The wildly successful release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Marvel Studios’ current interest in the multiverse, has brought the attention of fans back to the superhero franchises that started it all. Most specifically is Sam Raimi‘s iconic trilogy featuring the famous wall-crawler, which has now seen its leading man Tobey Maguire don the webbed mask once more alongside successors Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland. With an insane, unknown cinematic future in store for the heroes of the many Marvel universes, the doors for more potential returns have been flung wide open. Of course, if Maguire were to come back for another ride, the continued story of his Peter Parker would have to be far different than originally intended.
As was pointed out in my previous recap of Garfield’s unproduced cinematic future, both former web-heads have seemingly aged past the point of their stories picking up where they left off. Luckily for fans of the original Raimi projects, very little was revealed about Maguire’s take on Parker post-Spider-Man 3. Therefore, it feels entirely plausible that some of what was planned for the character actually ended up happening. While we may never know exactly what that was, a collection of interviews from the era before The Amazing Spider-Man may have given us a good idea at some of the concepts Raimi and company had in mind for their ensuing films.
It makes sense to start with what is known with absolute certainty. Raimi’s Spider-Man 4 would have featured the title hero clashing with the Vulture, a winged foe portrayed by the great John Malkovich. While this casting was never confirmed by the studio, the actor himself revealed he’d been tapped for the role in two separate interviews. Once before production was cancelled, and again after the movie fell apart. The film also would have introduced Anne Hathaway as Felicia Hardy, a character who was originally rumored to be altered in a way that allowed her to become “The Vultress” instead of her classic Black Cat alter ego. However, Raimi himself later debunked this in an interview with, ironically, Vulture.
Aside from these castings and character introductions, not much is known about the actual plot of Spider-Man 4. When we last saw Tobey’s Pete, he was attempting to mend his broken relationship with Kirsten Dunst‘s Mary Jane Watson. The inclusion of Felicia Hardy in the next movie plausibly indicates that the friction between Peter and MJ would continue. Spider-Man and the Black Cat have a long romantic history in the comics, so the character was likely added to the film as another Gwen Stacy-esque foil for the Peter/MJ plotline.
Thanks to concept artist Jeffrey Henderson, we also know that the movie would have given us some intense, high-flying battles between Spider-Man and Vulture. Henderson released a series of early concepts on his website, which show Spidey and his enemy dueling atop the buildings of New York and using stone gargoyles as weapons. The artist explained that the intent was to make Vulture the fiercest force Peter had encountered yet:
The thing we kept coming back to was that, as a character, everyone was going to dismiss the Vulture as just an old guy in a silly green suit. So we wanted to go the opposite way and really make him the most fearsome and formidable adversary that Spider-Man had faced in the series.Jeffrey Henderson
Henderson also dropped the news that Spider-Man 4 would have opened with a montage canonizing several lower-class villains from the comics. This included a reveal that Bruce Campbell, who made several cameos throughout the series, was actually Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio:
…a montage of C and D-list villains that we knew would never be used as main antagonists: Mysterio, the Shocker, the Prowler, the old school-onesie-wearing version of the Rhino, maybe even the Stilt Man, etc.Jeffrey Henderson
Some supposed leaked script treatments claim the film would have seen Adrian Toomes replace J. Jonah Jameson as editor of the Daily Bugle and team-up with Electro, before ending with Peter giving up the Spider-Man mantle (again). Unfortunately, none of this can be backed up, and is likely untrue. Though, had Peter actually given up his crime-fighting identity, it certainly would have been one way to end the hero’s story, as Raimi initially intended to conclude the franchise with his fourth film:
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.Sam Raimi
It seems Sony had other plans. Although work on Spider-Man 4 had yet to be completed, Sony had already gone ahead and hired writer James Vanderbilt to pen scripts for fifth and sixth installments. According to a now-deleted article from Variety, the screenwriter was working on the films with the thought that they’d be connected and filmed back-to-back with the original cast returning to close out a six-film saga. Despite Raimi’s hesitance, there was still a chance he’d keep coming back, as he told MTV:
Sony Pictures is going to be making many more ‘Spider-Man’ pictures. I just don’t know what [my] future holds yet… But if it’s a great story and Sony will bring me back to the screen, I would love to…Sam Raimi
Should Raimi have returned, it’s likely his villain for Spider-Man 5 would have been a familiar face. Dylan Baker portrayed Dr. Curt Connors in small appearances over the course of the previous films, and both he and Raimi had made it known there was an interest in bringing his transformation into the Lizard to life on screen. The concept had originally been batted around for Spider-Man 2 before the director settled on Doctor Octopus as the film’s antagonist. The idea made it as far as the concept stage, with official art eventually making its way online. Many people, including Baker himself, believed the story would make a great fit for Spider-Man 4, which he explained to IGN in 2007:
…we’re hoping it’s not too far down the line! I’ll be trying to get on the Lizard costume when I’m 80…it’s like, just open that door up… I’m ready to go!Dylan Baker
Raimi ultimately went with Vulture when he decided Toomes would better fit Peter’s natural character arc:
I love Dylan Baker as a person, and I really like the character he is developing. The Lizard is probably one of my favorite characters. But [‘Spider-Man 4’] will probably have to start with the central journey of the main character to arrive at the proper villain.Sam Raimi
After being pushed out of two movies, it feels right that Baker would finally get the chance to play Lizard in a fifth Spider-Man entry. After all, Raimi had discussed his hope of adapting the Lizard origin on more than one occasion. At one time speaking with MTV about rumored Spider-Man 4 villains, Raimi expressed admiration for Lizard while dispelling the popular fan theory that Carnage would appear to capitalize on Venom’s role in the previous film:
I love the Lizard… There’s a great story there in the Marvel comic books about Dr. Connors. I’m less familiar with Carnage.Sam Raimi
So, with Vulture and Black Cat in 4 and Lizard in 5, that leaves Spider-Man 6 as the ultimate unanswered question. I will include a disclaimer that the following is almost entirely conjecture, but natural storytelling and a specific quote from Raimi’s past could help the average detective guess what the film would entail. In the same interview where he mentioned loving Lizard and first name-dropped Vulture, the director mentioned only two other villain prospects he’d like to adapt:
I would love to see Electro…maybe the Sinister Six as a team.Sam Raimi
One may wonder how these characters could make their way into the Raimi Spider-Man finale. The answer is a famed comic from the 1980s, known as The Wedding! The biggest through-line between all of the series’ films is the relationship between Peter and MJ. It would have made sense, should Raimi have wanted to definitively conclude his story, that the Spider-Man saga end with Maguire and Dunst finally ending up together and tying the knot. Now, in the pages of said comic, who does Spider-Man do battle with before his big day? You guessed it! Electro.
After defeating Electro, the rest of The Wedding! has Peter fearing for MJ’s life as he remembers all of the dastardly foes he’s encountered over the years. Spider-Man 6 could have easily made this literal if it had Electro join forces with surviving members of Peter’s rogue’s gallery after losing his initial duel with Spider-Man. I can’t think of a better way to end the Spider-Man saga than the Sinister Six threatening to end Peter’s marriage before it even begins.