Superhero movie history is full of canceled Marvel movies that didn’t happen for various reasons across the past two decades. Prior to the rampant success of the MCU, Marvel cinema was in something of a quagmire in the early 2010s that saw a string of Marvel movies vetoed by Sony and other prominent studios at the time. A vast uptick in integration deals ahead of the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe meant whole swathes of planned Marvel movies received the ax in favor of rebooting their characters into the burgeoning MCU.
However, the MCU and its future was not the only deciding factor in taking Marvel movies off the production slate, with poor critical reception a pervading factor in many cases. Comic book adaptations before the MCU were very far from being surefire hits, with many Marvel superhero movies only reaching cult status years after their initial release. Other Marvel movies did not get so lucky, with supposed franchise starters such as The Fantastic Four and Daredevil lambasted for their lack of creativity when translating classic Marvel intellectual properties to the big screen.
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For the sake of conciseness, this collection of discarded Marvel movies is based on the films themselves being slated for production and subsequently canceled, as opposed to simply being an undeveloped idea. This criteria also rules out the long-in-waiting Iron Fist movie of the early 2000s, which eventually morphed into a Netflix streaming series and part of The Defenders, despite never being greenlit as its own film. As a result, here’s every canceled Marvel movie to date and why each movie didn’t happen.
Well before Simu Liu’s tremendously successful turn as Shang-Chi in the MCU’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, there were other plans to bring the character to the screen. An early 2000s project titled The Hands of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu would have been a full-blown martial arts movie, with Stephen Norrington set to direct and Ang Lee signed on as a producer. By 2005, Stan Lee was an executive producer on the Shang-Chi project, with Yuen Woo-ping set to direct, but ultimately the film never came to fruition. There were also talks to include Shang-Chi as a Phase 1 MCU character after the success of 2008’s Iron Man, but this idea was also scrapped.
With Ben Affleck’s 2003 turn as Matt Murdock panned as a “dull, brooding origin story that fails to bring anything new to the genre” by critics, it is little wonder that Daredevil 2 never saw the light of day. This consensus is confirmed by the fact that while director Mark Steven Johnson’s Daredevil did not ever get a sequel made, the franchise’s supporting character Elektra (Jennifer Garner) received her own spin-off movie (although this was almost universally reviled). Yet, despite the Daredevil franchise’s infancy and poor reviews, its death knell came courtesy of a rights transferal, with 20th Century Fox conceding their intellectual property over to Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Motion Picture Studios, respectively. This IP transferral cleared the way for Netflix’s Daredevil TV series, which follows the same comics story arc (Daredevil: Born Again) that Daredevil 2 was planned to portray.
Before Mark Ruffalo’s iconic Bruce Banner and even Edward Norton’s turn as the Gamma-loaded professor, Eric Bana’s version of Hulk existed as early as 2003. Hulk, in fact, got off to the best possible start for a new superhero franchise, with Universal’s blockbuster Hulk feature grossing an impressive $245 million worldwide and almost doubling its production budget. Hulk 2, therefore, was a highly anticipated feature that was expected to follow up its predecessor as quickly as 2005, before a string of pre-production delays halted Hulk 2’s seemingly inexorable advance. Despite writer James Schamus drafting a sequel that would have included a deadly combination of Grey Hulk and (the now MCU adapted) Abomination, Marvel took over production in 2006 following a year of delays when Universal Pictures did not meet the film’s deadline for principal production. Marvel Studios subsequently confirmed that all production for Hulk 2 had been canceled in favor of a reboot, which would go through another failed The Incredible Hulk narrative before the green giant finally found his spiritual home in Marvel’s Avengers in 2012.
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The Punisher 2
While Jon Bernthal has become synonymous with the tortured vigilante Frank Castle, three separate Punisher incarnations had already been pushed by various studios by the Netflix series’ 2017 release. The second of these is Jonathan Hensleigh’s, which sees Thomas Jane take up the mantle of the vengeance-driven Punisher. Jane’s Punisher was singled out for praise by critics, who enjoyed his steely performance, though they were less impressed by the overall tone and creativity of the film. Yet, despite a modest box office haul, The Punisher 2 was greenlit by Lionsgate, with Hensleigh and Jane set to reunite and commence filming on the sequel as early as 2005. Despite all the pieces being in place for The Punisher 2 to come to fruition, the sequel project remained in development for over three years due to the lack of an acceptable script despite numerous writers being attached. Even after Hensleigh distanced himself from the movie after two years of increasingly stagnating discussions, it still took until 2007 for The Punisher 2 to finally be canceled, with a franchise reboot released the following year.
Marvel’s Cancelled Pre-MCU Slate
While the official MCU canon didn’t begin until 2008’s Iron Man, Marvel Studios was still trying to develop a long-term slate of movie adaptations based on their classic comic book IPs well before then. While some of these projects came to fruition, many were ultimately scrapped, reworked, or folded in once the MCU began to solidify. This vision included such titles as Man-Thing, Deathlok, Silver Surfer, and even prototype versions of Iron Man and Captain America, as revealed in the Marvel Studios 2004 film slate. Also among the discarded titles are Fury, which would have followed the storyline of Jim Steranko’s Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. series and had a script written by Andrew W. Marlowe. Ultimately, however, this project was abandoned in favor of integrating Fury into the early MCU films. In a more complicated fashion, a film version of Namor has been a possibility since the late ’90s, with a slew of different writers and directors attaching to the project from 2001 to 2006. Due to a dense network of contracts tying the property to both Marvel and Universal, it’s anyone’s guess whether Namor will ever see the light of day, but rumors abound of a Black Panther 2 MCU debut for the Sub-Mariner.
Punisher 2: War Zone
If Jonathan Hensleigh’s The Punisher 2 constitutes a convoluted cancelation, then Punisher 2: War Zone’s is one of the swiftest Marvel movie cancelations to date. Lexi Alexander’s Punisher: War Zone is a movie that seemingly revels in its absurdity, with the film falling very much into the category of “how on earth did this get made.” Despite an awful critical response and average box office numbers, Punisher 2: War Zone was initially greenlit by Lionsgate almost solely off the back of Alexander’s confidence in the franchise, with the director stating that she “made the film (I) wanted on the screen.” This confidence would prove incredibly short-lived, with Marvel taking back the rights to the Punisher properties in early 2009 ahead of their infinitely more successful Jon Bernthal-led Netflix series.
Of all the canceled Marvel movies on this list, Spider-Man 4’s eventual scrapping is perhaps the most galling, given the cult status Sam Raimi’s trilogy has since garnered. Raimi’s Spider-Man 4 simply collapsed under its own weight of expectation, with the film’s pre-production halted by disagreements over which antagonists should be used in the fourth Spider-Man installment. Jim Carrey as Carnage, Bruce Campbell as Mysterio, and John Malkovitch as Vulture were all prominent names being pushed by Sony, with Raimi instead preferring the inclusion of Morbius the Living Vampire or Kurt Connors’ Lizard.
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Despite a plethora of compelling villain options, Raimi left the project in 2009, with leading man Tobey Maguire subsequently following him out the door. Screenwriter James Vanderbilt was essentially left as the last man standing on the Spider-Man 4 project after only just joining the Spider-Man 4 team in 2008. During the writing of the Spider-Man 4’s story script, Vanderbilt was instructed to also write a reboot script just in case Sam Raimi dropped out of the project, with this Spider-Man 4 iteration eventually becoming the basis for Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man reboot. Perhaps hardest to swallow of all, however, is that Sam Raimi confirmed years later that had Spider-Man 4 entered production, Spider-Man 5 would have been immediately greenlit and entered pre-production, with Sony also keen to conclude his film series with a sixth Spider-Man installment.
First introduced in Spider-Man 3, Topher Grace’s version of Eddie Brock/Venom was originally going to have his own spinoff movie, which was in active development in 2008 alongside other sequels to Spider-Man 3. Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese had a completed script by 2009, which was described as a dark and grounded take on the Spider-Man villain. Shortly thereafter, director-producer Gary Ross was hired to rewrite Venom, as he was already doing with drafts of Spider-Man 4. This version would have made Venom more of an antihero along the lines of Tom Hardy’s Venom movies. By this point in late 2009, Topher Grace was also said to be unlikely to return to the role of Eddie Brock. In the end, Venom went the way of Spider-Man 4 when Raimi finally walked out of his own Spider-Man franchise, and the studio instead announced a reboot in what would become the Andrew Garfield The Amazing Spider-Man movies.
X-Men Origins: Magneto
Although X-Men Origins: Wolverine birthed two subsequent Logan-centric movies, the actual X-Men Origins series began and ended with telling Wolverine’s backstory. This is a shame, as concepts for telling other key X-Men characters’ histories appear genuinely enthralling. The pick of this bunch is X-Men Origins: Magneto movie, whose writer Sheldon Turner pitched the film as “The Pianist meets X-Men.” David S. Goyer was also hired to direct Magneto’s origin story in 2007 following Turner’s final script approval, but production on the film itself was paused as 20th Century Fox waited to evaluate X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s critical performance. Despite X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s box office success, Fox’s sprawling Origins plans were scrapped to use Turner’s story as the base of X-Men: First Class which contains many of the World War Two references X-Men Origins: Magneto was initially built upon.
The Amazing Spider-Man 3
The Amazing Spider-Man 3 goes down as very much a victim of its own success, with the film’s confirmation (alongside a fourth Amazing Spider-Man installment) announcement bizarrely made 11 months before The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s theatrical release. This early proclamation left Sony in a bind when, shortly after the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Andrew Garfield publicly confirmed that not only did he not want to play Spider-Man past a third movie, but that he also would not renew his expiring contract with Sony. This contractual standoff meant that while the film was originally scheduled to be released on June 10, 2016, Sony was forced to announce in the summer of 2014 that they had decided to push back The Amazing Spider-Man 3 by four years. This large delay would prove fatal for the project, with The Amazing Spider-Man series instead scrapped by Sony as part of the deal to bring Tom Holland’s Spider-Man into the MCU.
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The Sinister Six (2016 Version)
This aforementioned new 2018 release date for The Amazing Spider-Man 3, while frustrating for Sony, allowed the studio to ramp up their efforts for a Sinister Six movie, which was eventually scheduled to premiere on November 11, 2016. Due to its scheduling change, Sony’s Sinister Six was well-placed to directly follow the events of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which saw Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) admitted to Ravencroft and Sytsevich’s (Paul Giamatti) prison break as The Rhino. However, as with its Spider-Man predecessors, The Sinister Six was scuppered by Sony’s rights deal with Marvel, with a new Sinister Six movie currently in production for the MCU.
Fantastic Four 3
The Fantastic Four 3 was a bridge too far for 20th Century Fox, whose Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer did little to convince Fox executives of the franchise’s continued worth. The original Fantastic Four movie series was hampered by its insistence on using a PG rating, with each installment feeling juvenile and hollow in both its dialogue and action sequences. The harsh critical reception for Fantastic Four 2, despite being rightly noted as an improvement on the first film, confirmed the need for a changing of the guard and narrative direction, with 20th Century Fox announcing a costly reboot for 2015 despite Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, and Michael Chiklis all being tied to three-film contracts at the time.
Fantastic Four 2 (FANT4STIC Reboot)
It says something about how poor a film the rebooted Fantastic Four is, considering that the 2015 movie led to a positive re-examination of the previously slated Fantastic Four (2005) and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Rolling Stone dubbed the Fantastic Four reboot “the cinematic equivalent of malware,” while IGN’s equally bleak assessment confirmed the film was “aesthetically drab and dramatically inert.” Yet, Fantastic Four 2 remained in the pipeline far longer than it should have, given reviews like these, with the sequel even given a release date of June 9, 2017, as the film entered pre-production. Mercifully for all involved, however, Fant4astic 2 was canceled in December 2015, with Marvel reclaiming their classic intellectual properties for future MCU use.
Silver & Black
Centered on Spider-Man femme fatales Black Cat and Silver Sable, the Sony project Silver & Black began development in 2017 with production intended to start in 2018. Gina Prince-Bythewood was been set to direct, and Silver & Black was intended as part of Sony’s Spider-Man Universe. However, script issues delayed the film “indefinitely” by the end of 2018, and it was ultimately canceled outright. Instead, solo films for each antihero are now supposedly in the works, with Black Cat reworking the scrapped Silver & Black script and Silver Sable still somewhat in limbo. Given how packed Sony’s Spider-Man slate is currently, it remains to be seen whether Silver & Black’s eponymous leading ladies will make it to the big screen any time soon.
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Marvel’s Inhumans movie receives the ignominy of being the only film on this list to be scrapped by Marvel after the MCU’s formation. Originally slated for inclusion into the MCU’s phase 3, the Inhumans project failed to capture the continued imagination of Marvel executives, who instead used their time wisely to immortalize the MCU with the Infinity Saga. This left Inhumans in limbo, with discussions to potentially include the Inhuman saga into phase 4, before the film was eventually relegated to a television series. This decision proved prescient by Marvel, with ABC’s Inhumans being canceled after just one anemic season in 2018.
Gambit’s omission for Marvel’s film roster is perhaps the most shocking of all the studio’s cancellations, given that filming for Gambit had already begun as of February 15th, 2019. This filming commencement had seemingly marked the end of a convoluted pre-production process that eventually saw Channing Tatum (as Gambit), Léa Seydoux, and Lizzy Caplan cast to depict the mutant card-slinger and his allies. Gambit’s release was rescheduled four times after a series of schedule conflicts for its production team and cast, which pushed Gambit’s filming dates almost parallel with Disney’s seismic purchase of Fox in 2019. Gambit’s filming was just a month in. However, when shooting was halted, and it was announced that Disney had indeed purchased the film’s rights, with the film’s new studio exercising the option to cancel Gambit in favor of later introducing the X-Men into the MCU.
Other Fox Marvel Movies
In addition to Gambit, several other Marvel projects were affected by Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox. These include Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants sequels, a spinoff featuring X-23 from Logan, and even Doctor Doom, Kitty Pryde, and Multiple Man solo films (with James Franco starring in the latter). Likewise, plenty of projects featuring new X-Men teams had been in the works at Fox, such as Alpha Flight, Exiles, and X-Force, the latter of which would have been headed up by Deadpool. Finally, two films, X-Men: Fear the Beast and Omega Red would have developed X-Men franchise star Beast even further. Now, however, it’s unlikely that any of these films will see the light of day.
Ghost Rider 3
Columbia Pictures’ Ghost Rider 3 is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it style cancellation, with directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor stating during Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance’s release that they were set up for an immediate third installment again starring Nicolas Cage. Cage reversed this optimism in the aftermath of Ghost Rider 2’s awful reviews, however, with the actor stating that he is unequivocally done with the role of Johnny Blaze. This sentiment was backed up by Marvel Studios’ President Kevin Feige, who announced in 2013 that the film rights to Ghost Rider had reverted to Marvel Studios, but that there were no immediate plans to make another Ghost Rider film. This situation has not changed in the eight years since Feige’s statement, with the Ghost Rider franchise’s legacy to date mired by the awful reputation of the Marvel franchise’s previous two movie attempts.
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About The Author
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Charles Cameron is a Senior Features Writer for Screen Rant specializing in Film & TV. A B.A. graduate of UEL, he spent several years in corporate roles before committing to pursuing his passion of writing full time. A British native, Charles also is an avid football fan and podcast co-creator who loves delivering new content across various forms of media.
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