Despite the mixed critical reception, the box office numbers for Spider-Man 3 were strong enough that Sony wanted to make a Spider-Man 4. Sam Raimi was seriously considering it, and it even went into pre-production, with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst signed on to return.
However, for a number of reasons, Raimi lost interest and Sony ended up canceling the film. In the years since, many plot elements and behind-the-scenes details have been revealed and fans have been able to draw their own conclusions about the unmade sequel. So, here are 5 Reasons Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 4 Could’ve Been Great (And 5 Reasons Canceling It Was A Good Idea).
10 Should’ve been canceled: Spider-Man 3 was the perfect ending to the series
As much as fans despise Spider-Man 3 – and, obviously, it does have its problems – there’s no denying that it marked the perfect ending to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. It wrapped up all the story threads and completed Peter Parker’s character arc.
He went to his darkest place, he finally got lasting closure on Uncle Ben’s murder, he resolved his disagreement with Harry, he and Mary Jane truly fell in love, and he discovered his purpose as Spider-Man. From beginning to end, it stands as complete a story as any other trilogy. A fourth movie would ruin that sense of completeness.
9 Could’ve been great: The opening montage sounded incredible
Apparently, Sam Raimi’s plan was to open Spider-Man 4 with a montage of Spidey defeating a bunch of lesser-known villains – including the Shocker, the Rhino, Mysterio (who would’ve been played by Bruce Campbell in his recurring cameo), and the Prowler – before taking on the main villains.
This would show that Peter had settled into his double life as Spider-Man and could take on these villains no problem and suggest that more villains were rising up to take him on as he became more and more lauded as a hero. However, this sounds like more of a victory lap than a real continuation of the story.
8 Should’ve been canceled: There was no way to make the script work
Part of the reason why Sam Raimi decided to call off Spider-Man 4 was that he couldn’t get the script to work. He got the writers to turn out a bunch of different drafts, with every variation on the plot possible, and he still “hated” every single version. This isn’t surprising, since James Vanderbilt was one of those writers and he was credited on both of the not-so-great The Amazing Spider-Man movies.
Even with rewrites by Pulitzer-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, Raimi wasn’t happy with the script. Sony initially tried to get David Koepp, the writer of the original Spider-Man movie, but he didn’t take the bait. If he had taken the job, it might’ve been a different story.
7 Could’ve been great: John Malkovich would’ve been a terrific Vulture
Sam Raimi wanted to include the Vulture as one of the primary villains and he planned to cast John Malkovich. Malkovich is a fine actor and, as shown in Burn After Reading, he can really show off his sinister side, so he probably would’ve made a great Vulture.
We would eventually get a brilliant portrayal of the Vulture as Peter’s love interest’s dad played by Michael Keaton opposite Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Keaton did a fine job of playing Adrian Toomes as relatable as opposed to just evil, which is the distinction that makes most Spider-Man villains so complex, so it’s fair to say that this all worked out.
6 Should’ve been canceled: The Vulturess would’ve been too radical a change to the Felicia Hardy character
There have been reports that Felicia Hardy was being considered for a villain role in the film, but instead of taking on the alter ego Black Cat like in the comics, she would become the Vulturess, a new character who would act as a sort of female apprentice to the Vulture.
Spider-Man fans have always wanted to see a big-screen translation of the Black Cat character – and had a glimmer of hope a couple of years ago when Sony announced a Black Cat spin-off that they later canceled – so to introduce Felicia Hardy as anyone else would’ve felt like a disservice.
5 Could’ve been great: It could’ve deepened Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship
The relationship shared by Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy is one of the most complex in all of superhero cinema. They didn’t just fall in love and stay together like more boring superhero movie couples like Scarlet Witch and Vision or Thor and Jane Foster (until the audience finally got fed up with her, that is).
Instead, Peter had a constant tug-of-war between his duties as Spider-Man and his duties as a boyfriend. And Mary Jane’s emotions were always realistic: she understood the internal conflict of his double life, but she also didn’t want to be constantly let down. Spider-Man 4 could’ve built even more on that relationship.
4 Should’ve been canceled: Trilogies are neater than quadrilogies
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man series stands out as a great movie franchise whose narrative was wrapped up in a neat bow, and this is partly due to the power of the trilogy. Trilogies are a great way to tell stories – that’s why the MCU has never given any character a fourth solo movie (although Thor is about to get one, directed by Taika Waititi).
In a broad sense, all stories come in three parts: a beginning, middle, and end. Apart from Shrek and the original run of Superman movies (neither of whose third or fourth installments hold up), there aren’t many memorable quadrilogies.
3 Could’ve been great: Raimi was going to pay off the Curt Connors storyline
Sam Raimi’s top choice for the villain was the Lizard, otherwise known as Dr. Curt Connors. The Lizard would remain the main villain in Sony’s retooled version of Spider-Man 4, the Andrew Garfield-starring reboot The Amazing Spider-Man, but it wasn’t as effective as Raimi’s would’ve been.
In the reboot, Connors had no relation to Peter Parker, but in Raimi’s series, they’d spent entire movies building up a relationship. The great thing about the villains in Raimi’s Spider-Man movies was always their personal connection to Peter – like his friend’s dad Norman Osborn or his idol Otto Octavius – so the director probably could’ve done something great with Peter’s college professor as the bad guy.
2 Should’ve been canceled: Sam Raimi and Sony had creative differences
Sam Raimi decided to call off Spider-Man 4 when he realized he was having the same kind of creative differences with Sony that he had during the production of Spider-Man 3. The studio’s interference in the threequel is what led to Topher Grace’s shoehorned-in, completely disingenuous Venom.
Fearing that the same would happen again, digging his Spider-Man franchise deeper into the hole it was already in, Raimi told the studio that instead of wasting more of their money, they should just cancel the movie. This was probably for the best, and his speculation of studio notes ruining the movie and compromising his vision for it was probably accurate.
1 Could’ve been great: It could’ve made up for the disappointment of Spider-Man 3
Sam Raimi has admitted that the only reason he wanted to make a fourth Spider-Man movie was that he was dissatisfied with Spider-Man 3 and didn’t want that to be how his Spider-Man series ended. The way he saw it, Spider-Man 4 would’ve been a second chance to end the series on a high note, and he’s absolutely right.
Viewers are far less disappointed with an underwhelming middle chapter than an underwhelming finale. If Spider-Man 4 had been made and it had been great (if Sony just backed off and let Raimi make the movie he wanted to make, because even though they were putting up a lot of money and that’s a lot of faith to put in one guy, he’d earned it), it would’ve made up for the disappointment of Spider-Man 3.