Tobey Maguire's iteration of Spider-Man famously had the power to generate webs, but he nearly used mechanical web-shooters in his cinematic debut.
Tobey Maguire’s classic movie version of Spider-Man had the power to shoot webs, but he nearly had mechanical web-shooters. The Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy adhered extremely closely to the Marvel Comics source material, but one of the few significant changes to Spider-Man was his lack of web gadgetry. In his classic origin story and throughout his decades of comic books, Spider-Man designed a pair of wrist-mounted devices that shoot a synthetic webbing in a variety of useful ways. Spider-Man uses his web-shooters for swinging across New York City and subduing his enemies with minimal force. Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man came incredibly close to including these famous devices.
Sony’s first Spider-Man movie was in development for years before director (and highly-knowledgeable Marvel Comics fan) Sam Raimi took the reigns of the ambitious project. In an unmade iteration of the film, directed by James Cameron, Spider-Man grew organic web-shooters on his wrists and could fire organic webbing just like his comic counterpart’s devices. When Raimi took over, one of the few remnants of Cameron’s proposed film that carried over was the element of the organic web-shooters.
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Raimi seemed to have wanted to stick to the comics and give Peter mechanical web-shooters at first. Concept art, set photos, and even some early promotional clips and trailers show Peter testing out wrist-mounted web-shooting gadgets, most notably in his bedroom during his costume-making montage. At 2001’s E3, Activision promoted their video game tie-in to Raimi’s first film and displayed the web-shooter props in their booth.
Spider-Man's web-shooters were compact, with a DIY design not unlike Andrew Garfield’s first set of web-shooters in 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man. Tobey Maguire’s web-shooters notably incorporated additional web fluid cartridges around the wrist band like the comic version, but they were activated by two small pads for his middle and ring fingers instead of a larger palm pad like the comics and other film versions.
While Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker nearly used mechanical web-shooters, Raimi ultimately decided against them, reviving the James Cameron organic web-shooter idea. Raimi’s rationale was that a highly intelligent but otherwise ordinary (and often financially struggling) teenager building a pair of devices and concocting a highly versatile adhesive would detract from his relatability and the film’s verisimilitude. Raimi’s Peter showed his brilliance through other means, and his organic webs tied into his issues with losing his powers in the second movie.
Whether organic webs or mechanical web-shooters are preferable is a matter of personal taste, but ultimately, it’s not Spider-Man’s webs or powers that make him realistic. Both versions of Spider-Man’s webs are far-fetched for different reasons, but it’s Peter’s characterization and how he, as an ordinary person, responds to the extraordinary that makes him one of the most realistic superheroes in the genre. Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man having mechanical web-shooters would have been an enjoyable way to honor the source material, but his organic webs were a fascinating change that left his compelling characterization intact.
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David Miller is a staff writer for Screen Rant, indie comic writer, and life-long lover of all things Star Wars, Marvel, and DC. He was born and raised in New York and has a degree in English from Rider University. He relates to Peter Parker maybe a little too much.