3 Insane Spider-Man Movies You Won't Believe Almost Got Made
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 ...
Spider-Man + Singing + Nazis
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.
Roger Corman's Spider-Man
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.
What If He Were Actually a Giant Spider?
Boy, the '80s were weird. When Marvel took the rights to Spider-Man away from Corman, the Cannon Group purchased them for $225,000. That might sound cheap, but remember that Marvel wanted a cheap Spider-Man flick, even if that meant working with a company that had never heard of Spider-Man or filmmaking or taste or logic.
The Cannon Group was super excited about but completely ignorant of the franchise. I say "super excited" because they went as far as to print full ads announcing the fact that a Spider-Man movie was going to happen soon ...
... and I say "ignorant of" because according to potential Spider-Man director Joseph Zito, the heads of Cannon "didn't really know what Spider-Man was ... They thought it was like the Wolfman." Cannon was pushing a version of Spider-Man that involved Peter Parker as a giant mutant spider created by a mad scientist named Dr. Zork. Now, while the Cannon Group never specifically called Zork a "mad" scientist, they also gave me no choice but to assume that he was, based on the fact that he made mutants professionally and was named Zork. They wanted Spider-Man to be a giant tarantula, and they wanted Bob Hoskins to play Doctor Octopus.
Why It Would Have Ruled
I don't know. Wouldn't it be cool to get drunk and see a midnight showing of Spider-Man that involved Bob Hoskins fighting a giant spider?
Daniel O'Brien's Spider-Man 4
[Bonus entry! While it's easy to sit here and talk about various Spider-Man movies that never made it, it also seems cowardly. To that end, I'm happy to include the Spider-Man flick I would have made a few years ago, if Sony had decided to hire a 20something nobody to direct a Spider-Man movie ...]
Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man movie was pretty OK. Spider-Man 2, meanwhile, was a damn-near-perfect Spider-Man flick. Spider-Man 3 was sort of a train wreck, but, for a few months at least, Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst were on board for a fourth installment of Raimi's vision of the franchise. While we might never know exactly what the fourth Spider-Man flick could have been (the studio decided to let Raimi go and bring in Marc Webb to reboot the franchise at the last minute), I certainly know what I would have wanted.
Ninety straight minutes of this.
Here's the way superhero trilogies work: Spider-Man shows us Spider-Man's origins. Spider-Man 2 shows us the side effects and consequences of choosing to be a superhero, and our Spidey is forced to question whether or not being Spider-Man is worth all of the sacrifices he has to make. Spider-Man 3 shows us that, yes, it is worth it. That's just the pattern of superhero movies. Following that structure is a natural impulse, and while Spider-Man 3 was mostly bloated and shitty, it wasn't off base or misguided as far as trilogy structure goes.
Since the first three Raimi Spider-Man movies fulfilled all of the requirements that all superhero movies have, we know that a fourth Spider-Man movie would have one goal and one goal only: telling a badass story.
By the fourth film, we KNOW who Spider-Man is, we know who his friends are, and we know what the stakes of his world are. There is no reason for additional exposition. We would have already gone through Spider-Man's hero journey; we can't have him go through a SECOND origin, and to have him again question whether or not he wants to be a superhero would be redundant. There's nothing left to do except tell a fun, stand-alone Spider-Man story.
The worst thing about Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man was that we had to start from scratch again, with Spider-Man's origin. At least with Raimi's franchise we were done with all of that. The only thing that we would get out of a fourth Raimi Spider-Man was a badass Spidey story, and wouldn't that be great?!
I think so, anyway, but that's because I dream about Spider-Man every single night and have come up with a Spider-Man movie that addresses all of the points that, in my head, make up a good Spider-Man movie. My Spider-Man 4 starts with Spidey getting framed for the murder of a high-profile politician (let's say he's framed by a gritty, more realistic version of Mysterio, who, in my movie, is less of a theatrical mastermind and more of a brilliant hacker/scam artist). The frame-up is so good and the evidence is so damning that even Mary Jane questions Spider-Man's innocence, so he goes on the run, and because he's too smart and fast to be caught by normal means, the police have to bring in a special outside consultant: Kraven the Hunter. Kraven is called in because he's better at tracking than anyone on the planet, and Spider-Man spends the entire movie either on the run or trying to clear his name.
Why It Would Have Ruled
I don't claim to be an expert on Spider-Man, but I do think that this movie hits all of the important Spidey hallmarks:
Spider-Man Needs to Be Alone: By the end of Spider-Man 3, most New Yorkers loved Spider-Man and were eager to give him the key to their city. While that was logical in that universe, it was also the opposite of what life for Spider-Man should be like. The murder frame-job happens because, at his core, Spider-Man is an outsider. He can't have a partner, like in Spider-Man 3, and he can't have the city of New York saving his ass, like in Spider-Man or The Amazing Spider-Man. We need a convincing frame-up because Spidey has to be the perpetual outcast. He needs to be up against seemingly insurmountable odds, because that's who he is.
Spider-Man Needs a Compelling Reason Not to Kill: If Spider-Man's villain is just a two-dimensional evil guy, you've got a short and boring movie on your hands; Spidey would just maim or detain the guy and then move on. With Kraven as a villain working with the NYPD, Spider-Man has a compelling reason not to physically destroy his opponent. We're not dealing with a simple "bad guy vs. good guy" story; we're dealing with two guys who passionately believe they're on the right side of justice, battling it out. Nothing can be simple for Spider-Man. His life is all about doing the right thing, even if that means doing the hard thing. Spider-Man is at his best not when he's punching Rhino over and over again, but when he's calmly trying to explain why he's a good guy (in between punches) to an audience that refuses to listen.
Spider-Man Needs a Villain Who Can Match Him: It's hard to come up with villains for Spider-Man, because he is super strong and literally a genius. If there's a villain who is just stronger than Spider-Man, there is no logical reason for Spider-Man not to outsmart him, and if there's a villain who's smarter than Spider-Man, there's no logical reason for Spider-Man not to out-strength him, and if there's a single character who is smarter AND stronger, there's no logical reason for Spider-Man not to lose. That's why I'd write a movie with Mysterio, who is smarter than Spider-Man, and Kraven, who is stronger. Spidey could handle them separately, but together, we have a real and logical challenge.
That's my dream Spider-Man movie. It's not about having a TON of villains, and it's not about having more explosions. It's about Spider-Man, on his own, making sacrifices and hard decisions in the spirit of doing the right thing, which, in my case, means clearing his name.
Also, if it wasn't clear, in Spider-Man 4, my big brother would do the score and I'd play Spider-Man. This is pretty non-negotiable. Should have probably mentioned that up front.