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Review of James Cameron’s Spider-Man Movie Would Have Been ‘In the Vein of Terminator & Aliens’

James Cameron is known for his movies about xenomorphs, a big boat, blue aliens, and killer robots. However, he is not known for his movies about men who have been bitten by radioactive spiders. This is because, despite his efforts, he never actually got to make a Spider-Man movie. Cameron recently opened up more about the Spider-Man film he wanted to make after Terminator 2 and what he was aiming to do with Marvel’s most famous web slinger.

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As noted by ScreenCrush, the Avatar director talked about this ill-fated project in his upcoming book Tech Noir: The Art of James Cameron. He referred to the film as the “greatest movie [he] never made” and, after getting Stan Lee’s blessing, talked about how he was going for a darker tone, which is where the comparison to his prior work comes in.

“I wanted to make something that had a kind of gritty reality to it,” he 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. 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,” he continued. “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.”

According to an LA Times report from 2002, Cameron was going for something even a bit darker as the article states that this Spider-Man would have been morally “ambiguous, profane, even sadistically violent.” Even Mary Jane had a “drunken, abusive” father. But in addition going down a slightly darker path, he also wanted to focus more Parker’s adolescence.

“The first thing you’ve got to get your mind around is it’s not Spider-Man,” he said. “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.”

He continued, calling it a “great metaphor” in how the powers represent “that untapped reservoir of potential that people have that they don’t recognize in themselves.”

“And it 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,” Cameron continued.

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Cameron’s Spider-Man movie never got made, but that wasn’t for lack of trying. He claims he tried to convince the studio behind Terminator 2, Carolco, the buy the rights, but the company went bankrupt before it could even more forward with the idea. He then went to Fox, but his attempts there were similarly futile.

“All of a sudden it was a free ball,” he said. “I tried to get Fox to buy it, 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. [Former Fox President] Peter Chernin just wouldn’t go to bat for it. He didn’t want to get into a legal fight over. And I’m like ‘Are you kidding? This thing could be worth, I don’t know, a billion dollars!’ $10 billion later…”

According to Cameron, the whole ordeal changed how he looked at filmmaking. He said that after Titanic, he wanted to pursue only his own ideas and not get caught up with other franchises and that this was the “kick in the ass that [he] needed to just go make [his] own stuff.”

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