Before Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy back in the early 2000s brought about the second renaissance of the superhero movie genre after Tim Burton’s Batman, many failed attempts had been made to bring the webbed wall-crawler to the big screen. The biggest near-miss was James Cameron’s planned Spider-Man movie, for which the blockbuster filmmaker had written a script treatment as well. David Koepp, who penned the story for Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie, mentioned during an interview that a significant aspect of his script was influenced by Cameron’s ideas.
“He had some very good ideas in it. I like the organic web-shooters, which some people liked and some people didn’t, but that was his idea and I was happy to use it.”
The organic webbing that James Cameron originally wrote into his screenplay ended up as a holdover in Koepp’s script for Raimi’s Spider-Man. This was a huge departure from the comics, where Peter Parker’s genius credentials were bolstered by him learning to make his own webbing from scratch. Later movie incarnations of the character reverted to the comic-book origin of Spidey’s webbing instead of having it come out of his body in an extended metaphor for puberty.
For Koepp, the appeal of James Cameron’s treatment of the Spider-Man script was how seriously he took the character and the world from the comics, something that had been missing from earlier treatments for a Spider-Man movie.
“I had a lot of my own specific thoughts about what the movie ought to be, because I had been a Spider-Man fan as a kid and young adult. But his treatment, it just took it seriously. It took Peter seriously as a character and it took a superhero movie seriously as a genre. And you hadn’t seen that before.”
“The fact that he had written this 85 or whatever it was pages treatment, that in itself was really meaningful and said, no, no, take this seriously. This is a real movie with real people in it.”
Cameron’s script-that-never-became-a-movie about Spider-Man has long been available online, where it has been endlessly dissected by fans. The story starts out in a similar manner to Raimi’s eventual film, hewing close to the character’s comic book origins in having Peter Parker bitten by a radioactive spider which grants him superpowers.
Then Cameron’s script departs from Sam Raimi in having Electro as the main villain instead of Green Goblin, with Sandman as his hired muscle. There is also a certain amount of profanity and a sex scene between Peter and Mary Jane Watson. Cameron’s movie would also have ended with the death of Electro and Sandman, and Spider-Man revealing his secret identity to MJ.
Ultimately, a long, protracted legal battle kept Cameron from securing the rights to Spider-Man, and he instead went on to make a certain period drama called Titantic, which is said to have been somewhat successful at the box office. It then fell to Raimi to bring Spider-Man to life on the big screen, while also kick starting the modern age of blockbuster superhero movies. This story originated at IGN.com.