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More details of how SPIDER-MAN 4 fell apart


NY Mag’s Vulture blog’s Claude Brodesser-Akner has a lot more details on why the Raimi version of SPIDER-MAN 4 will never be. Basically, after seeing AVATAR, Raimi wanted to bringing more state-of-the-art SFX, which wouldn’t really have been ready by the 2011 release date. Also, the script had some problems, as the studio saw it. Here’s what WOULD have been with the Malkovich Vulture storyline:

Condensed, it went something like this: Peter Parker gets over MJ, finds a new girl, falls in love. But: Peter also discovers her father is actually the Vulture, a naughty green guy with wings to be played by John Malkovich. Peter is torn between the love of his new lady and taking down the Vulture. Being a Spandex tight-ass, he decides to take down the Vulture, and kills him. This patricide goes down poorly with Peter’s new fiancée, and she rejects him. Despondent, Peter decides to abandon his superpowers, and Movie No. 4 ends with Peter Parker throwing away his Spider-Man mask, and audiences wondering if they are watching Superman II.

Sony’s execs didn’t much care for this dour story line, and its consumer-products division especially detested the villain who, let’s face it, is pushing 60. (But hey, John Malkovich, from one Vulture to another, we think you look great! Really!) Columbia’s toy partner, Hasbro, also worried that suggesting its main character was packing it in might hurt future toy sales. And these days, toys are a key revenue stream, and demand far more forethought than that given to the scripts of $200 million movies. “This is piecemeal, old-school Hollywood mentality,” says Jeff Gomez, President and CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, which advises studios on how to define their franchises’ universes and mythologies for maximum toysploitation. (Past clients: Pirates of the Carribean, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and — wait for it — Avatar!) “Spider-Man belongs to a millennial generation that demands continuity, and that requires long-term and careful design. None of that has existed for Spider-Man since the second movie.”

So there you have it. Would The Beat have enjoyed this somber exploration of the superhero’s responsibility? Maybe. Would Hollywood execs? No chance in hell.

  1. Pretty sure I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. Pretty sure, yup.

    Malkovitch as the Vulture woulda been great. I’d have paid ten bucks to hear him say “I splash the focking pot if I want!”

  2. Yeah, that movie would have totally blown chunks. What I don’t understand is that the longest-running movie franchise (James Bond) has been going for like 50 years with something like 25 films. Bond’s name is NEVER in the title, and (save for the last one) are never “continued” from the last film, and never have a number in the title.

    What is wrong with this paradigm? It obviously has worked for Bond how come no one understands that it can also work for a comicbook hero with essentially the same longevity.

    Come on! I understand the need to “tweak” existing material so that it will translate from the illustrated page to the silver screen, but is it really necessary to stray so far from the path of what has gone before?

    Pick a Spidey epic, trim the fat and (unnecessary) comic continuity, and just tell a friggin story. Seriously, how hard can that be?

    And not for nothing, not only would Vulture have been a wicked-cool villain, but Malkovich (an Oscar-level actor) would have been incredible in the role.

    All of which is our loss as fans.

  3. If that was indeed the storyline, my deepest thanks to the Sony execs for pushing the Emergency Stop Production button. The last thing we needed to see is Anne Hathaway decked out in Vulture gear all pissed off at Spidey for killing her father, let alone Peter getting rid of his superpowers without even getting it on with Lois Lane underneath silky silver sheets in the Fortress of Solitude.

  4. I don’t think the Bond analogy works well. Bond is a relativelly generic hero; the Bond girls are there more for their looks than for their acting abilities. Bond’s attraction to a woman lasts no longer than Captain Kirk’s attraction to a woman in Star Trek: TOS. The stars of a Bond movie are the villain and the special effects (up through the Brosnan movies, at least). Fans of a comic book character need to connect more to the star of the movie.

    The plot doesn’t seem so bad within the context of a comic book series; a reader knows that something will happen to convince Parker to put on the costume again. For general viewers, though.unless the dramatic impact was tremendous, the ending would have been depressing, terrible, or both. The ending would have killed merchandise sales, too.


  5. Doesn’t say in the script synopsis that Spider-Man murders Vulture. Difference between murder and killing someone.

    Hasbro makes lame-@$$ed toys made in China, possibly contaminated with lead or cadmium, and THEY get to have a say in how a movie is written?

  6. They really need to return Spidey to it’s 1960’s roots. Do it as a period piece, Mad Man style. Set it in the 60’s. Have Betty Brant as the first girl friend…have him fight the Chameleon and the Tinkerer. Show him actually sewing the costume and making the web shooters using bits of metal and brass from his childhood train set and the web fluid using a $10.00 chemistry set in his bed room while Aunt May is calling him for supper….old school…that is the way to go.

  7. Too bad, because if there’s one thing the Spider-Man movies have lacked, it’s somber explorations of What It Means To Be A Hero involving people walking away from other people in slow motion.

  8. @Alan Coil

    If the vulture dies accidently in a battle with Spider-Man, that’s the plot to the first one, only this time Pete is sleeping with Harry. Depending on the director, I welcome a change, I’m just concerned about audience confusion.

  9. “Basically, after seeing AVATAR, Raimi wanted to bringing more state-of-the-art SFX…”

    Huh? What’s wrong with the current CGI. It’s not like we’re going from miniature models on strings to computer generated images. CGI has been looking really good lately. Avatar, is just a better version of what we already have. Why hold a movie off for that?

  10. AWESOME comments! I laughed out loud numerous times (Matt, Charles, Jesse, Sean).

    Even if Spider-Man didn’t actually murder the Vulture, that would make at least four villains in four movies that died after facing Spidey (Goblin #1 and 2, Doc Ock, Vulture – did Venom die?). It would be strange to have a movie universe where Peter tries to make up for his uncle’s death by becoming a super-hero and “accidentally” killing every villain he fights. If this was indeed the plot Raime had apparently ran out of tricks, as movie #4 sounds like a combination of bits and pieces from the previous three.

  11. Oops, my last comment was accidentally cut off.

    I meant to continue; just focus on the story and cgi will take care of itself. Holding out for SFX gimmicks is rarely a good idea. It may have worked for Avatar, but that’s a once-in-a-decade event type of film. How photorealstic does a preexisting New York need to be?

  12. Too bad, because if there’s one thing the Spider-Man movies have lacked, it’s somber explorations of What It Means To Be A Hero involving people walking away from other people in slow motion.

    Heroism that make other people feel uncomfortable, guilty, ashamed, angry, etc., is great in the context of a single story, but the SPIDER-MAN series is supposed to be a franchise. The budget for SPIDER-MAN 3 was $258,000,000, and since the international market is important — the international revenue was higher than domestic revenue for all three films, about $118 million higher for SPIDER-MAN 3 — the movie has to appeal to people who might know very little about the character. An ending that leaves viewers feeling disappointed, upset, depressed, angry or any combination of those emotions makes it unlikely that they would be eager to see the next Spider-Man movie — and the screenwriter would have to come up with a way of having him resume his crime-fighting career that didn’t seem forced or artificial.

    Remember the ending to STAR TREK II? People didn’t think they would actually leave Spock dead; as it turned out, they didn’t. Leaving him dead might have been justifiable artistically, but doing so would have left a hole in the series that would have been impossible to fill. The franchise likely would have been doomed.

    A story that might be wonderful within the context of a series, where readers know about the character, can be terrible in a movie that has to appeal to the general, uninformed public.


  13. Good points, Synsidar. It also ties into why a lot of people think Spider-Man 2 was the best of the three movies. In addition to having a great villian played by Alfred Molina and a plot that went beyond the origin story, the ending was surprisingly a happy one.

    Spidey is beloved by the people of New York, Mary Jane knows his secret identity, and she even breaks up her own wedding just to be with Peter Parker. At the time, I remember one review saying, “Wait a minute. Is it possible that the hero actually gets the girl?!?!” Angst has been a huge component of superhero movies since Superman, where Clark Kent pines for a woman that cannot be his. But Spider-Man actually ending up in a happy relationship? Revolutionary!

  14. “did Venom die?”

    Peter threw a Pumpkin Bomb at the symbiote, which had separated from Eddie Brock and been trapped in a cage with no roof. Eddie leapt in to try and reuinte with/save it, and was caught in the blast. They both died (c.f. the Unity Festival scene with Confusingly Jonah-Looking Man and Confusingly Professor X-Looking Man*). So, yeah. Peter Parker is a big murderer, ET FRICKIN’ CETERA.

    Honestly, this Vulture story sounds like it would have made Spider-Man 3 look like Spider-Man 2. We’re all well out of it.

    (* – seriously: one of the other board members looked like one of Alex Ross’ models from Kingdom Come! An Easter Egg too far!)

  15. In movie # 3, Peter didn’t count on Brock being so devoted to – brainwashed by? – the symbiote as to be willing to take a bullet with and for it. Unintended consequence of an act of self-defence.

    This proposal for # 4, though…iffy idea there.

  16. I don’t believe this explanation or plot synopsis for one second. Avatar-envy? A piecemeal plot cobbled together from the first two movies? I’m sure if anything, this crap was invented by the Sony execs themselves as a way to let the door hit Raimi on his way out. He certainly has his own flaws as a director, but I’ve seen his personal movies (Drag Me to Hell), and I will never believe that he was having technology envy.

  17. I’m no longer the age where I should get to vote on imaginary big box office pictures, but I would have been happy to see this movie (at home, months later) were it good, and will be happy to see a reboot (at home, months later) if it’s good enough to push past my level of automatic disinterest on seeing a familiar story again.

    Lots of fine movies sound dumb in synopsis form.

    I think the most interesting thing about this in terms of the comics is that the comics have no ending or even late second/third act — none I take seriously, anyway. I can argue one in the original run of comics, but it depends on closure with Mary Jane that the structure or the original movie makes impossible. So it would have been interesting to see someone do a couple of films that provided an ending to the Spider-Man story, in the same way it would have been interesting if this new James Bond stuff had been focused on ending that story rather than re-telling it.

  18. The only thing that I thought could be salvaged from this is the long running rumor of Bruce Campbell as Mysterio which never came true. And the Lizard. I’m honestly quite indifferent towards the cancellation and I find this surprising coming from me, since usually reville in disgust when Hollywood or a publisher pulls the plug on any worthy project these due to the dearth of any good form of entertainment in the international marketplace.

  19. “Peter Parker gets over MJ, finds a new girl, falls in love. But: Peter also discovers her father is actually the Vulture …”

    OK, maybe it’s just as well that Raimi is no longer involved with Spider-Man. Maybe the next director will tell good stories about villains who threaten the city, with NO personal relationship to Peter Parker — aside from the fact that Spider-Man opens a can of whoop-ass on them.

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