Man: Homecoming." It almost feels quaint to look back and realize that the Web-Head's first standalone entry in the MCU was by far its most street-level story yet, pitting Peter Parker against the blue collar Vulture who was attempting to steal Tony Stark technology from the hands of the irresponsibly rich and famous to put such powerful items in the control of the little guy. (Wait, why exactly was he the bad guy again?) Toomes ended up in prison for his efforts, though not before Spidey saved his life and, in the process, revealed his identity to his foe.

"Spider-Man: No Way Home" spells it out for viewers that the villains who appear in the film are there because they knew Peter's identity and were sucked into the MCU as an unforeseen complication of Doctor Strange's spell going haywire. That doesn't quite apply to Toomes, of course, who already resides in the MCU universe and is currently in prison ... for now, at least. Though he didn't appear in "No Way Home," Sony clearly has more plans in the works for the character. Keaton will reprise his role in the upcoming "Morbius" and possibly in yet another film as well. Consider this mystery solved, though there are plenty of surprises in store with this character in the near future.

Dane DeHaan's Goblin

Despite "The Amazing Spider-Man" franchise rebooting the Sam Raimi movies (ostensibly) in order to do something new and different, it took exactly one movie to go right back to the familiar ground of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and his tumultuous friendship with Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). This time, however, Harry's father Norman dies of a degenerative condition, leaving Harry to take up the mantle of the Green Goblin and go from Peter's best friend to his archenemy in the span of a single scene. It's all very silly, folks.

In any case, with some surprising familiar faces making their returns in "No Way Home," particularly Jamie Foxx's Electro, it wasn't completely out of the realm of possibility for Marvel and Sony to bring back DeHaan's Goblin for some unfinished business with Garfield's Spidey, who also makes a memorable return along with Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man. Alas, that was not to be. 

Though "The Amazing Spider-Man" version of Harry Osborn certainly fits the criteria of knowing Peter's secret identity, DeHaan's character is noticeably absent from the proceedings and never even referenced. This is likely because the "Goblin" qualifications were already fulfilled with the presence of Dafoe's Norman Osborn, making it an unnecessary distraction to add yet another Osborn into the mix — from a different universe altogether — in a way that would only halt the film's momentum and pacing in its tracks. Even more importantly, Garfield's Peter Parker is clearly still in grief over the loss of Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and his inability to save her at the end of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2." Given that DeHaan's Goblin was directly responsible for her death, that would've been a bit too much story to include in a film that's really meant to be about Holland's character. Maybe a hypothetical "Amazing Spider-Man 3" could deal with that loose end?

Aleksei Sytsevich/Rhino

Okay, remember when I referred to "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" as "silly" earlier? I may have spoken too soon. For reasons that I'm still trying to figure out, Paul Giamatti appears in the sequel as the fearsome and very Russian Rhino, who bookends the events of the film in his giant mech suit and mostly just makes a public embarrassment of himself. We're not sure anybody was really clamoring for the return of this, uh, memorable villain, but why not address his absence in "No Way Home" anyway?

In this case, it's as straightforward as it gets. Having only tussled with Garfield's Spider-Man on a couple of occasions, he simply never had the chance or the means to find out who was actually underneath the mask. Without that knowledge, Rhino was able to remain safe and sound within the universe of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" ... provided that he actually survived that last encounter with Spidey (which served as the final shot of the film, in fact). At the very least, Garfield's Peter hasn't forgotten about him entirely! While swapping war stories with the other Peter Parkers in "No Way Home," he briefly alludes to his fight with Rhino with a very wry look on his face. Sure, it's not quite as spectacular as fighting Thanos or Venom, but you've got to play the cards you're dealt. Nobody knows that as well as Andrew Garfield does, let's just put it that way.

James Franco's Goblin

Boy, anyone else starting to think we've had our fill of Green Goblins in live action adaptations of "Spider-Man," or is that just me? At least "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" had the good sense to depict a gloriously comic-booky, giant-sized Goblin who mostly served as a physical challenge in a few action sequences, for a change of pace. In any case, Sam Raimi at least laid some very compelling groundwork for the tragic fall of James Franco's Harry Osborn throughout "Spider-Man" and "Spider-Man 2." Things got a bit wonky in the third film, unfortunately, with Harry deciding to avenge his father's death and go after Peter's heart by, uh, forcing MJ to break up with him. Have I mentioned that "Spider-Man" movies have a tendency to get very silly?

Oddly enough, Harry at least gets the dignity of a reconciliation with Peter before his death in "Spider-Man 3." But since death clearly didn't stop the other villains from showing up in "No Way Home" and Franco's Harry obviously knew Peter's identity as well, it's worth diving into why he didn't make an appearance in the MCU along with the others. Similar to DeHaan's character, adding yet another Goblin into the mix would probably be one too many, even if his pre-existing relationship with Dafoe's Norman Osborn could've been ripe for further drama and conflict. At the very least, he receives a passing reference when Norman whispers, "My son..." during an early moment when he is not under the control of his Green Goblin persona. 

Otherwise, the character is more likely left out completely for another good reason. Earlier this year, Franco paid upwards of $2 million to settle a sexual misconduct case against him stemming from his years of running an acting school. Those are not the kind of headlines the MCU would want to cloud the hype surrounding the film, so count us relieved that this was apparently not in the cards.

Eddie Brock/Venom

Finally, there's Topher Grace's Eddie Brock, the hapless rival of Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker in "Spider-Man 3" who ends up in possession of the alien symbiote, Venom. Subpar writing, an overstuffed plot, and criticisms of blatant miscasting haven't exactly helped this character end up near the top of the rankings of Spidey's cinematic rogues gallery in the years since. However, one simply can't argue with the popularity of Venom, which perhaps explains why Tom Hardy's iteration of Venom has gone on to become such a runaway pop culture sensation throughout his recent two films. While on the subject, we're suggesting this as an educated guess to explain why Grace's Venom doesn't end up making a triumphant return in "Spider-Man: No Way Home." If you neglected to stick around for the mid-credits scene (rookie mistake, people!), stop reading now and get on that. If you have, definitely check out /Film's breakdown of that particular scene and its ramifications on the future of the MCU.

In any case, the dreams of many fans came true as Tom Hardy's Eddie appeared in the MCU ... however briefly. You see, the mid-credits tag reveals that he apparently found himself pulled into the MCU along with the other villains despite not actually knowing Peter Parker. (This could be explained away by a key bit of information in "Venom 2," which stipulates in its own post-credits scene that Venom is part of a symbiote hivemind connected throughout the multiverse, meaning that some version of Venom has found out about Peter Parker. By that logic, even if Brock himself was only seeing Spider-Man for the first time, the symbiote was not.) Though Brock his once again thrown back into his usual corner of the universe, a drop of the symbiote remains to haunt the MCU. With Venom likely to appear as an antagonist for Tom Holland's Peter Parker sometime down the line, we've once again run into a similar problem that plagued the Green Goblins. One Venom is more than enough, thank you very much, and the creative team likely didn't want to get bogged down by another version altogether — particularly one who wasn't well-received at the time, for that matter.