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Spider-Man 4 Dies a Comic Book Death…

… but don’t worry, we’ll be getting a brand spanking new reboot in 2012.

Maybe they will even call it Brand New Franchise. As the word has spread like wildfire, apparently it’s all over. There will be no Spider-Man 4. All my villain-listing and Vulture-defending were in vain, as were my nervous anticipations of seeing John Malkovich with wings or the faint aspiration of seeing three solid Spider-Man films produced (it’s like a do-over for the last one). Sony have reached in panic for their giant reset button and announced that they will have a reboot in cinemas in just over two years. They have a writer, but no script, no cast and no director. That’s going to be a superheroic effort.

Spider-Man finds himself being strangled by Sony...

I’m going to begin by saying something that may not be popular: Sony are doing the best thing they can do from their own perspective. The Spider-Man franchise rights have an expiration date on them before they lapse and return to Marvel, who can then start their own Spider-Man series of movies. The reason that Sony doesn’t want this to happen is obvious: Spider-Man could arguably make even more money at Marvel, particularly with the Disney money behind it. It may sound ridiculous, but Universal Studios felt the burn when they allowed their own interest in Iron Man to lapse and it subsequently became one of the biggest films of the decade. It’s this logic that keeps Fox churning out X-Men spin-offs at an alarming rate and the reason they are already planning to reboot the only moderately successful Fantastic Four.

Fox has the option of simply rotating cast and crew on its projects within the gigantic X-Men universe, so we can have Hugh Jackman on his own for a film and then have Bryan Singer return to the director’s chair one more time while they all take a break and let Ryan Reynolds carry his own film. Sony doesn’t have that luxury. Spider-Man needs to feature Spider-Man. The general feeling seems to be that Tobey Maguire – aiming to grow as a dramatic actor – was only along for this ride because of his friendship with Raimi, so he’s gone too. The only two franchises to successfully swap leading men without continuity reboots – the Schumacher Batman films and Superman Returns – weren’t exactly huge successes, so I can understand Fox not wanting to push ahead with a fourth film with new cast and crew (particularly after the general perception emerged that their executive meddling ruined Spider-Man 3).

Still, my sympathy – as I imagine everyone’s will be – lies with Raimi. The man, along with Singer, pretty much started this modern superhero trend and produce two of the finest examples of the subgenre before being smothered in executive notes for the third. He obviously has a lot of love for the franchise and the character – which goes a long way towards earning the trust of the audience. Sam Raimi cared. And I honestly believe that he left because he believed he could put together a respectable film in the time he had, and I certainly don’t think Sony had any idea how to properly treat a huge money-spinner. Over at Warner Brothers, Christopher Nolan gets huge budgets to make the films he wants, but, at Sony, Sam Raimi can’t even pick the bad guy in the film he’s going to spend two years of his life working on.

So maybe it’s for the best that we won’t get a fourth film in the franchise. It’s just a shame that we went out on such a healf-hearted third film.

Unfortunately the Vulture never quite took flight...

As for the reboot idea… seriously? C’mon, this isn’t the Fantastic Four. It isn’t as though the film has been proceeded by two slightly below average efforts that everyone’s forgotten about. Everyone knows the Spider-Man films. It’s a running joke how terribly disappointing the third film was because we love the first two so much. And those first two are about a decade old.

Think about what this means. This means that less than ten years after we saw a summer event movie about Peter Parker getting bitten by a spider, we’re going to see an event movie about Peter Parker getting bitten by a spider. There are certain elements that a Spider-Man story must have – but they’ve all been executed ridiculously well in recent memory. We know that Peter and Mary-Jane must have a chemistry which doesn’t quite work, but will get them together eventually. We know that Uncle Ben must die. In order for the story to make sense, it must introduce the Osborns and – because you need a big actor to play Norman who won’t cameo in the first film to become a baddie later on – the bad guy will more than likely be the Green Goblin. And we’ll be thinking of Willem Dafoe.

These aren’t vague elements like ‘Batman’s parents die’ and ‘the Joker is his foe’, these are fundamental storytelling devices upon which the entire saga leans. There is only so much manipulation a script (particularly one written in such a short time) can accomplish. It’s like trying to make a completely fresh meal from the same ingredients that you used last night. It’s going to taste a little stale no matter what.

What really amazes me is just how fast the wheels came off. It was only a few months ago we got a release date and confirmation that Raimi was on board. Then there was script work and villain discussion. And then there were disagreements and John Malkovich. And then it was over.

It’s a shame. It feels like one of the grand old franchises of the naughties has passed away.

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