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James Cameron Goes Into Detail About The Spider-Man Movie He Never Made

Tobey Maguire Spider-Man suit
(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

There are plenty of comic book movies that were never realized for a myriad of reasons. Some of the most famous examples include Tim Burton’s Superman Lives and George Miller’s Justice League Mortal. Another rumored superhero film that wasn’t meant to be was James Cameron’s take on Spider-Man. The long-fabled project has been in the Hollywood ethos for years. After years of hearsay, Cameron finally gave some details about the unmade web-slinger flick.

Having tackled multiple blockbusters in the 1980s and 1990s, the Avatar director was primed to bring Spider-Man to the silver screen. James Cameron opened up about what happened in his upcoming book Tech Noir: The Art of James Cameron. According to him, the project collapsed after 21st Century Fox declined to buy the rights despite receiving Stan Lee’s blessing. Unlike Sam Raimi and Jon Watts’ interpretations, the Titanic director wanted to pivot away from Peter Parker the hero to Peter Parker the high schooler.  

The first thing you’ve got to get your mind around is it’s not Spider-Man. He goes by Spider-Man, but he’s not Spider-Man. He’s Spider-Kid. He’s Spider-High-School-Kid. He’s kind of geeky and nobody notices him and he’s socially unpopular and all that stuff.

The True Lies director wanted to humanize the superhero beyond the comic pages. He felt Peter Parker’s adolescence would be the perfect backdrop for bigger issues. As he told CinemaBlend, as part of an exclusive roundtable interview:

[I]t was also in my mind a metaphor for puberty and all the changes to your body, your anxieties about society, about society’s expectations, your relationships with your gender of choice that you’re attracted to, all those things.

The one thing that Marvel fans loved more than his superhero exploits was his relatable high school (and college) life. Of course, this idea came to fruition in Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. But James Cameron didn’t just want to highlight Parker’s teenage years. Cameron wanted the story to be grittier compared to Batman and Superman films. The Oscar winner said about New York City serving as Spider-Man’s base:

I wanted to make something that had a kind of gritty reality to it. Superheroes in general always came off as kind of fanciful to me, and I wanted to do something that would have been more in the vein of Terminator and Aliens, that you buy into the reality right away. So you’re in a real world, you’re not in some mythical Gotham City. Or Superman and the Daily Planet and all that sort of thing, where it always felt very kind of metaphorical and fairytale-like. I wanted it to be: It’s New York. It’s now. A guy gets bitten by a spider. He turns into this kid with these powers and he has this fantasy of being Spider-Man, and he makes this suit and it’s terrible, and then he has to improve the suit, and his big problem is the damn suit. Things like that. I wanted to ground it in reality and ground it in universal human experience. I think it would have been a fun film to make.

It seemed like James Cameron’s attempt might’ve taken the superhero genre in a different direction. Maybe emo Peter Parker would’ve been introduced earlier. Despite never making his film, Cameron already influenced Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy, which fans still continue to debate. With that said, the Aliens director clearly moved on to create multiple blockbusters, including the upcoming Avatar sequels.

James Cameron’s Tech Noir: The Art of James Cameron will arrive in stores on Dec. 14.

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).