The troubled development for Sony's Spider-man 4 finally reached the breaking point earlier today when the studio decided to entirely scrap plans for the fourth installment when franchise director Sam Raimi felt he couldn't meet its 2011 summer release date and keep the film's creative integrity.
So it's back to high-school for Peter Parker as Sony instead shift its focus on a Summer 2012 reboot of the property with a whole new cast and director.
Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment explained the prospect of rebooting the franchise:
We have a rare opportunity to make history once again with this franchise. 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.
The only thing locked right now for the reboot is a script by Zodiac scribe Jamie Vanderbilt -- who had also drafted an early script for Spider-man 4.
According to Deadline Hollywood, who broke the story, Raimi told Sony Pictures:
"I can't make your date. I can't go forward creatively." And, so, once he said "That's it", Sony Pictures co-chairman Pascal and Columbia Pictures' Matt Tolmach decided they didn't want to replace him and instead chose to reboot the franchise. Insiders also tell me that Tobey Maguire heard the news in a phone call with Amy today. I'm told Tobey wasn't upset. "He's made 3 great Spider-Man movies. He's done really well. But he's the kind of guy who, if Sam wanted to go forward, would have been there for Sam and the studio. Absolutely."
You may remember, just last week Maguire chalked up the script problems to being "all part of the process." But there were clearly battles being fought, and Raimi wouldn't compromise, being quite vocal within the studio that he "hated" the script which had gone through the hands of Vanderbilt, David Lindsay-Abaire, and Gary Ross bringing on Spider-Man 2 and 3 scribe Alvin Sargent to punch up a new script.
Though the main cast was expected to reprise their roles, luckily for the studio, Sony hadn't finalized contracts for the talent, with negotiations only on the tail end. We've been keeping you up to date with all the developments, so you probably already know that most of the head butting was due to Raimi and Sony not being able to agree on a villain for Spider-man 4. Raimi wanted John Malkovich to play the vulture, while the studio was looking to cast Anne Hathaway as Black Cat. But their sources said (as of January 5th) that although Sony had been hot for her, they realized she'd cost too much and they probably wouldn't need such a "big-star."
There has also been some speculation of Sony wanting Spider-man 4 to be shot in 3D. With Avatar's record breaking earnings still rising, it's not hard to see why a studio or every studio is setting their aims for 3D releases. But it wouldn't be possible with Sony anxiously awaiting Sargent's script, the already postponed start date and a supposed lack of "anyone on the pic knowing how to do that." The now 2012 release date for the reboot is now more than enough time to implement the new technology for the web-slinger.
The news brings a lot of celebrating from the fan boy community who feel Spider-man 3 had ruined the franchise. We here at GeekTyrant have all expressed our dislike of the third installment, but were looking forward to Raimi correcting those mistakes and wrapping up the franchise properly -- a fifth and sixth film were also planned.
Some wishful fanboy thinking on message boards cast eyes on James Cameron to helm the reboot. Cameron wrote a treatment for his failed Spider-man project back in 1991. Sony still owns that treatment, which included the (un-credited) idea of organic web that was used in Raimi's version, as opposed to Peter Parker's man-made formula of the comics. (A fact Ben P enlightened me to the other day.)
It's hard for me to imagine a non-Raimi directed Spider-man movie. The first two films set the bar for comic book films. For me, and I'm sure a lot of you would disagree, 1 & 2 exceeded all my expectations of what a Spider-man film or any comic-book film could be.
The scrapping of the sequel frees Raimi to next take on his big-screen adaptations of World of Warcraft, or The Given Day, the novel by Shutter Island and Mystic River author Dennis Lehane. WOW being the more likely candidate, as it's an epically huge property.
What do you think of Sam Raimi not doing Spider-man 4 and Sony rebooting the entire franchise?
Here is Sony's Official Press Release:
Culver City, CA (January 11, 2010) -- Peter Parker is going back to high school when the next Spider-Man hits theaters in the summer of 2012. Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios announced today they are moving forward with a film based on a script by James Vanderbilt that focuses on a teenager grappling with both contemporary human problems and amazing super-human crises.
The new chapter in the Spider-Man franchise produced by Columbia, Marvel Studios and Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin, will have a new cast and filmmaking team. Spider-Man 4 was to have been released in 2011, but had not yet gone into production.
“A decade ago we set out on this journey with Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire and together we made three Spider-Man films that set a new bar for the genre. When we began, no one ever imagined that we would make history at the box-office and now we have a rare opportunity to make history once again with this franchise. 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 and we look forward to working once again with Marvel Studios, Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin on this new beginning,” said Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
“Working on the Spider-Man movies was the experience of a lifetime for me. While we were looking forward to doing a fourth one together, the studio and Marvel have a unique opportunity to take the franchise in a new direction, and I know they will do a terrific job,” said Sam Raimi.
“We have had a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration and friendship with Sam and Tobey and they have given us their best for the better part of the last decade.This is a bittersweet moment for us because while it is hard to imagine Spider-Man in anyone else’s hands, I know that this was a day that was inevitable,” said Matt Tolmach, president of Columbia Pictures, who has served as the studio’s chief production executive since the beginning of the franchise. “Now everything begins anew, and that’s got us all tremendously excited about what comes next. Under the continuing supervision of Avi and Laura, we have a clear vision for the future of Spider-Man and can’t wait to share this exciting new direction with audiences in 2012.”
"Spider-Man will always be an important franchise for Sony Pictures and a fresh start like this is a responsibility that we all take very seriously," said Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures. "We have always believed that story comes first and story guides the direction of these films and as we move onto the next chapter, we will stay true to that principle and will do so with the highest respect for the source material and the fans and moviegoers who deserve nothing but the best when it comes to bringing these stories and characters to life on the big screen."
The studio will have more news about Spider-Man in 2012 in the coming weeks as it prepares for production of the film.