‘Avatar’ Wouldn’t Exist If James Cameron Had Made ‘Spider-Man’

For the past two decades, Spider-Man fans have been overwhelmed with new films featuring their friendly neighborhood webhead. But for a long time before Tobey Maguire made his Spidey debut in 2002, Hollywood struggled to get a big-screen version of Peter Parker into the world. At one point, James Cameron planned to direct a Spider-Man film. And if it had worked out, the filmmaker probably would have never made Avatar. Here’s why.

'Avatar' director James Cameron and performers at the New York premiere of Cirque Du Soleil's 'Toruk'
‘Avatar’ director James Cameron and performers at the New York premiere of Cirque Du Soleil’s ‘Toruk’ | Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

James Cameron nearly made a ‘Spider-Man’ movie in the 1990s

Every veteran filmmaker has their share of what-if scenarios. But in the case of Cameron’s Spider-Man, what could have been is particularly fascinating. In recent interviews, Cameron has discussed how his approach would have centered on Parker’s superpowers as a metaphor for adolescence. Certainly, Sam Raimi’s trilogy touched on that. However, fans unfortunately missed out on seeing how Cameron’s vision would have adapted the Marvel superhero.

Looking back on Cameron’s career, the notion of him doing a superhero movie feels wildly out of place. After all, nearly all of Cameron’s films are original creations. With the exception of Piranha II: The Spawning — his first film — and 1986’s Aliens, Cameron has never directed a sequel in a franchise he didn’t create. And as it turns out, his brush with directing Spider-Man cemented his interest in creating his own original characters and worlds.

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Instead, he took his career in another direction with ‘Avatar’

Cameron reflects on his career in his new book Tech Noir. In support of its release, he spoke with Screen Crush about a variety of topics. With Spider-Man: No Way Home around the corner, the conversation naturally turned to Cameron’s own time working with the franchise. And after he failed to get Fox to step up and buy the movie rights to Spider-Man, Cameron reached an epiphany about his own career path going forward.

“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. So I think [Spider-Man not coming together] was probably the kick in the a** that I needed to just go make my own stuff.”

Thanks largely to Titanic and Avatar, Cameron is easily one of the highest-grossing filmmakers in cinema history. The revelation of his decision to develop his own projects does explain a lot about his lack of new movies since Titanic became a phenomenon. Although he’s produced other movies, Cameron’s only directorial efforts — aside from those two blockbusters — are documentaries Ghosts of the Abyss and Aliens of the Deep.

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James Cameron is still working on 4 ‘Avatar’ sequels

As fans well know, Cameron’s interest in expanding his own mythos essentially translates to “more Avatar.” For years, the director has been working on a number of sequels to his 2009 Oscar winner. He announced Avatar 2 way back in 2010 for a then-anticipated 2014 release. But due to a variety of factors, audiences have not yet returned to Pandora — homeworld of the Na’vi — as of late 2021.

Still, Cameron assures fans he still has four sequels in the works. And reports claimed both Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 are nearly done with principal photography. Spider-Man fans missed Cameron’s take on that character. But those eager for more Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) can expect Cameron’s original creations to live on.