James Cameron’s Spider-Man. It’s a phrase film fans have heard and thought about for years. The idea of one of the greatest blockbuster filmmakers in history tackling one of the most popular, cinematic superheroes ever is incredibly enticing. And, in the mid-1990s, it almost happened. Cameron was aggressively trying to make the film work before right issues finally killed it.
In a new interview though, the director of Aliens, True Lies, Terminator 2 and Avatar talks a bit about what specifically he would have brought to the Web-Slinger and, well, it sounds kind of blah. “I wanted to make something that had a kind of gritty reality to it,” Cameron told ScreenCrush. “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. 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.”
He also explained that he wanted to focus on the fact the character might be called “Spider-Man” but he’s really an unpopular “Spider-Kid” and how his superpowers are a metaphor for something more. He saw the powers as “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.”
Which, look. Sounds fine. Cameron isn’t a narrator, though, he’s a filmmaker, so him saying something is one thing. Seeing how he would represent those things in a visual story probably would have been much different and better. As mere words though, it’s rather basic Spidey stuff. And yet, maybe it’s for the best. Cameron concluded that he was so frustrated when he couldn’t convince Fox to get the rights for him (what a mistake huh?) it set him up on a whole new path.
“I made a decision after Titanic to just kind of move on and do my own things and not labor in the house of others’ IP,” Cameron said. “So I think [Spider-Man not coming together] was probably the kick in the ass that I needed to just go make my own stuff.” Sounds like we have Spider-Man to thank for Avatar.
Head over to ScreenCrush for more on Cameron’s Spider-Man including his thoughts on web shooters, Stan Lee and the movie rights to one of the biggest superhero characters around.
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