A lot of superhero movie fans don’t hold Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy in very high esteem (even though Spider-Man 2 is one of the best superhero movies to date), but the reason for that could mostly be down to the severely criticised third instalment that ultimately spelled the end for the franchise. Even back then, comic-book movie projects were being loosely planned in advance, and what many don’t know is that a fourth entry into the franchise was already being brainstormed when the third was released.
Unfortunately for Sam Raimi, Spider-Man 3 was almost universally slated for multiple reasons. The first and the most frequently cited is the way that Venom was handled; Eddie Brock didn’t look or sound like Eddie Brock, and his symbiote alter-ego Venom didn’t quite have the massive, menacing loom we generally associate with him in almost all source material. The second most commonly-mentioned reason is how there were slightly quirky and offbeat tonal shifts in Peter’s characterisation – scenes that may have worked in comic book panels but that felt jarring on screen. Due to these missteps, the third was unsuccessful (despite raking in $900m at the box office all the way back in 2007), resulting in the planned fourth movie never being green-lit. But, if they had made it – what would it have been like?
Well, according to storyboards released by Jeffrey Henderson, John Malkovich was allegedly approached to play Adrian Toomes, AKA the Vulture – a villain that we saw well reproduced for his first silver-screen outing by Michael Keaton in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Another interesting concept art image shows Mysterio being taken into custody, suggesting that while he wasn’t necessarily the film’s main antagonist, he would’ve been present in the film. Coincidentally, Spider-Man: Homecoming’s sequel Far From Home will feature Mysterio as a primary villain (with Jake Gyllenhaal rumoured to be in the role), likely playing a bigger part than he would have in Raimi’s fourth film.
Another significant bit of information is that was actually confirmed by Raimi himself is that Felicia Hardy, who fans will also know as Black Cat, was the proposed love interest for Peter Parker. The process was so far in advance that Raimi had even screen-tested Anne Hathaway for the part, who would eventually end up playing Catwoman in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.
Unfortunately, Sony wouldn’t give the go-ahead on any of the submitted screenplays, which caused Raimi to let go of the project and another ill-fated reboot of the franchise to ensue. Raimi released the following statement regarding the failure of Spider-Man 4 to get made:
“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.”
The rebooted franchise with Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man only lasted two movies, with the second being so poorly received the series was effectively canned on the spot. Web-head fans didn’t have to wait too long, luckily, for Spider-Man to be assimilated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and to get his own movie shortly afterwards.
The web-slinging action is set to continue when Spider-Man: Far From Home is released in mid-2019, but it sounds like Sam Raimi’s fourth film could’ve concluded his own franchise on more pleasant terms if it were made.