EJ Moreno looks at five Marvel movie “what ifs?”…
Like every franchise or studio, Marvel has seen their fair share of films enter development and never see a release. Whether it’s a passion project rejected by studio heads or just a long developmental process that scares off a lead, we’ve seen plenty of projects based on the most popular Marvel characters halted before they started.
For this list, we’ll look at five of the biggest “What Ifs” in Marvel movies. To be included here, the films must have at least a writer or director attached and have a chance of getting made. No shade to Bruce Timm, but no one believed the JLA/Avengers film would happen.
Be sure to tell us what unproduced film projects based on Marvel Comics stick out to you the most…
Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man
Till recently, most filmmakers and fans had nothing but praise about their Marvel experience. But a moment early into the MCU’s run had everyone a bit concerned for the future of their films. One of the biggest scandals in early Marvel Studios history is Edgar Wright leaving his Ant-Man passion project after creative differences.
It began in 2003 when Wright expressed interest and lasted past his meeting with Stan Lee in 2010; the Cornetto trilogy was all set to tackle the Marvel character. Pre-production began in 2013 before its 2015 release, and production entered the great Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Paul Rudd debate, which started the bumpy road between Wright and Marvel. By mid-2014, Edgar Wright was off, and director Peyton Reed took over.
Wright’s plans for the Ant-Man project sounded great, with the filmmaker adding his signature flair to some deep comic lore. But as Wright put it at the time: “I wanted to make a Marvel movie, but I don’t think they really wanted to make an Edgar Wright movie.”
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X-Men: Origins – Magneto
In the early 00s, X-Men movies were all the rage in the comic book world. With Spider-Man joining the mix and DC taking a break after a rough 90s, it was time for Marvel to take its place at the top. We had a few years of mutant dominance, but it soon ran dry when we hit the X-Men Origins era in the mid-00s.
When X-Men Origins: Wolverine was brewing, Fox was looking to dive into more of the iconic mutants backstories, with Ian McKellan’s Magneto as a focal point for another spin-off. In 2004, there was some talk of Magneto film, described as “The Pianist meets X-Men,” which never came to fruition. By 2006, David S. Goyer joined and began re-working things, which moved the film out of 40’s Germany and into 60’s America.
With delays and some mixed reactions to X-Men projects, Ian McKellan stepped away from the project, and this spin-off of a ’60s X-Men movie would morph into the plot of X-Men: First Class. Sadly, we didn’t see Magneto face off with Mister Sinister as initially planned.
Guillermo del Toro’s Doctor Strange
We could be here for years talking about canceled or developmental hell projects from the great Guillermo del Toro. No filmmaker has touched more projects that have never seen the light of day, and it’s a damn shame when you think we could’ve seen the magical and twisted world of “Guillermo del Toro meets The Sorcerer Supreme.”
In 2007, the Pan’s Labyrinth filmmaker began the development of a Doctor Strange movie right before the MCU started with Iron Man in 2008. As the legend goes, Marvel approached Neil Gaiman about penning a Doctor Strange film, which led Gaiman to bring in del Toro. Shortly after that, Marvel told the filmmakers that the film was too far out, and they viewed Strange as too much of a minor character at the time.
Things have changed with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange character, a massive part of the modern-day MCU. Little was known about the film, but Gaiman teased that he and Guillermo planned on using Clea, who just made her debut, played by Charlize Theron.
You have to give some credit to Fox Studios’ Fantastic Four films; for the time, they offered up a comics-accurate take on the iconic family, which seemingly seems impossible to do. One of the things the studio and filmmaker Tim Story got near perfect was Silver Surfer, even if he had to deal with the insane dud that was the 2007 version of Galactus.
J. Michael Straczynski was attached to write a spin-off, giving Doug Jones’ take on the Silver Surfer an origin story. There were plans to address the Galactus Cloud, with Story saying the version we saw in Rise of the Silver Surfer allowed the future spin-off film to be unique as “the character had yet to appear in comic-book form.” But even back then, Straczynski doubted we’d see the movie.
He’d be proven right, given by the 2010s, little development had happened in the film. Writer Brian K. Vaughan was later brought on to make his own Silver Surfer movie in 2018, but Marvel Studios/Disney would soon buy Fox, and the rest is history.
Along with the Fox Studios’ X-Men movies, the Sony Spider-Man films from Sam Raimi were all the rage in the 00s. We couldn’t get enough of Spider-Man as the first two films won over audiences. Then Spider-Man 3 hit, and things got a bit murky. But Raimi didn’t give up hope with the odd fan reaction as he began to develop a fourth Spider-Man.
By 2009, Sam Raimi was still attached to direct, and Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and other cast members were all set to reprise their roles. Rumors swirled on which villain would be introduced, with everything from The Lizard to John Malkovich as Vulture taking shape. In 2010, Sony Pictured announced Raimi was off the project, and we soon saw the Amazing reboot in 2012.
Sam Raimi would return to Marvel years later for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, while Tobey Maguire got another shot in the hit film Spider-Man: No Way Home. Both these MCU moments they had also fueled another round of Spider-Man 4 rumors.
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Still to this day, Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures have announced projects and dragged their feet or left them in developmental hell. But no films will have hit the biggest “what could’ve been” more than these.
What was your most anticipated Marvel movie that never saw the light of day? Let us know on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…