‘Spider-Man’: James Cameron Was the First to Add This Superpower

Spider-Man: No Way Home is about to celebrate the iconic Marvel hero’s rich cinematic history. But before Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, and even Tobey Maguire headlined Spider-Man movies, James Cameron nearly made his own. The Oscar-winning director — best known for Titanic and Avatar — got close to becoming the first one to bring the wallcrawler to the big screen. And though that didn’t happen, at least one element of his version of Spider-Man lived on.

The costume worn by actor Tobey Maguire in the movie "Spider-Man 3", 2007 designed by James Acheson on display May 5, 2008 during a preview of "Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy" in The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. | STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images
The costume worn by actor Tobey Maguire in the movie “Spider-Man 3”, 2007 designed by James Acheson on display May 5, 2008 during a preview of “Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy” in The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

‘Spider-Man’ finally made his film debut in Sam Raimi’s 2002 film

After Cameron’s Spider-Man got trapped in development, the filmmaker ultimately moved on. Following Sony’s 1998 purchase of the character’s movie rights, it didn’t take long for a film adaptation to get off the ground. This was especially the case after 2000’s X-Men proved Marvel superheroes just might have a future on the big screen. And in May 2002, Spider-Man — directed by Sam Raimi (Evil Dead II) and starring Maguire (Pleasantville) swung into theaters.

The film proved to be a box office phenomenon, earning more than $400 million at the domestic box office, according to Box Office Mojo. Along with the aforementioned X-Men, is most directly responsible for kicking off the current golden age of superhero cinema. Nowadays, Sony is even gearing up to expand Spider-Man into its own shared universe. But it all started with Raimi’s film, which many fans might not know features an inkling of Cameron’s earlier version.

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James Cameron contributed 1 key change to the character

In his new book Tech Noir, Cameron looks back on his career, including classics like The Terminator and Aliens. But he also dropped a few key details on his abandoned Spider-Man project. The director calls it “the greatest movie [he] never made.” In an interview with Screen Crush, he revealed one part of his script that stayed intact all the way up to Raimi’s movie. And the change was a notable departure from the character’s existing mythology.

“Going with the biological web shooters as being part of his biological adaptation to the radioactive spider bite made sense to me. … I wanted to make something that had a kind of gritty reality to it. … 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.”

Maguire’s version of Peter Parker does, in fact, have biological webbing. Although this was a big change to Spider-Man’s power set, most fans accepted it when the film was released and don’t question it now. Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee likewise gave Cameron his blessing to make the change. And considering how well-received Spidey’s new ability was, Cameron’s instincts were proven right.

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‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ restores Sam Raimi’s timeline

Raimi and Maguire’s Spider-Man franchise ultimately ran its course. After three hit films, the duo’s planned Spider-Man 4 was scrapped. Instead, Sony opted to reboot with Garfield in the lead. And eventually, Spidey made his way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in the form of Holland. Now though, fans of the original Spider-Man movies are about to get a most unexpected return to where it all started.

2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home sees Holland’s Peter Parker facing off against numerous villains from the series’ past. Fans have even long speculated that Maguire and Garfield could make long-awaited returns. If that does happen, perhaps the three Spider-Men could compare their powers. After all, Maguire’s Spidey is the only one to possess the ability to spin biological webs.