Well, so much for that, then. Just as the world was getting ready to receive its first set reports from the new Spider-Man movie by Sam Raimi, the project basically imploded. No more would we be lining up for a new webslinger movie come May 2011, and forget that: with Raimi and Tobey Maguire’s exit from the project and the studio, we won’t be seeing our friendly neighbourhood wall crawler on a big screen any time soon.
The question on everybody’s lips is, of course, “What now?”
Who will take over the reins? Who will be behind the red mask, and who will be in the director’s chair? Well, sometime on the other day after the news broke our Twitter feed was abuzz with ideas and speculation on who would take over the franchise, and the inevitable next two or three Spidey films a creative team would be locked into.
And then our friend and fellow movie and Spidey-buff Raja Sen made a genius suggestion: why not change the Spider-Man franchise into a James Bond style format? That is to say, ditch the standard super-hero movie idea of one creative team sticking around nearly a decade to make a movie trilogy — instead, bring in fresh talent, directors and actors into each film, make each a unique adventure with different takes on such a classic character.
For the next few hours Twitter was abuzz with speculation. All sorts of names were bandied about, and actors and storylines too. So we at the site decided to take this a litte further: here are seven serious and not-so-serious ideas for Spider-Man movies we’d like to see, some of the actors & the roles they should play, and the directors who should make them!
1. Spider-Man and the Human Torch
If like me you grew up more with the general idea of Spider-Man as a fun comic-book superhero more than an angst-ridden married man, then Dan Slott’s five-issue miniseries is right up your alley. Expertly weaving in everything from the Spider-Mobile to Hostess Fruit Pies, Slott tells us tales of the friendship of Spidey and the Fantastic Four’s Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch. Instead of being a start to finish narrative, each issue is set more-or-less within existing Spider-Man continuity and events over the years.
It’s a hard task to adapt, with dozens of characters and multiple story threads, but I can think of no better director to tackle it than Edgar Wright. Wright is a ferociously talented filmmaker, and is definitely in my top five with the twin juggernauts of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz behind him, and Scott Pilgrim ahead of him (Oh, and let’s not forget Spaced). He’d be a perfect fit for a story about an enduring friendship between two superheroes, hitting all the comedic notes, as well as the serious, hearwarming stuff, and of course, the action.
I’d like to see one of my favourite young actors, Reece Thompson in the role of Peter Parker/Spidey. I’ve gushed about him elsewhere so I won’t repeat myself, but I’d just love to see what he and Wright can do together. And the Human Torch? Frankly, Chris Evans nailed it in Tim Story’s two Fantastic 4 movies for me, but he’d be a bit old for this. I know little of Zac Efron‘s work but he seems like the best fit, physically and personality-wise, for the exuberant Johnny Storm.
The comic series is chock full of, er, SpiderGirls including Mary Jane and Dorrie Evans, but with one whole issue focussing on the Black Cat, I think that’s the one I’d like to cast (also, hot cat burglars are hot). The role demands someone young, beautiful & just that little bit unconventional — Amber Heard fits the bill perfectly.
Spider-Man and the Human Torch is a great comic book miniseries that you really should go out and read anyway, but if I’d love to see it brought to life on a big screen some day.
Bonus Feature: Cameos by Nick Frost as Moleman & Simon Pegg as the voice of H.E.R.B.I.E.
2. Spider-Man: the Clone Saga
By all accounts, the various Spider-Man clone sagas are a convoluted (even by comic book standards) labyrinth of reveals, reversals, ret-cons, and clones. Lots of clones. There’s Peter Parker and Ben Reilly and Kaine, and all of it is triggered off by the poignant death of Peter’s first love, Gwen Stacy (if it happened in 1973 it’s not a spoiler any more).
So who better to tackle this headache-inducing plot that borders on the surreal, than a director who takes to the surreal and strange with aplomb? It could only be Anurag Kashyap. In No Smoking, Kashyap’s zany pop metaphysics romp, he proved he can do weird well and still make you like it. And he’s no stranger to interpreting literature with a particularly kooky eye (Dev D). It’s the fine balance of dead serious and dead funny that he does well, which is exactly what an angsty Spider-Man needs.
And it would take a young, gifted actor like Emile Hirsch to take on the multiple iterations of Peter required by such a project. Hirsch could pull off both the innocent, goodhearted Peter and his darker, crazier clones. Amanda Seyfried would make the perfect Gwen Stacy, seen here mostly in flashbacks (or knowing Kashyap, acid trips), forming the emotional core of the tale. But every good hero needs a good villain, and it’s about time that Abhay Deol stepped up and played one. In this case, the man/thing behind all the clones, mad genius The Jackal.
If done right, Clone Saga would be the darkest of the Spider-Man movies, and also the easiest to get wrong. I wouldn’t want to see it if it weren’t in the hands of a team like this.
Bonus Feature: An artistically juxtaposed Item Number featuring Jesse Randhawa, smack dab in the middle of it all.
3. Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane (the Musical!)
Ten years ago if you told me that by now there would be talk of a Spider-Man 4, and that a Spider-Man musical would also be in the works, I would have laughed. But there is indeed a Spidey musical, on stage, done by the likes of Julie Taymor and Bono. But let’s ignore that for a moment and think of what we really want to see, which is a big-screen Spider-Man musical!
I can’t have been the only one who took one look at Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog and though, “We need more things like this!” And a Spidey musical by Joss Whedon would be a fantastic thing to behold, even if it was a failure. The rumors are that the whole wall crawler franchise is being reset to the high school days, and that’s a nice thought, but I’d love to see a movie where Peter and MJ are adults, on the verge of getting married, with all the associated musical shenanigans that a superhero wedding would entail.
Spidey would have to be played by someone energetic and wry, who could sing, dance and wink at the audience now and then. If you missed his amazing performance on Saturday Night Live, do yourself a favour and google it, then tell me you have a better choice for Peter than Joseph Gordon-Levitt! And when we’ve got Joss Whedon in the director’s chair, isn’t it natural to cast Dr. Horrible alums Felicia Day as Mary Jane, and the good doctor himself, Neil Patrick Harris, as Harry Osborne, the Hobgoblin?
If Joss Whedon chose to do a Spider-Man movie, there’s a good chance it would be the smartest, funniest superhero movie yet. If he chose to make a superhero musical, now that might just end up being a classic.
Bonus Feature: Nathan Fillion as Doctor Octopus. Or Nathan Fillion as Captain America. Or even Nathan Fillion as Nathan Fillion.
4. Spider-Man & his Amazing Friends
Of all the directors that have emerged from the awesome films that Japan and South Korea have produced over the last decade, the name Katsuhito Ishii doesn’t really figure high on most lists. But among the cornucopia of talent the Far East has unleashed, he is certainly one of my favourite directors. His eye for quirkiness is matched only by his yen for dialogue, and whether it’s surreal gangster comedies like Sharkskin Man Peach-hip Girl, dialogue-duels like Party 7, and carefully calibrated family mood pieces like The Taste of Tea, Ishii always leaves his mark. So if there’s going to be a film made on the Spider-Man I actually remember the most from my childhood — a Spider-Man that is all about surreal cartoon versions of superheroes, witty banter, and even ad-hoc family — it’s Ishii I’d like to see at the helm.
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was an animated TV show that ran from 1981 to 83, and all in all only 24 episodes were produced — but those often rerun shows left an indelible impression on me as a kid, and were in some ways my gateway into comic and superhero geekdom. The story is a simple superhero team set-up; the makers couldn’t get the rights to the more in-canon Human Torch, so they went and invented a female flame-wielding heroine called Firestar, and frankly that worked wonders for the show. The trio of Spidey, Firestar (aka Angelica Jones) and Ice-Man (Bobby Drake) lived with Aunt May and attended college, and of course battled the forces of superpowered evil in their costumed form.
It’s good, old-fashioned Saturday-morning cartoon romp territory, with little of the angst or cynicism of the modern age. Ishii would pull such a feat off well, and yet make it engaging and fresh.
And its quirky territory demands a slightly off-kilter cast. I’d like to see Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood) play Peter — he’s the right age, and the right type to play the transition period between awkward teenage geek and superheroic young man perfectly. And Jesse Eisenberg — who has of-late been in everything from Zombieland to Adventureland, but whom I remember first seeing in the underrated Roger Dodger — has what it takes to make a kickass Ice-Man. Bobby, like Peter, is a fast-talking wiseass who relies as much on his acid tongue as his superpowers to win, and Eisenberg would be able to play that without making it seem like overkill.
Now I think I’ve mentioned previously that I haven’t seen the Twilight movies yet, but I have it on good authority that Ashley Greene is one to watch. That she’s astonishingly pretty, and exactly the right age and build now to play Firestar is without a doubt. I have a hunch she’d do it well.
This is certainly the Spider-Man project that has a slim chance of being made, but which in all likelihood never will be. But even if Ishii, or any of these three actors decide to don capes and tights and make a superhero movie, apart or together, I will definitely be waiting in line.
Bonus Feature: Tadanobu Asano as a Hostess Fruit Pie mascot.
5. Spider-Man Vs Kraven The Hunter
Now this is what I’m talking about. Forget New York. Forget romancing MJ or Gwen or Black Cat. Give me Spider-Man versus a ruthless villain in the most dangerous jungle in the (Marvel) universe.
And then get Steven Spielberg to direct it.
I know they wanted to do the classic villains like Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus in the first couple of Spidey movies, but I was very disappointed that they skipped Kraven The Hunter in favour of Venom and Sandman for Spider-Man 3 (but considering how awful that movie turned out, maybe it’s for the best). Kraven is a badass who roams the dinosaur-infested Savage Land as his own personal hunting ground, and it would be awesome for him to come to the city to hunt down our friendly neighbourhood wall crawler — the ultimate game — and then capture him, take him back to the Savage Land and then play the game all over again.
Now, I know you’re looking at the picture above and asking yourself, “Wait, Tom Hanks? Who’s he playing, Uncle Ben?”
Nope. I think Tom Hanks would make an excellent Kraven! Think about it: the best villain roles in history have always come from actors who were previously not known for playing bad guys, and especially from people who started out in light comedy. Hanks has always had an image of a nice guy, and he probably is in real life — but that doesn’t mean he can’t play a menacing antagonist. And with longtime collaborator Spielberg behind the camera, the two could not only pull it off, but make it memorable.
Ah, but who would play Spider-Man? Kraven’s a formidable villain, and it would have to be someone who even the audience would feel is in over their head. You need vulnerability in this Peter, and innocence, as he’d be just a boy tossed into a big bad jungle — it would make his eventual triumph even sweeter. Anton Yelchin is already a part of two geek franchises (he played Chekov in last year’s Star Trek and Kyle Reese in Terminator: Salvation), but in more supporting roles. He’s ready for a good leading man role, I think, and I can think of nothing better than Spider-Man.
As if dinosaurs and superheroes and villains duking it out weren’t enough, the Savage Land is also home to other Marvel heroes who could form the wall-crawler’s support group in that strange place. And by support, I mean monster ass-kicking, courtesy Ka-Zar and his wife, Shanna the She-Devil! Hot, athletic, scantily clad and often funny? There really is only one choice for Mr. & Mrs. Plunder: Josh Holloway and Jessica Biel!
In the hands of Spielberg, and possibly shot in 3D, Spidey Vs. Kraven would be a visual feast. It’s Duel with lush jungles instead of highways. It’s Jurassic Park with superheroes.
It would be nothing short of awesome.
Bonus Feature: Spielberg favourite Shia LeBeouf shows up for a three second cameo before being eaten by a velociraptor, while screaming like a girl. Awesome again.
6. The Amazing Spider-Girl
Now things are starting to get a little silly. And yes, even sillier than the idea of Spider-Man: The Musical. Because one of Marvel’s most enduring new comics of the past decade, that has survived cancellation after cancellation, iterations in print, web, and back again, is actually a What If? story that’s taken on a life of its own.
What if Peter and MJ’s kid had lived? What if she’d grown up to be May ‘Mayday’ Parker, and inherited her dad’s powers? What if Pete had retired from a life of costumed crimefighting, and Mayday had taken up the mantle to become not the next Spider-Man, but Spider-Girl?
It’s a tale that would work a treat as a movie, and with its emphasis on quirky family dynamics (face it, you don’t get much quirkier than second-generation superhero nuclear families) and oddball What-ifness, I nominate Wes Anderson for the job. Anderson’s name is already being bandied about for Spider-Man 4, and he’d do a fine, fine job with it, but I’d love to see him tackle something more in his element. It’s about time for a completely wacky mainstream superhero movie anyway.
With the dynamic of the set-up shifted drastically, casting this sucker would be a real challenge. Luckily, I can think of a few people who would fit the main roles perfectly.
I first saw Mary Elizabeth Winstead in a cheap and cheerful TV B-movie called Monster Island (yes, it does exactly what it says on the tin). Like most young actresses who make an impression on me, I was fully prepared to never see her again, but lo and behold, there she was some time later, in a superhero movie no less! Sky High was surprisingly good, and Winstead played both hot love interest and (spoiler!) crazed villain with aplomb. Soon she’ll be in Edgar Wright’s adaptation of Scott Pilgrim, so her geek cred continues. And there’s no denying that she’d look good in a skin-fitting red leotard.
Casting the older Peter and Mary Jane is a tricky thing: you want people who seem like they could have been Spidey and MJ back in the day, but have now matured into (mostly) responsible adults. TV fans know by now that anything with Matthew Fox and Carla Gugino makes for a good watch, and they’d be perfect as Mr & Mrs Parker.
Wes Anderson is a filmmaker whose five or so films have birthed an entire style of indie comedy. If he keeps on doing what he’s done so far I’m not going to complain (he’s one of my favourite directors of all time), but if once in a while he threw a curve ball — a strange superhero movie about Spider-Man’s daughter, say — then that would just be cool beyond measure.
Bonus Feature: An entire sequence done in stop motion animation. And another sequence done in black and white photos. And more amazing music montages than you can imagine.
7. Spider-Man: India
Right off the bat, let me say that Spider-Man: India is a pretty weakly executed comic miniseries. It suffers from mediocre art, iffy dialogue, and a limp story with magic and mysticism shoehorned into the classic Spidey mythos, and is generally a disappointment.
But the core of the concept is still sound, and in it is the potential for a truly revolutionary film adaptation, taking a classic American superhero and making a great Bollywood film out of his universal story.
I chose Anurag Kashyap for the clone saga over this because he’s not a very conventional masala movie director, and this film — made in Hindi, no less — demands to be given the full song-and-dance treatment. And that can mean only one person, director-wise: Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
Now, you can love or hate Bhansali’s movies — they’re mostly misses for me — but you can’t deny that the man knows how to put together over-the-top melodrama like nobody else. And what is a superhero movie if not a big excuse to have people behaving in profoundly OTT ways? A Bhansali-made Spider-Man movie may be just as much of a disaster as the comic it is based on, but my god would it be a hoot to watch.
It’s a good thing that Bollywood has in the past few years brought up a new crop of young actors who actually can play some of these roles. Ten years ago it may have been easy to cast older, more godlike roles like Superman, but flawed Marvel heroes? Hardly.
But now we have a young actor like Imran Khan, who, when he isn’t in terrible films like Luck and Kidnap is actually a pretty good actor, and would be the perfect mix of meek and heroic that playing Pavitr Prabhakar — Spidey India’s Peter Parker analogue — demands. Lanky and toned, he’s actually one of the best physical fits for Parker among those listed here overall, I think.
Spidey India also has a desi Mary Jane, helpfully called Meera Jain. She’s not quite the spunky redhead as the original MJ is, and I immediately thought of the more mercurial charms of Sonam Kapoor for the role. Kapoor has worked with Bhansali before in Saawariya and she plays fragile damsel in distress well. But I suspect there’s more to her than that, and the girl might surprise us yet.
The Norman Osborne role is the tough one, though. Bollywood has no dearth of actors who can play scene-chewing baddies, but like I said before, the best ones are the otherwise likable ones; that’s why Willem Defoe made a great Green Goblin. He was as charming as he was screwloose. In India, the one guy who fits the bill is Akshaye Khanna. Every now and then, Khanna sheds his matinee-idol, leading man image and really digs into a bad guy role (usually in Abbas-Mastan directed cheese-fests like the super-fun Race). And as a dashing corporate superstar turned green rakshasa, he would be perfect!
Of all the strange ideas for Spider-Man films, this one, oddly, has the most chance of actually being made. The world is changing, and the idea of a Bollywood take on an existing superhero franchise is not as outlandish as it once may have sounded. It may end up being a lot of things, but it would certainly be entertaining.
Bonus Feature: A fourteen-minute song and dance number about Great Power, Great Responsibility, and Loooouw (shot in the rain, of course).
Directors that almost made this list: Prabhudheva, Peter Berg, Tom Tykwer, Paul Greengrass, Michael Winterbottom, JJ Abrams, Farhan Akhtar, Alfonso Cuaron, Vishal Bhardwaj, and Shankar.
Directors who shouldn’t direct a Spider-Man movie: Er, only James Cameron, really, and that too because of that infamous scriptment. Also, he’s going to be busy for a few years with blue people, I think.
Zac Efron? Really?
But what about Robert Pattinson?
Why must you hurt me so?
This list is so lame. You suck. Your list sucks. There’s no way anybody would make these into movies.
Yeah, that’s kinda the point.