Out of the Spider-Verse: The Spider-Man sequels and spin-offs that nearly got made
There are lots of interesting stories to be had when it comes to films that were in development and ultimately didn’t get made. Like the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, we could have had several alternate timelines for Sony’s biggest superhero franchise.
The variety of cancelled projects include sequels featuring past versions of characters to spin-offs that would introduce new villains. With Spider-Man: No Way Home bringing together various threads from pre-MCU incarnations, we’ve been taking a look at some of these lost movies, what went wrong, and how upcoming movies might pick up some of those threads.
As various characters in the brilliant Into The Spider-Verse might say: “OK, let’s do this one more time…”
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 4
Though far from universally beloved, 2007’s Spider-Man 3 was the most financially successful entry in Sam Raimi’s original trilogy, grossing more than $894m worldwide. At first, the plan was for Raimi and Tobey Maguire to continue with the franchise, but the director wasn’t as happy with how Spider-Man 3 turned out.
Sony set a May 2011 release date and work on Spider-Man 4 began in 2008. Raimi cast John Malkovich as the Vulture, a villain he wanted to use in Spider-Man 3 before Venom came along, and intended for Anne Hathaway to play Felicia Hardy, aka the Black Cat.
Read more: The superhero movies thwarted in development hell
Writers James Vanderbilt, David Lindsay-Abaire, and Gary Ross worked on Spider-Man 4 throughout 2008 and 2009, but Raimi (angling to make this “the best Spider-Man yet”) was still dissatisfied with the script. Knowing that Sony was already developing a reboot in parallel with the sequels, the director walked away from the project at the end of 2009.
Speaking about the film to Vulture (no relation) in 2013, Raimi explained: “It really was the most amicable and undramatic of breakups: 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.”
Sony announced that the next Spider-Man film would be a reboot in January 2010. At least Hathaway channelled her cat burglar energy into Selina Kyle for DC’s The Dark Knight Rises a couple of years later, but at the time, it was weird to think we’d never get Maguire as Peter Parker again…
Venom (not that one)
Also in parallel with Spider-Man 4, Sony developed various versions of a Venom movie, separate from the Tom Hardy one we eventually got. Meanwhile, Sony saw Venom as its Wolverine, a popular character who could ensure the longevity of the franchise in outings that went alongside the parent series.
Producer Avi Arad announced a Venom spin-off shortly after Spider-Man 3 hit cinemas. Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese wrote a “realistic, grounded” take on the alien symbiote anti-hero actioner, with the potential for Topher Grace to reprise his role as Eddie Brock.
Once the reboot was announced in 2010, plans shifted again. With designs on a cinematic universe, Sony set up a brain trust of writers and producers, including Arad, Matt Tolmach, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Ed Solomon.
A Venom film was mooted and pushed back numerous times, with one idea being that Emma Stone would transform from Gwen Stacy to Carnage after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Channing Tatum would star as Brock/Venom.
The hugely successful 2018 version of Venom with Tom Hardy only came along after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 bombed – a development that put paid to more than one project…
Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 3
Confident in its reboot, Sony initially announced that the next films in Andrew Garfield’s three-picture deal as Spider-Man would land in 2014 and 2016, with a fourth later pencilled in for 2018.
When you get to the first of those, you see The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a movie that makes a lot of noises about plans for the franchise, teeing up miscellaneous villains and crossovers. Orci and Kurtzman’s hand in the script gives us a lot of mystery-box setups involving Peter’s parents, Oscorp, and the Ravencroft Institute, teeing up sequels that never got made.
Read more: Now Way Home 'only gets crazier'
Apparently, The Amazing Spider-Man 3 would have picked up some of these threads while also resurrecting past characters like Gwen Stacy, her dad, and Chris Cooper’s Norman Osborn. However, the series-low box-office performance of the second film prompted a rethink across all of the planned Spidey projects.
On various occasions, Garfield has gone on the record saying he was “heartbroken” by his experience with the franchise, but like Maguire, who truly knows or dares to dream if we’ll ever see him don web-shooters again…
Alongside a Spider-Man 2099 spin-off and Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Silver Sable and Black Cat movie, Drew Goddard’s take on Sinister Six was another casualty of TASM2’s failure. Originally announced alongside Venom in December 2013, this villain-centric spin-off was set to be Goddard’s follow-up to The Cabin In The Woods, but it never came to the screen.
Usually led by Doctor Octopus (whose arrival was teased in the previous film), the Sinister Six has an assortment of Spider-Man villains working together, a la Suicide Squad, though it’s generally more of a brain trust than a press-gang. The film was described as “a redemption story” and its release date even leap-frogged Amazing Spider-Man 3’s at one point, so that it could set up a showdown between Spidey and the supergroup in the next sequel.
As of December 2018, producer Amy Pascal says this one is still alive, with Goddard reworking his script for the current status quo.
Meanwhile, No Way Home has five confirmed returning villains and counting, from both the Raimi and Webb iterations of the franchise, which will be the closest we’ve come to a proper Sinister Six in live-action so far…
Spider-Man: No Way Home is in cinemas from 15 December.
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