LOOKING BACK #10: Spider-Man 4

LOOKING BACK #10: Spider-Man 4

With The Amazing Spider-Man releasing next week, now seems like an appropriate time to resurrect the CBM feature "Looking Back" and explore the fourth Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie that almost happened.

By: @_MarkJulian

It's been a while but Looking Back is well....back. And for the 10th installment we're going to look at Spider-Man 4 which was in early development before Spider-Man 3 was released to virtually universal disappointment. Not to say that the film was bad per say, but the bar for the third installment was set incredibly high thanks to its predecessor and the the final product came up well short. However, before the film's release, Sony was counting on the third film dominating the box office and was quietly planning for not only the fourth film but a fifth as well, which was to be shot simultaneously. Ideas were actively being discussed, shot down and reintroduced by involved parties before the whole thing finally collapsed. There were also a lot of interesting and familiar names attached to the script and villain roles as well. Ultimately, we ended up with a reboot from Marc Webb starring Andrew Garfield but on paper, Spider-Man 4 appeared to be a film that could've restored the credibility of 'Raimi and co.' in the eyes of the Spider-Man faithful.

In the early 2000s, Sony's Spider-Man franchise set the standard for superhero films. The first Spider-Man film caught moviegoers by surprise and the sequel managed to surpass their staggeringly high expectations, putting a lot of pressure on the third installment. Encouraged by the box office windfall of the first two films, Sony was already looking towards a fourth Spider-Man film before filming for Spider-Man 3 wrapped. In 2007, the film entered early development with Sony hiring James Vanderbilt (The Losers, The Amazing Spider-Man, Robocop 2013) to write the script. A rewrite was later penned by David Lindsay-Abaire (Rise of the Guardians, Oz: The Great and Powerful) and then rewritten again by Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Seabiscuit). The film even had a tentative release date of May 6, 2011 setting up a head-to-head showdown with Marvel's Thor.. But by 2008, Sony was finding that getting a fourth Spider-Man film in theaters was not going to be an easy task. Raimi made no secret that he never really wanted to include Venom in Spider-Man 3 and the railing he took from fans and critics proved that he was right and the studio was wrong. Said Raimi, “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.” Also, by this time, the cast of bright-eyed newcomers in the first Spider-Man film had become major Hollywood players and were flexing serious muscle when it was time to negotiate a return now that their 3-picture deals were up. The film appeared to be in serious jeopardy at the very early stages but eventually all the principal creators and actors [*minus Kristen Dunst] were eventually signed up to return and filming was scheduled to kick off in the early summer of 2010. Raimi had been assured that he would have creative control once again and that the studio was fine with having a two-villian approach. When it became clear to Raimi that neither of these things were true, he prudently decided to walk away from the project. After the backlash he received from Spider-Man 3, who could blame him? [*It should be noted that various rumors surrounding the script were contradictory as to whether Kristen Dunst would actually be returning].

As for the intended villains of the piece, names like Morbius, Vulture, Carnage, Venom (done right this time), Kraven, Mysterio and The Lizard were bandied about by the cast and filmmakers alike. The Mysterio rumor gained a ton of buzz when it was revealed by Raimi that actor Bruce Campbell would be returning and would have "a big role in the film." However, John Malkovitch and Anne Hathaway were ultimately chosen to portray Spider-Man adversaries, Felicia Hardy and Adrian Toomes, better known as The Black Cat and The Vulture in the pages of Marvel comics. Along with this report came the dubious news that, to the dismay of fans everywhere, Hathaway would not be suiting up as The Black Cat but would portray an all new character called The Vulturess. As you can imagine, that bit of news did not go over well at all. Reportedly the plot of the film had Parker moving on from Mary Jane and starting a relationship with Hardy. Meanwhile, Spider-Man would be busy battling the Vulture who is secretly Felicia's father. When Spider-Man accidentally kills him, Felicia takes up her father's villainous ways continuing the fight with Spider-Man. Only this small tidbit of the plot ever emerged (correct me if there's more) and it's eerily similar to the Green Goblin storyline that played out over the first three films. But this isn't what irked Raimi, reportedly, the studio was not happy with the choice of villain and wanted more recognizable names like Electro, The Lizard or Carnage and was adamant that the film be shot in 3D, something Raimi was not familiar with. News surfaced in December 2010, that Raimi was clashing frequently with Sony execs over production interference and that he even began to sabotage the script as a threat to to get them to back off. Apparently they didn't get the message.

In January 2010, Sony officially announced that plans for Spider-Man 4 were canceled due to their inability to come to an agreement with Raimi and that the franchise would be rebooted. Sony's search for a director came down to two individuals, Marc Webb and Matthew Vaughn, and of course Webb got the gig.

Interesting stuff to say the least. It would have been interesting to watch the box-office battle between Spidey and Thor unfold. Today, we might be hounding Tobey Maguire about plans to cameo in Avengers 2 instead of Andrew Garfield.

Before signing up for Iron Man 2 Rourke was reportedly in talks to play Kraven the Hunter in Spider-Man 4.

We even had a licensing poster made for CinemaCon.

Before signing up to play Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises, Anne Hathawy almost played The Black Cat..er...The Vulturess in Spider-Man 4.


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