We're living in a world where almost every comic book superhero who ever existed is going to have an accompanying movie. It's a wonderful day to be alive, but it's also easy to take this world for granted. It's important to remember that, once upon a time, it was damn near impossible to get a superhero movie made. Even Spider-Man, Marvel's most popular hero and a guy who has had four movies in our lifetime (and at least one more on the way), spent a lot of time in movie development hell ...
In the 1970s, comics god Stan Lee planted himself firmly in Los Angeles with the single goal of making a crapload of money selling off the rights of Marvel properties to literally anyone. He tried to turn Thor into an off-Broadway play, he tried to make a movie based on Dazzler even though it would have been based on Dazzler, and he even tried producing a Silver Surfer movie that borrowed heavily from blaxploitation films (the script contained a scene where the Silver Surfer gets abducted by Sweet-Daddy Wisdom, a pimp [I mean obviously, right?] who utters the line, "Ol Sweet-Daddy's gone and caught himself the world's choice prize. He's captured the ultimate honky."
Still, none of that compares to the Steve Krantz-helmed Spider-Man treatment. According to Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book, Krantz's vision involved turning Spider-Man into a "musical-fantasy picture," although he quickly realized that it would have been a terrible idea. Did you hear that, U2 and Broadway? Even a guy in the '70s -- a decade made entirely of drugs -- knew how absurd it would be to have Spider-Man singing and dancing at bad guys.
I saw the Spider-Man musical in previews, and there's an entire song dedicated to a spider-lady's love of shoes, in case anyone's ever curious as to why I'm sad all the time.
Krantz wised up, deciding that it made more sense to have Spider-Man battle "100-foot robots and Nazis." The studio passed. Hard.
Why It Would Have Ruled
If only Kickstarter had been around in 1976; we could have crowd-funded a Spider-Man movie musical with robots and Nazis and then everyone could die, because that's the only thing that anyone was put on this Earth to do. Making that ridiculous movie happen is the only thing stopping all of humanity from quantum-leaping to our next mission.
I'm not saying this would have been the best Spider-Man movie ever, but boy it would have been rad. Today, the entire Spider-Man franchise can be rebooted and reimagined less than a decade between franchises. Already we'll have a different Batman within the next five years. Understanding that, we have to accept that we can't be precious about these properties anymore. We don't need to sit around and stress over whether or not someone is going to do justice to the source material, because if we don't like what Marc Webb does with the next Amazing Spider-Man, it's safe to assume that someone else will get a shot before 2020.
So, since authenticity is no longer the endgame, originality needs to be the goal. And while I genuinely don't know if Spider-Man fighting Nazis does make more sense than a Spider-Man musical, I do know that Krantz's version, regardless of what happened, would be the most original Spider-Man movie we would ever see.
Hey, speaking of people who should be tried for war crimes ...
I mean, would Spider-Man time travel back to the past, or would there just be a bunch of Nazis running around New York in the '70s? Was Spider-Man almost a time-traveling Nazi hunter?! We'll never know, because the studios passed on the idea. And we all have to live with that decision.
For about six minutes in the early '80s, beloved B-movie director Roger Corman had the rights to make a Spider-Man movie.
Corman was working from a treatment written by Stan Lee that featured standard Spider-Man stuff like webs, swinging, and Doctor Octopus, plus some less-standard Spider-Man stuff like a Russian nuclear war that Spider-Man single-handedly stops and a bunch of sexy KGB agents. Marvel took the rights away from Corman because they were worried about the budget ballooning out of control and realized that it would be cheaper to just not make a Spider-Man movie for another few decades.
Why It Would Have Ruled
Corman. Corman. Corman.
Most of you probably know who Corman is, but in case you don't, stop reading this article, go rent Death Race 2000, and watch it right now. That movie has fast cars, Sylvester Stallone with a Tommy gun, David Carradine in a Speedo, beautiful naked women, and a dope hand-grenade pun, and if nothing on that list appeals to you, you're dead inside, because the movie is perfect, campy fun at its best. Seriously. Come to my apartment and I will sit you down and give you a private screening of this movie.
A Roger Corman Spider-Man movie means we'd have a Roger Corman Spider-Man movie. Corman is listed as a mentor to Scorsese, Coppola, Ron Howard, and James Cameron, and he launched the careers of Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, and William Freaking Shatner. In the way that no meal can turn out bad if two of the ingredients are bacon and whiskey, it is literally impossible that we'd get a bad movie when we're combining Roger Corman with Spider-Man.