Saturday, July 07, 2012

What if James Cameron had made Spider-Man

Back in 1992 I had heard that, in five years (’97) James Cameron (Aliens, Titanic) was supposed to have made a Spider-Man film. Like you all I thought this would have been wicked cool. My son would have been five at that time, and I figured that by then, he’d be old enough to have appreciated such a movie. Well as it turned out, that film not only never got made, but it took another five years for there to have been movie about my favorite hero. Ultimately that turned out better (not only because my son was now 10, and thus better able to appreciate such a film, but — according to the the following — wound up being a much better movie than the one that Cameron had apparently planned.

To return, for a moment, to the possibility of a Cameron film, and one of the reasons that never came about involves the tortured and convoluted film history of Spider-Man. As best as I recall, here is how that went. When it was announced that Cameron was going to direct a Spidey film no less than five other companies each claimed that they had the rights to make a Spidey film. These included:
  1. The folks who made the original live action Spider-Man TV show
  2. Cannon films (by then owned by Pathé Communications)
  3. Menahem Golan and
  4. Yoram Globus (each of whom were the principals behind the now sold Cannon (A.K.A. Golan - Globus films) and each was claiming that they had the retained the rights (Globus at  Pathé  and  Globus  who was now at 21st Century). 
  5. James Cameron
Well As Marvel attempted to sort through all of this tangled mess time passed — a typical Hollywood story. Meanwhile, to make matters interesting, Some years earlier, a legal dispute had erupted over the ownership of the James Bond book and film Thunderball Kevin McClory who had co-written (with Ian Fleming) an earlier Thunderball film treatment sued and won (among other things) the right to make a version of the film 20 years from the release of the original (that film wound up being Never say Never Again (’83) starring Sean Connery. As it turns out Never Say Never was an MGM film, and MGM was by then owned by Sony. which now owned all of the dangling Spidey-Rights save for the ones by Columbia — which coincidentally enough — owned the film rights to Bond, which didn’t want to relinquish Spidey. 

It was at this point that MGM/Sony said, fine, since we have the rights to Bond, we’ll simply make a new Bond film on your off years (Columbia was producing one every other year or so). 

As you can well imagine, this nearly gave the execs at Columbia a collective aneurysm, as Bond is arguably the most profitable film franchise in history. Eager to make a deal, they offered MGM/Sony virtually anything it wanted, which turned out to be the rights to Spider-Man. Columbia agreed “knowing” that it had gotten the better part of the deal because no one wanted to actually see a superhero film. Yeah, right. Well, as we all know, Spider-Man became the fastest-rising film in history currently standing at the 13st highest-earning film of all time (no Bond film cracks the top 100, with the highest-grossing Bond film, Quantum of Solace, only reaching as high as #183).

Needless to say, all of this Hollywoodland wrangling ate up five additional years, allowing my son to then be 10, and (as I said), old enough to better appreciate the film.

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