In the days before we were rebooting superhero movies every seven and a half months, Tobey Maguire was Spider-Man, and Sam Raimi was the mercurial creative force pulling the strings (or, uh, webs). The team made one really good movie and one really, really good movie before stumbling hard with a franchise-killing third movie. Raimi was actually in the planning stages of a fourth movie that theoretically would have ended the series on a high, non-disco-dancing note. Unfortunately, that never came to pass.
However, just now getting a look at what could have been, thanks to Raimi’s storyboard artist Jeffrey Henderson, who has kindly decided to share a number of the boards he created way back when. It looks like the main antagonist of the final film would have been the classic Spidey rival Vulture.
In the comics, the wing-suited archvillain born as Adrian Toomes was the second master criminal that Spider-Man ever faced. He had a long and storied career of unsuccessfully trying to vanquish his web-shooting enemy. So, his inclusion in the final film would have had a certain thematic resonance for comic book fans.
“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,” Henderson told io9. “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.”
One of the things that hobbled Spider-Man 3 was the excessive preponderance of villains that were supposedly pushed onto Raimi by producers. It seems like they were planning on leaning into that issue in the next film. Henderson told io9 that Spider-Man 4 would include “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.” He also said that Raimi’s longtime filmmaking partner and friend Bruce Campbell would have cameoed as the fish-bowl-headed master hypnotist Mysterio.
“It would’ve been one absolutely kick ass movie. Seriously,” Henderson cheerfully laments on his website. “We were working on some crazy-cool stuff, because everyone, from top to bottom, felt that Spidey 3 was a bit of a ‘missed opportunity’, and we all really wanted to help Sam take SM4 to another level so he could end the series on a high note.”
For those interested, there are lots and lots of other tantalizing pieces of storyboard art from the ill-fated movie to gawk at on Henderson’s site.