With the new trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home and the possible return of Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, director Sam Raimi‘s trilogy has once again been praised online.
The trilogy was a landmark adaptation with numerous memorable scenes, so it seems odd that the director’s vision was not further developed into a fourth film – especially when there was so much story to be told.
The box office for the films was also great by that time’s standards. So why did Spider-Man 4 never happen? Well, the simple answer is that it was canceled by Sony.
Despite a third film that failed, in good part due to the demands of the studio (such as the presence of Venom), Sam Raimi still seemed interested in pursuing this universe, bringing a new Spider-Man adventure.
The Franchise Was a Success
At their release in the early 2000s, Sam Raimi‘s films were a roaring success, as we can see from Box Office Mojo. With a budget of $140 million, Spider-Man made over $100 million in its debut alone, which was quite unusual at that time. In all, the first Spidey adventure made $821 million!
The success was so great that Sony quickly followed up with Spider-Man 2, praised by critics and fans alike as one of the hero’s best adaptations in theaters. This time, the budget was a bit bigger, coming in at $200 million, while the worldwide box office was slightly lower, standing at $788 million.
This brings us to the controversial Spider-Man 3, which had a budget of $258 million and an insane box office of $894 million. However, despite being a financial success, the third film was trashed among critics and fans.
Among the most common remarks, the excess of characters and villains negatively affected the film. Venom was also a problem in the project, and the reason for this is straightforward: Sam Raimi didn’t like the character and only included him due to Sony and the producers’ pressure.
The director even spoke openly about it in an interview for Collider, acknowledging that the film didn’t work as he would have liked.
“It’s a movie that just didn’t work very well. I tried to make it work, but I didn’t really believe in all the characters, so that couldn’t be hidden from people who loved Spider-Man.
If the director doesn’t love something, it’s wrong of them to make it when so many other people love it. I think [raising the stakes after Spider-Man 2] was the thinking going into it, and I think that’s what doomed us.
I should’ve just stuck with the characters and the relationships and progressed them to the next step and not tried to top the bar.”
Why Was Spider-Man 4 Canceled?
Still, despite the criticism, the film was a big enough success to warrant a new sequel. In fact, Sam Raimi and his team were already actively working on Spider-Man 4 with the script planned and the core team already set to return.
So why did Sony decide to cancel the project and proceed with The Amazing Spider-Man?
Despite his ideas and the fact that everything was moving forward, Sam Raimi simply couldn’t quite get the script right. As a result, the director was unhappy and didn’t like any of the versions of the story.
Eventually, he confessed that he was exhausted and tired of being involved with just Spider-Man. Moreover, since the release of the first film, Raimi had not worked on any other projects. So, for the best of both parties, Sony and Sam Raimi decided to kill the project.
There was no big fight or tension between the two parties. Raimi makes it clear that the end of the partnership was extremely calm:
“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.
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.’
And [Sony co-chairman] Amy Pascal said, ‘Thank you. Thank you for not wasting the studio’s money, and I appreciate your candour.’ So we left on the best of terms, both of us trying to do the best thing for fans, the good name of Spider-Man, and Sony Studios.”
The Amazing Spider-Man Was Already Being Prepared
As Raimi himself knew at the time, while Spider-Man 4 was being developed, Sony was already preparing a reboot of the franchise, something that would later take the form of The Amazing Spider-Man.
It is speculated that the parallel development of the project was to fulfill a request from investors, being a guarantee that, regardless of anything, Sony would continue to have the rights to Spider-Man, since it needed to release Spider-Man products within a specific time period or they would go back to Marvel.
Some people, however, see this as a lack of trust in Raimi’s work, with the studio putting no effort into trying to make Spider-Man 4 work.
However, what needs to be clear is that beyond speculation and gossip, Sam Raimi himself was no longer happy in the franchise, and there is no way of knowing whether or not the fourth Spidey adventure would work out.
In any case, despite trying to revitalize the franchise and bet on new actors and tone for the features of the hero’s adaptations, The Amazing Spider-Man was not the success the studio had hoped for. Having an investment of $230 million, it earned $757 million at the worldwide box office, much less than Raimi’s films.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2, on the other hand, earned only $708 million.
What Would Spider-Man 4 Be About?
Because it is already in a relatively advanced stage, we have several pieces of information about what we would see in Spider-Man 4.
For starters, Sam Raimi wanted to bring one of his favorite villains to the big screen, the Vulture. The character almost appeared in Spider-Man 3, with Ben Kingsley (the fake Mandarin from Iron Man 3) being considered for the project. In the fourth adventure, however, John Malkovich had been chosen to embody Spidey’s foe.
The iconic Felicia Hardy was also included, with Anne Hathaway for the role. However, Hardy would not assume the Black Cat‘s title, but Vulture, a sidekick to the main villain.
Mysterio would also be present. However, his impact on the story is unclear since we only have a storyboard showing Spider-Man handing the villain over to the police.
The dangerous Lizard should also be in the film, a request from Sony, who would like to finally transform Dylan Baker’s character, present throughout the trilogy, into his comic book counterpart.
Rumors indicate that Carnage, Rhyno, Shocker, and Prowler have also been mentioned since the intention was to bring four villains to antagonize the hero.
With so many possibilities and a chaotic plot, it makes sense that Sam Raimi was exhausted and decided to abandon the project.
Either way, the Spider-World will shine once again with Spider-Man: No Way Home. The film will bring Tom Holland as the hero, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, and villains from the other franchises, such as Electro and Doctor Octopus. The film opens on December 16.
Meanwhile, Sam Raimi is returning to the world of superheroes. The iconic director will be in charge of Doctor Strange In The Madness Multiverse, which is scheduled to open on March 25, 2022.