This article is from last year, and has been reblogged in honor of Spider-Man 3 releasing in theaters on this day, ten years ago.
Next year will make it 10 years since Spider-Man 3 released in theaters. For years, it was my understanding that Spider-Man 3 single-handedly destroyed the franchise that Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire helped create. However, that notion was far from the truth when taking into consideration that Sony Pictures was looking to continue its partnership with Raimi and do at least two more movies. Yes, Spider-Man 3 was panned by critics and fans, but it also made enough money ($890 million) for Sony to overlook those fixable problems. As we now know, Spider-Man 4 & 5 never happened, with Raimi being unable to create a story that he was satisfied with.
But what if Raimi had been able to come up with a story, and was able to continue doing more films? Could we have seen Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man cross into the M.C.U? First, a little backstory on Spider-Man 4, Spider-Man 5, and the development hell that led to its eventual doom.
Spider-Man 4’s Release Date & Villains
Sony set a release date for Spider-Man 4 for May 5, 2011. Development on the project began back in 2008, with Raimi already having the film’s villain in mind. Dylan Baker was set to reprise his role as Dr. Curt Conners, with the character finally making his transformation into The Lizard.
About a year into development (2009), the story evolved into including even more villains, and Raimi already had actors in mind for those roles. Actor John Malkovich entered talks to play The Vulture, an elderly criminal who builds a suit that allows him to fly. Malkovich actually went as far as confirming his casting a day before Sony announced they were cancelling Spider-Man 4. Anne Hathaway was also in talks to play Felicia Hardy (a.k.a Black Cat). What interesting about this version of the Hardy character is that Raimi would’ve departed from the character’s prior known alter ego Black Cat, instead making her into The Vultress, an ally to The Vulture. These rumors were later shot down by Raimi in 2013, when he confirmed that Hathaway would’ve eventually played Black Cat.
As development progressed, both Sony and Raimi began talking about more than just one film, given the number of villains at hand. Suddenly, we were not only getting Spider-Man 4, but now a 5th installment in the franchise.
Shooting Spider-Man 4 & 5 Back-to-Back (in 3-D)
An idea began floating around about shooting Spider-Man 4 & 5 back-to-back. This made sense, because doing so would not only save the studio time and money, but would’ve likely given fans Spider-Man movies one year after the other. Furthermore, one of the main concerns on Spider-Man 4 was the idea of using multiple villains once again (Vulture, Vultress/Black Cat, The Lizard). This was a major criticism of Spider-Man 3, so one has to think there would’ve been fan backlash. However, shooting movies back-to-back, into what was speculated as a two-part story, would’ve allowed Raimi to carry some of the villains over into the next movie. This was talked about between the director and the writers during development.
Then there was the idea of using 3-D, which Sony (like many other studios) wanted to capitalize on after seeing what Avatar did. To be frank, I think this could’ve been a great move. The Amazing Spider-Man is one of few movies that actually pulled of the 3-D format well (just think about that crane swinging sequence).
Spider-Man 4 vs. Thor
For a short amount of time, there would’ve been some fan excitement over getting two comic book movies so close together in the same month. Spider-Man 4 had a May 5, 2011 release, while the Kenneth Branagh directed Thor had a May 20, 2011 release. Surely, one of these movies would’ve moved off their release date, and while today we doubt any studio would go against Marvel, it was a different story back then.
During this time (2009), Marvel’s Thor movie had more curiosity than excitement from general audiences. Also, while the studio came out blasting with 2008’s Iron Man, its followup films The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2 weren’t able to fully capitalize on that success. Meanwhile everybody was familiar with the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies. The two would’ve made for an interesting showdown, but ultimately one cancelled while the other took its place. Thor ended up releasing May 6, 2011.
Disagreements & Many Rewrites Led to Cancellation
From the outside, everything seemed good to go. Sam Raimi was committed to Spider-Man 4, with intentions on making the fourth film the best yet. The cast was set with Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Rosemary Harris (Aunt May), and Bryce Dallas Howard (Gwen Stacy) all set to return. However, reports from Deadline said that Spider-Man 4 was caught up in a web of disagreements that would prevent it from its May 2011 release. The script went through four revisions from four different writers working with Raimi, and the director still wasn’t pleased. After many delays and disagreements, Sony cancelled the movie in January of 2010.
Here’s Raimi’s comments from a few years back (via. Vulture) on what happened.
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.
Now that we have backstory on Spider-Man 4 and part of 5, its time for a bit of speculation. Here are two likely scenarios I’ve created for the Spider-Man franchise. These are based on whether Spider-Man 4 & 5 would end up being good or bad. For argument’s sake, lets say both films shot back-to-back and released one year after the other (2011 & 2012) for a two part story.
If Spider-Man 4 & 5 were GOOD
Lets say that Spider-Man 4 was major improvement from Spider-Man 3, and Spider-Man 5 was on par, if not better. I think the following would’ve taken place.
- Spider-Man 5 and Marvel’s The Avengers both smash hits at the 2012 box office, leading to fans calling for a crossover.
- Knowing Sony as the studio they once were, they would’ve likely convinced Raimi and Maguire to return for a sixth and final film in what’ll conclude two trilogies. If this happens, Raimi would be able conceive a story that would properly close his run with Maguire. Meanwhile, Sony (being Sony) milks out the last of this franchise, and later reboots.
- Sony reboots the franchise by 2017 or ’18 (after Spider-Man 6 releases in 2015). Since Sony and Marvel Studios have always had a close working relationship, plans are discussed for a Spider-Man reboot that’ll crossover into the M.C.U.
- Now because this scenario is about Spider-Man 4 & 5 being good, and likely the same for Spider-Man 6, Sony (being Sony) feels they can independently produce their own shared universe by taking advantage of Spidey’s vast rogues gallery. They deny Marvel’s offer to crossover, which likely postpones any plans for the forseeabe future.
- Sony also announces a Sinister Six and Venom spin-off movie in the works, in an attempt to keep up with the M.C.U. and DCEU.
If Spider-Man 4 & 5 were BAD
Lets say that Raimi’s two-part story didn’t work out as expected. Both films still made money, but the quality of the films were on par, if not worse than Spider-Man 3. I think the following would’ve taken place:
- The Spider-Man reboot gets postponed a couple years to give audiences a breather (after 3 disappointing films) before introducing a new Spider-Man. Since Spider-Man 5 would’ve released in 2012, the reboot would’ve happened sometime between 2015 and 2016.
- Marvel and Sony discuss possible crossover, with the introduction of a new Spider-Man (likely makes his debut in Captain America: Civil War). By this time, Marvel has already dominated the genre and fans are pleading for the deal to happen.
- Andrew Garfield plays Spider-Man in the first reboot film (let’s call it The Amazing Spider-Man), and it’s a modest success in 2015. Marvel Studios inserts the Oscorp Tower into their M.C.U. New York skyline, as they originally intended back in 2015’s Age of Ultron.
- Marvel assists Sony in producing The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which results in a much better film than what we ended up getting. Marvel characters make appearances in the film, and in return Garfield appears in Captain America: Civil War.
Obviously, none of this matters now that Spider-Man has officially crossover into the M.C.U. However, I think its really interesting knowing the insight on what was and what could’ve been for a franchise as beloved as Spider-Man. Let me know if you think any differently about anything I just talked about. Thanks for reading.