Sony Washes Hands of “Spider-Man” Franchise, Will Start from Scratch

1/13/2010 Posted by Admin

By our guest bloggers, Matt Jussim and Tim Strain

The “Spider-Man” franchise as we know it is dead. According to Deadline Hollywood, director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire have officially walked away from the project, and it has been all but confirmed that co-stars Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, J.K. Simmons, and Rosemary Harris will follow suit. Columbia Films has said that “Spider-Man 4” will be overhauled and pushed back to a 2012 release.

The break-up can be attributed to creative indifferences. Rumors floated around Hollywood shortly after the May 2007 release of “Spider-Man 3” that Kirsten Dunst would not be participating in the fourth installment and Raimi and Sony were constantly at each other’s throats.

Principal photography on “Spider-Man 4” had already been postponed before the recent announcement due to script-related problems. As it stands, the film’s first draft, written by James Vanderbilt (“Zodiac”), will be the shooting script. David Lindsay-Abaire (“Inkheart”) re-wrote that draft, and Lindsay-Abaire’s draft was then re-written by Gary Ross (“Seabiscuit”). Ultimately, though, it will be Vanderbilt’s words seen on the screen.

Raimi, according to Finke, “hated” the current script, and felt that he would not be able to produce a work of satisfactory quality in the amount of time he had to work with before the initial May 11, 2011 release date. Production was first slated to begin in February and had been bumped back twice already to a mid-April shoot. Raimi told Sony executives, “I can’t make your date. I can’t go forward creatively.”

Does this leave the juggernaut franchise dead in the water? Far from it. Due to the on-set unrest originating during the production of the all-over-the-place “Spider-Man 3”, Sony hired Vanderbilt to not only write “4,” but a fifth and sixth installment as well. The scripts (or, treatments, in the later sequels’ case) overhaul the series. The move is not unlike the facelift the webslinger’s DC Comics rival got in 2005’s “Batman Begins.”

The story will be a reboot with a whole new production team that will use the pre-existing script by Vanderbilt.  It will return Parker to being a teenager grappling with both contemporary human problems and amazing super-human crises.

In an official press release from Sony, chief Amy Pascal said: "Peter Parker as an ordinary young adult grappling with extraordinary powers has always been the foundation that has made this character so timeless and compelling for generations of fans. We’re very excited about the creative possibilities that come from returning to Peter's roots.”

Nicole Sperling of Entertainment Weekly claims that Sony is seeking a more “gritty, contemporary” varnish for the series. What this means, exactly, is anyone’s guess. This approach may allow for a more down-to-earth take on Spidey. Keep in mind that the budgets for the films jumped from $139 million to $200 million to $258 million (the biggest budget ever for a movie, at the time). Sony may hold on to their purse strings a little more tightly with a reboot, as the talent involved won’t be as much of a guarantee to bring in the masses to the multiplex. Expect a figure somewhere between $150 and $200 million, although that figure could skyrocket if Sony decides to do the film in 3D after the mind-boggling success of “Avatar.”

Afterall, despite "Spider-Man 3" getting poor reviews and costing a whopping $250 million, it still pulled in $890 million worldwide.

One thing the studio is happy about is that now they essentially have full control of the property again and will likely hire a more complicit director. Also, the return to teenage years rather than exploring the life of a 30-something married man holds more appeal to a younger audience.

But the studio is taking a risk since the first two films were critical darlings, all three are box-office titans, and a lot of people have loyalty to Raimi far more than they do the studio and in some cases the character itself.

There are a few big names being circled for the vacant director’s seat. Marc Webber is thought to be a leading candidate after his success with “(500) Days of Summer." He was also in talks to direct a remake of Norman Jewison’s “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and after Sony’s debacle involving Steven Soderbergh’s departure from the upcoming “Moneyball,” Webb almost came away wit the job (which eventually went to Bennett Miller). Gary Ross has expressed interest. Michael Bay has also said that he would enjoy taking a stab at the series. This would be unlikely because he is set to start production on “Transformers 3” in May and has stated that after the robo-clash franchise he wants to work on something smaller in scope (“Pearl Harbor 2”?). James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, and David Fincher were all candidates for the first film, but are all unlikely to want to get in line for this fiasco.

Any directorial or casting developments should happen quickly. Variety alleges that, “Columbia needs to continue actively developing “Spider Man” films or else the property will revert back to Disney/Marvel.” It also claims that the studio plans to hire a new director and cast within the next few weeks.

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  1. OsirisOrion said...

    sucks that sam raimi will not be involved along with the original cast! =[

  2. Misscrabbypants said...

    I say let it die. If Raimi walks, if the orginal cast walks, the fans will follow.
    It will sink.

  3. Admin said...

    I was over the franchise on the third film. Kiss it goodbye. Let's have a reboot in 10 years.