New details have emerged about James Cameron‘s aborted Spider-Man movie, and I won’t lie, it sounds pretty dreadful. Cameron revealed a few titbits about the scrapped action movie during a recent roundtable with Screencrush, where he was promoting his new book Tech Noir: The Art of James Cameron.
Cameron described his Spider-Man film as “the greatest movie he never made” before, explaining his take on the wallcrawler. “I wanted to make something that had a kind of gritty reality to it,” Cameron said. “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.”
He continued by saying he’d set it in then modern-day New York and that after Peter got bitten by the spider and received his extraordinary powers, the reality of the situation would struggle to live up to his expectations. Apparently, the film would see the superhero struggle with things like his suit and other minutiae.
“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,” he continued. “Things like that. I wanted to ground it in reality and ground it in universal human experience.”
While grounding Spider-Man in a degree of reality is probably a good thing and arguably part of the character’s popularity, I think his overall vision for what would have been the Wallcrawler’s first movie is a bad one. It’s basically a deconstruction of the classic superhero story, and that can work, but not necessarily for a character like Spider-Man.
The character is fundamentally rooted in optimism, his greatest power is his ability to overcome adversity, and Cameron’s take seems a bit gloomy. Not to mention he used the dreaded ‘g-word’. “Gritty”. I’ve never quite understood the appeal of trying to make these larger than life characters “gritty”, they wear bright coloured spandex and leap off tall buildings. They’re not meant to be grounded. They’re meant to be fanciful.
Still, Cameron’s made two of the highest-grossing movies of all time, so what do I know? Maybe his rough and ragged take on Spider-Man would have been great? I just have my doubts. But why didn’t he make the film? The studio couldn’t sort the license.
“I tried to get Fox to buy it,” Cameron explained. “But apparently, the rights were a little bit clouded, and Sony had some very questionable attachment to the rights, and Fox wouldn’t go to bat for it.”
If you want to see a more fanciful take on Spidey, check out our piece on Spider-Man: No Way Home. Or if you like your superheroes to be a bit edgier, we have a guide on Matt Reeves’s new superhero thriller movie, The Batman.