MOVIES THAT COULD’VE BEEN: Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 4

The road through “Development Hell” is littered with the carcasses of movies that might have or should’ve been; dynamite pairings of material, director, and maybe a few choice actors, that for whatever reason (budget, timing, creative differences) just couldn’t get their shit together and just make the damn thing! It’s time for another installment of Movies That Could’ve Been, a feature where we pour one out for the lost masterpieces that just may have made their way to the silver screen… if only the movie gods had been nicer that day.

The highly anticipated Spider-Man: Homecoming will be swinging into cinema screens in a matter of weeks and all eyes are on Marvel not to screw it up.  No pressure, guys.  For those of you who don’t know (welcome to earth), Sony has agreed to share the cinematic rights to Spider-Man so that he can be introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Sony’s decision to do this probably reflects on the hugely disappointing results of their own The Amazing Spider-Man reboot received, and the fact that they need to keep making Spider-Man movies or their ownership over the character automatically revert back to Marvel.So, what went wrong for Sony? It made me think about Sam Raimi’s critically acclaimed, original Spider-Man trilogy and the defining moment when, the once lucrative franchise, faded into oblivion. Sony were considered pioneers when the hugely successful Spider-Man (2002) gained $822 million worldwide, which was particularly unheard of in those days.  The sequel, Spider-Man 2 (2004), and arguably still the best Spider-Man movie to date, earned an equally impressive $782 million worldwide.  Now compare that to Spider-Man 3 which cashed in a colossal $890 million worldwide.  The Spidey-business was booming and, with those kinds of numbers, a fourth movie was not only logical but imminent.  Spider-Man 4 appeared to be a sure-fire thing, Raimi and Toby Maguire had both signed up to return, so why didn’t it happen?

The Backstory

Spider-Man 3 was released in 2007 and, to the disappointment of critics and fans alike, became a bloated, mishmash of story-lines and characters.  Although it made a pretty penny at the box office, Raimi made it publicly known that he hated the finished product, hinting that the studio’s involvement compromised the integrity of the movie:

“They really gave me a tremendous amount of control on the first two films, actually. But then there were different opinions on the third film and I didn’t really have creative control, so to speak.”

Raimi did not want any involvement of Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis, Venom, in his movie at all.  He had planned to introduce Sandman as the main antagonist but to also work primarily on Harry Osbourne’s story arc of him becoming the new Green Goblin.  Sony executive, Avi Arad, told him that he needed to give the fans what they want and Venom was a huge fan favourite.  Raimi eventually caved and produced, what he considered, the weakest movie in the trilogy:

“Sam, you’re not paying attention to the fans enough. You need to think about them. You’ve made two movies now with your favourite villains, and now you’re about to make another one with your favourite villains. The fans love Venom, he is the fan favourite.”

Spider-Man 4

Regardless of the negative reviews, talks about a fourth movie naturally escalated.  Sony was quick to announce that Spider-Man 5 and 6 would also be shot in concession along with Spider-Man 4.  A few ideas fluttered around the internet about who the main villain would be.  In particular, Dylan Baker showed significant interest in reprising his role as Dr Curt Connors and fulfilling his destiny of becoming The Lizard, a recurring character in the world of Spider-Man and a role that ultimately went to Rhys Ifans in The Amazing Spider-Man reboot.  If that ain’t a kick in the nuts for Baker then I don’t know what is.There were several other hints from Raimi, such as the appearance of Shocker and Mysterio as part of a Sinister Six team-up.  It was ultimately John Malkovich who was the front runner to play The Vulture (shown in some very early sketches below), as well as Anne Hathaway showing interest in playing Felicity Hardy but, instead of becoming Black Cat, she would form a new super-villain alter ego as The Vulturess. Hathaway, of course, went on to play another famous cat, in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.Pre-production began in 2008, but after four revisions of the script with several different writers, Raimi struggled to accept any of them. He was concerned that he would not make the 2011 deadline and soon after, retracted any claims that they would be shooting Spider-Man 5 and 6 back-to-back. After much deliberation, Raimi and Sony parted ways and in 2010 the movie was cancelled.

Raimi supplied the following statement to Vulture (the entertainment site):

“It really was the most amicable and undramatic of breakups: It was simply that we had a deadline and I couldn’t get the story to work on a level that I wanted it to work. I was very unhappy with Spider-Man 3, and I wanted to make Spider-Man 4 to end on a very high note, the best Spider-Man of them all. But I couldn’t get the script together in time, due to my own failings, and I said to Sony, “I don’t want to make a movie that is less than great, so I think we shouldn’t make this picture. Go ahead with your reboot, which you’ve been planning anyway.” And Amy Pascal said, “Thank you. Thank you for not wasting the studio’s money, and I appreciate your candor.” So we left on the best of terms, both of us trying to do the best thing for fans, the good name of Spider-Man, and Sony Studios.”

Sony had a backup plan and while hiring James Vanderbilt to pen the scripts for Spider-Man 5 and 6, they had him writing a rebooted version too. Raimi bowed out and Sony went straight to work on the Marc Webb helmed The Amazing Spider-Man series.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that Raimi felt his vision had been compromised by the creative differences with the studio, which eliminated any confidence he had in producing another movie. Sony’s persistence to deliver movies, such as a Sinister Six team-up movie and the upcoming Venom solo movie starring Tom Hardy, are true indicators of their determination to “give the fans what they want”. Although, many would agree, that what the fans want is to see these characters feature in the MCU.

Marvel are predicting huge results with another two sequels in the pipeline for the brand new web slinger, Tom Holland, as well as integration into other Marvel movies like Avengers: Infinity War. As for producer Amy Pascal’s announcement that their Venom and Black Cat & Silver Sable movies will be featuring in the same universe as the MCU, Sony will have a bigger hill to climb than taking on the likes of Raimi.

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING will be in all good cinemas July 6th and stars Tom Holland, Michael Keaton and Robert Downey Jr.

Well, that’s it for another edition of Movies That Could’ve Been. What are your thoughts? Sound off in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

If there are any “lost” movies you’d like to know more about, drop us a line and it could show up in a future installment!