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Canceled Marvel movies we'll never get to see

At one point in the not-too-distant past, it seemed like people were increasingly worried about superhero fatigue. With an endless parade of comic book movies coming down the line, it only seemed natural that audiences might eventually get bored. But now, with Avengers: Endgame challenging James Cameron's Avatar to take home the title of the highest grossing film of all time, it seems pretty safe to say that those fears of fatigue may have been premature. 

The future of comic-based films seems brighter than ever, and considering the sheer amount of characters in the Marvel Universe, the possibilities are endless. Of course, not all pitches make it to production, and many concepts have fizzled midway through the journey from page to screen. With the filmgoing public eagerly buying tickets to see their favorite superheroes shine on the big screen again and again, here's a look back at a collection of canceled Marvel projects that will never get a chance to rival Endgame.

James Cameron's Spider-Man

In the '90s, James Cameron convinced Carolco Pictures (the backers of Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day) to buy the film rights to Spider-Man and started a script for the film. In an interview with Collider, Cameron recalled, "I was going to launch that as a series of films. I wrote quite an extensive treatment — I think eighty or ninety pages long..." After Carolco Pictures went under, the rights to Spider-Man were purchased by Sony. Because Cameron had moved on to other projects (notably Titanic), he didn't pursue the project further.

According to Rebecca Keegan, author of The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron, this Spider-Man would have been an origin story with some key changes to the familiar comics lore. Notably, instead of his wrist shooters being constructed, Spider-Man would grow them naturally. In an excerpt, Cameron described his rationale: "I said, wait a minute, he's been bitten by a radioactive spider, it should change him fundamentally in a way that he can't go back." This element, of course, would eventually make it to Sam Raimi's 2001 film, becoming a controversial decision among fans.

Cameron's script would be more adult-themed than most takes on the webslinger, with some decidedly intense language and sexuality. Concept art showcased the edgy tone, revealing gritty, even unsavory imagery like Peter Parker peeping on Mary Jane Watson undressing. The art also hints that the villain Electro would have been featured as a central antagonist.

The Inhumans

A movie featuring the Inhumans, a lesser-known group of alien heroes, was announced by Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige in 2014. Accoridng to Feige, the film was meant to be part of Phase Three of the MCU. Two years following the original announcement of the film, Feige told Collider an Inhumans movie was still going to be made and that it was "only a matter of when." As fans waited for further news, The Inhumans' target release date was shifted from November 2018 to July 2019, before disappearing from the studio's release schedule altogether.

Eventually, Marvel decided that TV would be a better fit for the characters, resulting in a unique release strategy that saw The Inhumans debuting both on ABC and theatrically on IMAX screens. The experiment — overseen by Marvel Television, a separate entity from Marvel Studios and the MCU — was not a success. The series was critically panned and canceled after a single season. It's safe to say that the MCU version of the characters would have been fairly different... and equally safe to assume we won't be seeing that take any time soon.

Silver Surfer: The Musical

The Silver Surfer is a cosmic entity with the ability to travel at the speed of light on his cosmic surfboard. Best known as the herald of Galactus, he's appeared in many comics over the years, but in the '80s the Silver Surfer took an unexpected foray into the musical genre.

Lee Kramer, the executive producer for the film Xanadu, expressed interest in making a Silver Surfer rock musical. According to Sean Howe's book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, Kramer said of the project, "We're going to make an epic picture on the scope of 2001: A Space Odyssey with the kind of soundtrack that that film had, only using contemporary rock and roll."

The film would have starred Olivia-Newton John, fresh off of Xanadu herself, but she wasn't the only big name attached to the project. Paul McCartney was asked to contribute to the soundtrack, a reasonable request considering that the ex-Beatle is an avowed Marvel fan who even wrote a song about Magneto and Titanium Man.

Ultimately, the project fell through, and we wouldn't see the metallic hero on the big screen until 2007's Fantastic Four: Rise of The Silver Surfer. As for Kramer's musical, it's pretty safe to say that Marvel won't be making anymore stage shows after Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark failed to amaze theater patrons

Guillermo del Toro and Neil Gaiman's Doctor Strange

In 2008, writer Neil Gaiman told Premiere that he had been interested in creating a film centered around Doctor Strange. Gaiman approached director Guillermo del Toro with the concept, and according to Gaiman, he was interested. In an interview with Collider, Gaiman explained that while del Toro was on board, the film was likely around four years from entering production, due to his busy schedule.

Regarding the project, del Toro told Empire, "That's an interesting character because you can definitely make him more in the pulpy occult detective/magician mold and formula than was done in the Weird Tales, for example... the idea of a character that really dabbles in the occult in a way that's not X-Filey, where the supernatural is taken for granted. That's interesting... but I wouldn't use the suit!"

Ultimately, Gaiman and del Toro never got to make their version of Doctor Strange. Marvel wasn't interested in taking on the project, waiting to introduce the Master of the Mystic Arts to movie audiences until Scott Derrickson's 2016 film starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

David Hayter's Black Widow

Made famous by Scarlett Johansson's portrayal in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Widow has become a bigger fan favorite than ever after decades of foundational comic stories. Her first solo movie (a prequel, as anyone who's seen Avengers: Endgame could probably guess) is finally on the way. However, this is not the first time that Marvel has tried to show audiences this former Russian spy's backstory.

Though many people know David Hayter as the voice of Solid Snake in the Metal Gear series, he has also had a successful career as a screenwriter. In a 2014 interview with Latino Review, Hayter revealed that he had written a Black Widow script ten years prior, and was even attached to direct the project at one point. Hayter alleged that the poor performance of other action films starring women (in an era defined by flops like Elektra and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider — The Cradle of Life rather than the likes of The Hunger GamesMad Max: Fury Road, and Captain Marvel that would follow) is what caused Marvel to get cold feet and shelve his project.

In an interview with Collider, Hayter did say that he would be willing to work on another Black Widow film. Since his script was an origin story, it could still work within the fabric of the MCU. However, many changes would have to be made, as his original script eventually leaked online. Regardless of Hayter's ongoing interest, writers Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson are currently attached to the project.

Wesley Snipes' Black Panther

As DC Comics and Warner Bros. were experiencing repeated critical and financial successes with their Batman and Superman films throughout the 1980s and '90s, Marvel was having a tougher time. In 1996, the company entered into bankruptcy, but that didn't deter one actor's aspirations of bringing one of their iconic characters to the big screen.

In the mid-'90s, Wesley Snipes was coming off a string of successful movies like New Jack City, White Men Can't Jump, and Demolition Man, but he had a vision for his own superhero vehicle: an adaptation of Marvel's Black Panther comics. However, this process was more difficult that Snipes had originally anticipated. He later told The Hollywood Reporter, "Ultimately, we couldn't find the right combination of script and director and, also at the time, we were so far ahead of the game in the thinking, the technology wasn't there to do what they had already created in the comic book."

In the end, Snipes and Marvel teamed up for a less ambitious project: Blade. The 1998 film earned over $131 million, becoming Marvel's first real movie success. Black Panther, meanwhile, was still listed as an upcoming film as late as 2000, with Variety describing the project as a vehicle for "a black Indiana Jones-style character, to which Wesley Snipes has long been attached to produce and star."

Unfortunately for Snipes, his vision for Black Panther never got off the ground, though he was "ecstatic" about the eventual success of Chadwick Boseman and the MCU incarnation of Wakanda.

Peyton Reed's Fantastic Four

Director Peyton Reed is known for his work directing Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp, but years prior, Reed had plans to create a Fantastic Four film. In an interview with Collider the director explained, "I actually developed Fantastic Four when it was at Fox, and this would have been about 2002 or 2003. I was doing a movie at Fox at the time and they were gonna do Fantastic Four, and I went in and pitched to [then Fox Filmed Entertainment CEO] Tom Rothman."

Reed stated that the film was going to be set in the '60s and would be tonally similar to the Beatles film A Hard Day's Night. Notably, his take would not feature an origin story and would instead jump straight into the action.

Sadly, Fox didn't have much faith in the project. According to Reed, "It felt like they sort of wanted to make a B-movie out of it. So we parted ways." Fox would go on to release Fantastic Four in 2005 and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer in 2007 without Peyton Reed's involvement. Neither was well received, nor was Fox's 2015 effort to reboot the franchise. With the Disney/Fox merger, however, it's only a matter of time before another take on Marvel's First Family shows up in the MCU.

The Amazing Spider-Man 3

Sony had high hopes that rebooting their Spider-Man franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012 would be a step in the right direction after the fairly chilly reception of 2007's Spider-Man 3. However, a look at both Rotten Tomatoes and Box Office Mojo will show that the Amazing Spider-Man films were not as fan-pleasing as Sam Raimi's first two Spider-Man movies.

In an interview with Den of Geek, director Marc Webb reflected on some of the issues that plagued his two Amazing films starring Andrew Garfield. "I think it was a very difficult time for Sony because of the hack and because Marvel wanted the character back," he said. "Maybe it accelerated the timeline... but that's something I accepted."

Still, Sony and the filmmakers had big plans for the webslinger, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had a few allusions to their vision for the future of the franchise. The next installment was planned to be a film introducing the supervillain alliance known as the Sinister Six before the next Amazing Spider-Man entry. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Sinister Six movie was slated for release in 2016, pushing The Amazing Spider-Man 3 to a 2018 release date.

However, once Sony reached a deal with Marvel to incorporate Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the entire Amazing undertaking was scrapped to make way for Tom Holland to make his entrance in 2016's Captain America: Civil War.

Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 4

After Blade and X-Men got the ball rolling for films based on Marvel comic heroes, one of the most memorable and fondly remembered efforts to follow was Sam Raimi's Spider-Man. Starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, the 2002 film was a huge success, earning Marvel over $821 million worldwide.

That success was followed up by one beloved sequel and... another sequel that fans of the character like to pretend doesn't exist. Regardless, with so much positive momentum behind the series, Rami was ready to right the wrongs of the third movie with a fourth. In an interview with Vulture, Rami revealed, "I was very unhappy with Spider-Man 3, and I wanted to make Spider-Man 4 to end on a very high note, the best Spider-Man of them all."

Rumors swirled that the fourth installment would feature John Malkovich and Anne Hathaway as the villains Vulture and Black Cat, respectively. Despite this, a script never materialized to satisfy Rami's vision. The director told Vulture, "It really was the most amicable and undramatic of breakups: It was simply that we had a deadline and I couldn't get the story to work on a level that I wanted it to work."

X-Men Origins: Magneto

After the success of the first trilogy of X-Men films in the early 2000s, the executives at 20th Century Fox decided that the best route for future films in the franchise would be to focus on the individual origins of popular characters. The first mutant to get this treatment was Wolverine.

In an interview with io9, series producer Lauren Shuler Donner reported that David Goyer was slated to write and direct the next X-Men Origins movie, focusing on Magneto. In a 2008 Q&A with SyFy, Donner said that progress on X-Men Origins: Magneto would depend on the success of Wolverine's solo outing. Unfortunately, X-Men Origins: Wolverine underperformed at the box office and received scathing reviews upon its release in 2009, prompting the studio to pivot away from their film about Magneto and the Origins banner.

Despite the film not getting made, a writer for the Coventry Telegraph gained access to a draft of the script. Though it is different from a separate plot synopsis published in the trade magazine Production Weekly, both plots suggest a story that would open during Magneto's time in Auschwitz and follow him as he meets, befriends, and ultimately becomes enemies with Charles Xavier. This relationship would eventually form the core of 2011's X-Men: First Class and its follow-ups, but much of the more Magneto-centric story remains untold.