06 January 2010

UPDATED: No News Isn't Good News: Sony Suspends Production of SPIDER-MAN 4

Despite having six (6) different film projects going at the same time at just as many places, Marvel Studios and its ambitious production schedule has seemed as impervious to villainy as its marquee superheroes.  We think it's kind of surprising, then, that Spider-Man, Marvel's oldest and most successful film franchise, has become the  first on Marvel's slate to be felled by the forces of antagonism.

A close review of abbracadabbling's past Spider-Man  blogs will confirm that nearly every bit of Spider-news we've received hasn't really been news; it's been fandom-fueled hype, rumor and speculation.   Superheroes may be able to keep their big secrets, but Hollywood doesn't usually share that strong will.  In Spider-Man 4's case, producers haven't been playing games with fans while keeping super-secrets; they've been panicking. 

As of yesterday, Sony Pictures announced that production on Spider-Man 4, which was scheduled to begin filming by February,  has been temporarily suspended.  According to The Hollywood Reporter  , Spider-Man director Sam Raimi is locked in an unflinching dispute with Sony executives over which villains the next film will feature.

Raimi wants the Vulture - an older, bald-headed villain (reportedly a role for John Malkovich) that he also  had intended to cast opposite the Sandman in Spider-Man 3.   Wanting to appeal to younger Spider-Man fans, Sony over-ruled Raimi, casting the black alien Venom instead. The result was a movie fan's didn't care for, and of which Raimi isn't proud. 

Sony's wary of its villainous mistakes with 3, but isn't heeding Raimi's advice with 4, either. To them, the Vulture's poor eye-candy (read: he's no sex symbol) and thus is a risk they don't want to take. Instead, they're pushing for a romantic sub-plot featuring the ambivalent vixen, The Black Cat.  Ultimately, no villain-decision means no story for Spider-Man 4, and no story generally means no script.  Sony has hired Alvin Sargent, the writer of Spider-Man 2 and 3, to draft a new version of the 4th film should they and Raimi reach a conclusion. 

The rumor mill wasn't too far off-target; Spidey's next villains are the culprits of the to-date hub-bub. But the problems run much deeper than any speculating fan boy would've dared guess. In the wake of Disney's Marvel buy-out, anything short of smashing success with its Spider-sequel is unacceptable.  They intend to keep their Marvel franchise as strongly as Raimi intends to redeem himself with it.  At this point, Spider-Man 4 doesn't need the Vulture or the Black Cat;  how these two 'powers' resolve their  issue will reveal the identity of our hero's next villain, script or not.

Spider-Man 4 was scheduled for a May 6, 2011 release; at best, the film will be re-scheduled for late Summer 2011.  More details to come....

UPDATE:  What a difference a day makes -- although for Tobey McGuire and crew, the difference isn't a good one. The change in Spider-Man 4's schedule is now permanent. On the heels of the Sony Pictures postponement, Paramount Pictures announced that they will be moving the release of their Marvel Studios' movie, the Kenneth Branagh directed Thor, ahead by two weeks to assume Spider-Man's May 6th, 2011 vacancy. Thor was originally set to open May 20th, 2011.  Walt Disney Studios, in turn, has rescheduled their 2011 blockbuster -  Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides - to the earlier date vacated  by Thor.  Source: [link]

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