WTF Happened to Sam Raimi’s Unmade Spider-Man 4?

When it comes to the most disappointing comic book movies that were planned but never produced, which one tops the list? Is it Tim Burton’s Batman Continues? Guillermo del Toro’s Doctor Strange? Perhaps JJ Abrams’ Superman: Flyby? Nah, there’s only one correct answer: Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 4, a movie that continues to breathe potential
flickers of life nearly 15 years after it was declared dead by Sony Pictures. Indeed, with the exciting new announcement that Tobey Maguire’s version of Peter Parker may not be extinct after all, the real question of the day is, WTF Happened to Sam Raimi’s unmade Spider-Man 4?

It all started in the spring of 2007. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 opened in theaters on May 4, 2007, and obliterated the box office competition, turning an estimated $250 million budget into a massive $894 million worldwide moneymaker. Yet, despite the tepid reception from critics and fans of the first two franchise entries, Sony felt good enough about the
economics to produce a fourth Spider-Man film.

Spider-Man 4, Sam raimi, Marvel

In 2008, development on Spider-Man officially commenced, with Raimi attached to direct once more and the main cast slated to return to their iconic roles, including Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. In October 2008, Sony hired screenwriter James Vanderbilt to hash out the script after they reached out to David Koepp, who wrote the screenplay for Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie. Although Koepp declined, Vanderbilt’s script was revised by famed playwright David Lindsay-Abaire. In March 2009, Sony announced on their Twitter account that Spider-Man 4 would be released in theaters on May 6, 2011. Shortly after, the film officially went into pre-production with Sony’s blessing.

By October 2009, Gary Ross was hired to rewrite the script. However, the main reason Spider-Man 4 never got made came from Raimi’s deep dissatisfaction with the various iterations of the script and the lack of a compelling story. Raimi already detested how Spider-Man 3 turned out, calling it “awful,” and despising how he was all but forced to
include Venom as a villain in the movie when he felt Sandman and New Goblin were sufficient enough. While developing Spider-Man 4, Raimi expressed early interest in showcasing Dr. Curt Connors’ full transformation into Lizard, a prominent Marvel villain. At the time, Dylan Baker was slated to reprise his role as Connors. In December 2009, after Sir Ben Kingsley was briefly considered, it was reported that John Malkovich was being eyed to play Vulture as the primary villain in Spider-Man 4. Soon after, Anne Hathaway was in talks to star as Felicia Hardy, aka Black Cat, the notorious Marvel cat burglar who often toes the line between heroism and villainy. Ironically, Hathaway would go on to play Black Cat’s DC counterpart, Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.

Spider-Man 4, Sam raimi, Marvel

Despite the amount of preparation that went into Spider-Man 4, including storyboards and constructed sets, Raimi was simply tired of negotiating with the massive corporate demands that go into making such an expensive superhero movie. Part of Raimi’s reluctance came from Sony’s mandate in 2010 to make the film a 3D spectacle as a way to capitalize on the mega-success of Avatar and the subsequent spate of post-converted 3D movies that were all the rage at the time. Sony even pressured Raimi to meet with James Cameron to discuss the 3D technology created for Avatar. However, Raimi declined, claiming he had never shot a movie in 3D before and required far more prep time during pre-production if he was going to utilize the cutting-edge technology.

In 2013, Raimi confessed to MTV that he was simply “exhausted with the tremendous amount of delegation” that goes into making such gigantic blockbusters, adding: “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 candor.’ 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.”

Spider-Man 4, Sam raimi, Marvel

Although Raimi was impressed with Hathaway’s audition as Black Cat, Kate Beckinsale was also in the running and even performed a read-through with Tobey Magure. However, Raimi was holding out hope for Angelina Jolie to play the role. According to Raimi’s longtime storyboard artist Jeffrey Henderson, in the Movies Go Fourth podcast, he was instructed to use Jolie’s visage for the storyboards during pre-production.

Bruce Campbell, Raimi’s lifelong friend and collaborator who made hilarious cameos in the first three Spider-Man movies, was reportedly slated to portray the iconic Marvel supervillain Mysterio in Spider-Man 4. According to Henderson, Mysterio would have appeared as part of an opening montage that depicts Spider-Man capturing various D-grade villains such as the Shocker, the Prowler, the Stilt-Man, and the Rhino. The sequence would have ended
with Peter Parker bringing Mysterio into police custody, where Campbell would campily decry, “I’ll get you, Spider-Man!” An alternative scene would have found Peter arriving at Aunt May’s apartment for dinner. Aunt May would apologize, saying, “Oh, Peter, I completely forgot about tonight.” As Peter says, “It’s okay, Aunt May,” and pushes his way through the door, Bruce Campbell would have suddenly appeared in the apartment and given fans a hilariously awkward moment. Go listen to the podcast for the full details on how the scene would have transpired.

Of course, it’s hard not to think of Spider-Man 4 without wondering about the potential plot of the film. Fortunately, more details about the story have been recently divulged. According to Henderson, Spider-Man 4 would have kicked off with Vulture working in disguise as a Black Ops mercenary, doing illegal dirty work for the government and earning his scavenging moniker for “leaving nothing but bones behind.” After being wrongly accused of committing serious crimes, Vulture is sent to prison. Elsewhere, with Mary Jane out of the picture, Peter Parker has become more comfortable in his own skin and more at ease with his heroic role as Spider-Man. But when Vulture breaks out of jail and begins terrorizing the city, Spider-Man must utilize all of his resources to bring the vicious, hyper-violent villain
down for good.

According to Henderson, the second half of Spider-Man 4 would have kept viewers off balance with a slew of story twists and turns that dovetail into a showstopping finale that put Peter Parker in more peril than ever before. Obviously, some of these story elements were carried over to the subsequent non-Raimi Spider-Man efforts, with Lizard notably appearing in The Amazing Spider-Man and Vulture terrorizing Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Tobey Magure also reprised his role as Peter Parker in Spider-Man: No Way Home, further fueling speculation about his potential return to the MCU. Still, it’s hard not to imagine what could have been with Raimi at the helm.

Spider-Man 4, Sam raimi, Marvel, Spider-Man 3

But wait…there’s still hope for a rousing Raimi return after all. In July 2023, Thomas Haden Church, who played Flint Marko, aka Sandman, in Spider-Man 3, told Comic Book that Spider-Man 4 may still be in the cards, stating: “There’s always been some kind of…I’ve heard rumors…that Sam Raimi was going to do another [Spider-Man movie] with Tobey [Maguire] and if that happens, I would probably campaign to maybe at least do a cameo.” While promoting Doctor Strange 2 one year prior, Raimi left the door open for his return, telling Fandango: “I’ve come to realize after making Doctor Strange that anything is possible, really anything in the Marvel universe, any team-ups. I love Tobey. I love Kirsten Dunst. I think all things are possible. I don’t really have a story or a plan. I don’t know if Marvel would be interested in that right now. I don’t know what their thoughts are about that. I haven’t really pursued that. But it sounds beautiful. Even if it wasn’t a Spider-Man movie, I’d love to work with Tobey again, in a different role.”

So yeah, that’s essentially What the F*** Happened to Sam Raimi’s unmade Spider-Man 4. Despite Sony’s interest, a cast in place, sets built, and storyboards completed, Raimi never felt comfortable with the quality of the story he and his team of writers came up with. Moreover, the time-constricted mandate by Sony to deliver the 3D film in the spring of 2011 was simply too tiring and untenable to achieve. With that being said, there appears to be far more present and future hope for Raimi to make Spider-Man 4 than there was in the past. What do you think? Is Spider-Man 4 something you want to see Raimi make? Do you like the details of where the potential plot may be headed? Let us know below!

WTF Happened to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 4 is written by Jake Dee, with narration by Bronwyn Kelly-Seigh and edits by Kier Gomes.


About the Author

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Jake Dee is one of JoBlo’s most valued script writers, having written extensive, deep dives as a writer on WTF Happened to this Movie and it’s spin-off, WTF Really Happened to This Movie. In addition to video scripts, Jake has written news articles, movie reviews, book reviews, script reviews, set visits, Top 10 Lists (The Horror Ten Spot), Feature Articles The Test of Time and The Black Sheep, and more.