I never worry about the fate of wealthy, well-connected and minimally talented White men. They have a tendency to fall upward. So, I’m not obsessing over Harry Reid’s poor choice of words about light-skinned Black men with no Negro accent. Who gives a rip about Simon Cowell leaving American Idol or if Jay and Conan both leave NBC? Not me. Don’t watch their shows. Don’t give a damn about them.
But I am (kinda/sorta) interested in the announcement that Sony Pictures is parting ways with Sam Raimi, director of the billion dollar grossing Spider-Man trilogy, kicking star Tobey Maguire to the curb along with him. Plagued by squabbles between Raimi and producers over the direction of the fourth entry, the film was targeted for a 2011 release, but was stymied by the creative differences from beginning production.
I listened to a podcast last week where a couple of movie geeks said Raimi never wanted Venom in Spider-Man 3. His choice was to have the Sandman and The Vulture played by Ben Kingsley. Sony said nope. Put Venom in the movie because the kids love Venom. Oh, and throw in Gwen Stacy as a new love interest (then don’t use her for anything but a rescue scene).
Raimi reportedly didn’t get Venom. Didn’t like Venom and had no clue why anyone did like Venom (I know I never did when he was introduced in the comic book). Raimi threw up his hands and suggested Venom be introduced at the end to set up the next movie. Overruled again and here comes Topher Grace.
But even if you take Venom out of SM3, you still have a forgettable villian in Sandman and those god-awful musical/dance interludes with Kirsten Dunst and Tobey “Saturday Night Fever” Maguire and that one was all on Raimi.
The hang up on the fourth flick was who the villain(s) would be. Raimi wanted the Vulture again (now with John Malkovich replacing Kingsley) and maybe The Lizard. Sony wanted a romantic sub-plot with Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat and no less than four writers had produced scripts.
That was enough for Raimi and he bailed. Maguire–who always reminded me of the miscast Michael Keaton in Batman–was kicked to the curb as well and I can only hope Dunst, who was good only for her ability to whine or scream on cue, got booted too.
So where does the franchise go from here? Nowhere good according to Devin Faraci at CHUD.
…Sony’s about to screw up the Spider-Man franchise. Their press release crows about bringing Peter Parker back to high school age in this reboot, and near as I can tell this means one thing and one thing only: Hello, Twilight fanbase. Raimi’s Spider-Man aged in real time, and Spider-Man 4 would have seen an adult Peter Parker getting ready to possibly get married. This isn’t sexy to the 14 year old girls who scream at Robert Pattinson, and frankly neither is Tobey Maguire. Starting over means the chance to get into that tween zeitgeist, and to cast a Peter Parker who will elicit long lines at Comic Con not just from the usual fanboys but also from hordes of screaming girls.
As a friend said to me on Twitter, Sony wouldn’t go chasing lower grosses, meaning the Twilight films have been outperformed by even the weakest Spider-Man film. But they would go chasing the heat of that franchise – the cultural cache and the endless free publicity. But it isn’t like Sony’s choice makes a lick of sense anyway, as the franchise remains in strong shape, with Spider-Man 3 making 330 million dollars domestic. If Sony wanted changes in the cast or tone these could be done in a Spider-Man 4. The only reason to go back to high school is to simply try for the CW audiences.
So we’ll get a dreamier Peter Parker, that’s almost for sure. And we’ll probably spend more time with his romantic life than we had previously, although Sony (probably) isn’t so dumb as to lose the action focus (anyway, girls go to action movies these days. You just can’t get the boys to go to Twilight). They are so dumb as to probably include Venom from the start. Venom, one of the worst things to happen to the Spider-Man comics (the character coarsened and cheapened everything it touched, and sent Spider-Man off into a direction that betrayed the spirit of the comic), is also incredibly popular. It seems exceptionally likely that Sony will shoehorn either Venom or Eddie Brock (saving Venom for the sequel and maybe Carnage for the third, thus making the day of every moron fan who wants comic book movies to be R-rated) into Spidey’s new origin. And yes, they’ll have a new origin because they need to get Venom in there, and to set this Spider-Man apart from Raimi’s. Maybe Mary Jane will be torn between Eddie and Peter. Are you Team Eddie?
Even the flaming turd that was SM3 grossed over $330 million so Sony wasn’t going to wait indefinitely for Raimi to smell what they were cooking. The 2011 release dates were coming and going and that makes movie executives queasy not knowing when to expect the cash register to start ringing.
Raimi’s trilogy of Spidey flicks and produced one good, one great and one really bad. But I’ve always believed that just like the original source material, it’s the character, not the talent, that matters most. There are other directors who love Spider-Man as much as Raimi did and damned sure better actors to play Peter Parker and Mary Jane than Tobey Maguire and Kristen Dunst.
Within a matter of days, the fanboys will find something else to get pissed off over and everybody else will forget about this little dust-up until 2012 rolls around and audiences are sitting down with a $8 dollar box of greasy popcorn while the lights dim for Spider-Man: New Moon.
I’m not going to lose my mind because as bad as SM3 was with Raimi and Maguire, will a movie that’s still at least two years away really suck so much more without them? By 2012, we’ll have waited five years between movies. Will anyone pissed now really care that much by then?