14 December 2009

Spider-Man 4: A Tangled Web of Rumors and News

With everyone's attention focused on next May's Iron Man 2 as well as Thor, Marvel's leading big-budget franchise, Spider-Man, has quietly moved behind the current Hollywood hysteria. Now, there are hints that may be changing. However, hard facts are still as tough to come by as they've been since Sony Pictures made the announcement last March that Spider-Man 4 would indeed be made, and that the film's scheduled premiere date would be May 6th, 2011.  

Both the studio and Spider-Man director, Sam Raimi, were quick to confirm that Tobey McGuire and Kirsten Dunst would be reprising their roles as Peter Parker / Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson, respectively, as early rumors floated for a good month after the film was announced that both actors may not actually sign for a fourth film. But once news that the primary cast members had sealed the deal, the Spider-camp again fell rather quiet, while speculation bubbled about which villains Spidey would face his fourth time at bat.
The Springfield Home Office watched Spider-Man 3 again this afternoon, and we, like most Spider-fans, have pegged the 2007 film as the worst of the bunch, leagues beneath the quite exceptional second installment. The movie was over-zealous at best; while trying to meet fans head-on by including the extremely popular Venom in the cast, the film quickly became over-saturated with villains -- four, to be exact. This stretched the movie's storytelling too thin, and the film lost what Spider-Man, on the screen or the page, does best -- character. Spider-Man's universal appeal stems from his personal struggles of duty and responsibility while trying to live a normal, teenage life, and these necessarily fell to the wayside to make room for Hollywood wide-screen action.
Raimi himself has openly acknowledged Spider-Man 3's short-comings, and has admitted that the third film taught him much about the importance of having limitations and of getting to the point in his movies. 
In interviews with First Showing.net as well as The Los Angeles Times, Raimi has mentioned that his fourth movie will again focus on the one thing he loves most about Spider-Man - his uniquely touching character. "I'd like to really make a great picture with him and bring the character to life at a level of detail that I've never realized before," Raimi told The Times. A concurrent interview with SciFiWire added the fact that Raimi's long wanted to keep Spider-Man more of a character-driven film than the action-driven movie 3 was, and that this factor was what convinced McGuire to reprise his wall-crawling role. For Raimi, Spider-Man 4 is, first and foremost, about getting back to basics.
Raimi has mentioned little about which members of Spider-Man's well-stocked Rogue's Gallery would be popping up in 4, and perhaps understandably so. On the one hand, some believe that Raimi was pressured by Marvel Studios CEO and founder Avi Arad to include the super-popular Venom, which has caused the movie's ratings to plummet and the overall appeal of Spider-Man to suffer ever since. Most notably, Spider-Man 3 earned less domestically than either of the first two movies, and was panned by most critics.
S,o villains may have been a somewhat touchy subject for Raimi from the outset. On the other hand, Spider-Man has to reclaim respect from fans, and after being dethroned in 2008 by Jon Favreau's Iron Man as Marvel's box office champ, it makes sense for Raimi to play cards close to the chest. If anything, he's got to do things right from the start, and leaking news to the rumor mill is not the way to do business.
(Also possible is that Disney's acquisition of Marvel Entertainment, first announced August 31st and now scheduled to be a done-deal come New Year's Eve, may have complicated matters somewhat. Disney's a powerhouse studio, and its sudden ownership of Marvel properties would be understandably threatening to Sony and any other studio already having pre-existing agreements with Marvel Entertainment. Sony did reassert its rights to the Spider-Man film franchise shortly after the Disney deal was publicized, and earlier this month, Disney officials stated that they're agreeable to Sony's Spider-Man movie rights.)
Since the end of August, Spider-Man 4 has moved well into its pre-production phase, with filming expected to begin this March. Bruce Campbell, who has enjoyed small cameos in every Spider-film to date, has been confirmed as returning for 4, and speculation later surfaced that he'd have a larger role in it, cast by several fan-driven websites in the part of Spider-Man nemesis, Mysterio. Also confirmed for 4 is Dylan Baker, whose minor role as Dr. Curt Connors has kept fandom wondering if his character will transform into its villainous alter-ego of The Lizard since the franchise began. Baker's only stated that while he will be in the next movie, his character will, as before, 'be keeping to the background'.
Actor Dylan Baker and his reptilian alter-ego, The Lizard
That may have been nothing more than deflection, as the groundwork has been laid for Baker's alter-ego to finally come front and center in Spider-Man. Not according to Movieline, a movie news and rumor web site that claimed December 9th that Sony has rethought any Lizard plans they might have had entertained, citing that the character's non-human appearance would be too much of a stretch for Spider-Man 4. Your favorite comicsblog would have to agree with Sony's new position, which likely stems from the lessons Venom taught the film's producers. Still, as it's never been clear that the Lizard had been green-lighted in the first place, Movieline's statement may be nothing more than damage control for the media-fueled rumor mill.
Being The Vulture: Will John Malkovich Get His Chance?
But the bigger news from Movieline's same Spider-Man report is that John Malkovich is now in negotiations with Sony for the role of the Vulture, one of Spider-Man's oldest enemies. The Vulture, who wears a exo-suit with wings and other gimmicks that, among other things, allows him to fly, made his first appearance in 1963, in Amazing Spider-Man #2. Unattractive and not as physically imposing as many of Spidey's other Rogues, the Vulture's been a mainstay comic book villain, yet one never taken all-too-seriously. But based on history alone, and the fact that Malkovich looks a perfect candidate for the character, Movieline's claims have the ring of truth -- at least, to us.
The website also reviewed recent rumors that Anne Hathaway is Sony's top contender for the role of the Black Cat aka Felicia Hardy, a sexy cat burglar and sometimes ally of Spider-Man's. It seems like Sony's been courting every starlet in Los Angeles for the role, from Julia Stiles to Rachel McAdams. But according to Movieline, the Felicia Hardy wouldn't be a 'Black Cat' on film, but a sidekick of sorts to Malkovich's Vulture. While such character tweaking wouldn't be unexpected, there's no comic book precedent for it, and the Black Cat is too much of a fan boy fave to be screwed with to the extent Movieline's reported.
Felicia Hardy aka The Black Cat and potential contender Anne Hathaway
Other than a mountain of unsubstantiated and mostly implausible rumors, Sam Raimi's interviews are all that exist to support any claims about what audiences should expect to see in Spider-Man 4. There's no reason not to believe what the director's said to date, and his intentions for his next film should be weighed against all outside claims. Some, like John Malkovich's role, ring true, while a drastic re-write of Felicia Hardy seems to conflict with Raimi's intentions of being more faithful to the characters his next time around. With all the Marvel movie news we've been hearing lately, none of us will likely have to wait long before Spider-Man's most dangerous rumors are finally put to rest.
Or will they? Is John Malkovich going to be flying after Tobey McGuire in 2011, and will Anne be at his side? Or have the rumors just gotten way, way out of control? And what about Sam Raimi -- do we believe him? Does he have the clout to make the movie he wants, or will someone else really be calling the shots? Dabblers, abbracadabbling wants to hear from you -- so let's get the conversation going! Share your Back Issues with us today!

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