After a five year absence, Marvel's web-slinging superhero Spider-Man is set to return to the big screen next week in Sony's franchise reboot "The Amazing Spider-Man."
Directed by Marc Webb ("500 Days of Summer") and starring Andrew Garfield ("The Social Network") as Peter Parker, the new Spidey film is intended to be a darker and moodier take on the famed comic book character. But Webb's film is not the first "Spider-Man" movie to try to take the wall-crawler in a more serious direction. In the early 1990s, filmmaker James Cameron - yes, the James Cameron of "Terminator," "Titantic," and "Avatar" fame - wrote a script treatment for a "Spider-Man" movie, and the results were interesting, to say the least.
Though it may appear as though the noticeable shift in tone, both in "Spider-Man 3" and the upcoming "Amazing Spider-Man," was a direct response to the overwhelming success of Christopher Nolan's brooding Batman films, Spider-Man had always been headed in this darker and grittier direction.
Before all the reboot talk started, Sony had originally planned to continue the existing series with Sam Raimi in the director's chair and actor Tobey Macguire as Parker/Spider-Man, but then "Spider-Man 3" happened. What the studio wanted to be a more serious and action-packed film ended up being a ridiculous and overstuffed mess. The film shoehorned in too many characters, gave the symbiote-suited Peter Parker a silly "emo" makeover, and included inexplicable dance numbers as well as random scenes of James Franco eating pie. This all might have been Raimi's attempt to poke fun at the growing tide of serious superhero movies post-"Batman Begins," but whatever his intent, "Spider-Man 3" simply did not work.
"The Amazing Spider-Man" may succeed where "Spider-Man 3" failed, but years before Raimi messed things up, a "small time" director named Jim Cameron was tapped to make a "Spider-Man" movie. Fresh off of the blockbuster success of "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," Cameron was one of the most talked about and in-demand filmmakers in Hollywood. Carolco Pictures - producers of "T2" and other decidedly adult fare like "Rambo," "Total Recall," and "Basic Instinct" - had been attempting to secure the rights to "Spider-Man" so that Spidey fan Cameron could produce a film based on the material.
While filming "True Lies" in 1993, Cameron turned in a 47-page "scriptment" (a short script used to outline major scenes and dialogue) to producers at Carolco. However, Cameron's "Spider-Man" movie was not exactly the comic book version everyone knew and loved. In fact, it was closer in tone to the R-rated material that Carolco was known for. Laced with sex, violence, profanity, and a rage-filled Peter Parker, this was not an Aunt May friendly "Spider-Man."
Many expected Cameron's longtime collaborator Arnold Schwarzenegger to show up in the film somehow, and for many years it was rumoured that Schwarzenegger was Cameron's top choice to play Spidey villain Dr. Octopus, the robot arm-equipped mad scientist who was eventually played by Alfred Molina in Raimi's "Spider-Man 2." Cameron's scriptment, however, did not include Doc Ock. Instead it was a fairly standard origin story for the hero (with swearing), and featured slightly altered versions of comic book baddies Sandman and Electro.
What Cameron's "Spider-Man" script does include though, is one of the most awkward sex scenes ever put to paper. Still in the guise of Spider-Man, Parker and his love interest, Mary Jane Watson, visit the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. There, Parker playfully ties her up with his webbing and sweeps her off her feet with a lecture about the mating habits of arachnids. He then reveals himself to be Peter Parker and the two make love. Thankfully the film's climax is a little less weird, featuring an epic battle atop the then still standing World Trade Center towers. Ironically the towers would feature prominently in the very first teaser trailer for Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" before the events of September 11th, 2001.
Cameron's scriptment - which you can read here - never became a film due to Carolco's financial woes and an ongoing battle over the film rights, but it's cool to imagine what a James Cameron-directed "Spider-Man" would have looked like.
Several years ago Time Magazine even dug up some storyboards that were used to visualize the film. The director's version clearly needed a lot of work before anything could actually be shot, but you can bet visual effects would have been spectacular.
Marc Webb's "The Amazing Spider-Man" swings into theatres on July 3rd.