Sony/Columbia has decided to pull the plug on Spider-Man 4. Signs of trouble appeared last week when the studio announced that the production was put on hiatus (see “Spider-Man 4 Delayed”). Now the studio has decided to fire director Sam Raimi who has helmed all three of the highly successful Spider-Man films and ditch Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and all the high priced talent in front of the camera as well. In a successful series such as Spider-Man all the key players generally get raises for each subsequent film, which naturally drives up production costs.
Variety is reporting that the studio, which could risk losing the rights to the Spider-Man character if it doesn't produce a new film, had a contingency plan in case of problems with the Raimi-helmed Spider-Man 4. The plan involves a “reboot” script by James Vanderbilt that takes Spidey back to high school in a version that will feature all new younger actors and cost the studio far less to produce. Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin, who have been involved in the production of all 3 Spider-Man movies, will be producing the new Spider-Man film. The new teenage Spider-Man movie, which has no stars or director attached at present, is slated to debut in the summer of 2012.
Spider-Man 4 had originally been scheduled for early May of 2011, thus it was a very bad sign for the film when, in the wake of stories about delays in the production of the next Spider-Man film, Marvel Studios moved the debut of its Thor movie into the Spidey 4 slot (see “Thor Saves the Date”), which just happens to coincide with Free Comic Book Day. Reports indicate that the studio was unhappy with the script for Spider-Man 4 and the villain (The Vulture) that Raimi had chosen for the film. Raimi, who obviously could have been a diplomat if he had wanted to, told Variety: “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.”
Though the studio will save a potentially huge amount of money in production costs by rebooting the series, Sony/Columbia is messing with a billion dollar franchise. Let’s hope the studio is not jettisoning the character-driven approach that made the first two films in the series so compelling.