For weeks we've been covering the ongoing fight between Sam Raimi and Sony over the fate of Spider-Man 4, and now it's all been decided thanks to a stunning move on Sony's part: they've scrapped the movie entirely. Deadline Hollywood is reporting that Sam Raimi told the studio today he wouldn't be able to complete the film on their terms, and rather than replacing Raimi, the studio decided to cancel the project outright.
Instead they'll be moving forward with a reboot of the franchise, based on a script by Jamie Vanderbilt, who wrote the screenplay for David Fincher's Zodiac, oddly enough. The entire original cast, including Tobey Maguire, is out, and apparently Maguire isn't that upset to see the franchise go: "He's made 3 great Spider-Man movies. He's done really well. But he's the kind of guy who, if Sam wanted to go forward, would have been there for Sam and the studio. Absolutely."
There's no official word from Sony beyond one very short tweet: "Spider-Man: Summer 2012: Peter Parker is going back to high school when the next Spider-Man hits theaters in the summer of 2012."
It's stunning to see a project this gigantic fall apart this way, especially after weeks of very public negotiations about the franchise's future and what seemed to be Sam Raimi's continued passion for the project. There's no telling how good an idea Spider-Man 4 really would have been, but I'm really not sure about a full franchise reboot. I'm sure we'll be writing about this plenty in the weeks to come, but right off the bat, the notion of rebooting a hugely successful franchise not even 10 years after the first film debuted is, uh, questionable at best. We'll bring you more news as it comes in.
UPDATE: Below is Sony's official press release, in which they confirm the summer 2012 release date. It's mostly corporate speak and smiling through gritted teeth:
Culver City, CA (January 11, 2010) -- Peter Parker is going back to high school when the next Spider-Man hits theaters in the summer of 2012. Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios announced today they are moving forward with a film based on a script by James Vanderbilt that focuses on a teenager grappling with both contemporary human problems and amazing super-human crises.
The new chapter in the Spider-Man franchise produced by Columbia, Marvel Studios and Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin, will have a new cast and filmmaking team. Spider-Man 4 was to have been released in 2011, but had not yet gone into production.
“A decade ago we set out on this journey with Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire and together we made three Spider-Man films that set a new bar for the genre. When we began, no one ever imagined that we would make history at the box-office and now we have a rare opportunity to make history once again with this franchise. Peter Parker as an ordinary young adult grappling with extraordinary powers has always been the foundation that has made this character so timeless and compelling for generations of fans. We’re very excited about the creative possibilities that come from returning to Peter's roots and we look forward to working once again with Marvel Studios, Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin on this new beginning,” said Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
“Working on the Spider-Man movies was the experience of a lifetime for me. 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,” said Sam Raimi.
“We have had a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration and friendship with Sam and Tobey and they have given us their best for the better part of the last decade.This is a bittersweet moment for us because while it is hard to imagine Spider-Man in anyone else’s hands, I know that this was a day that was inevitable,” said Matt Tolmach, president of Columbia Pictures, who has served as the studio’s chief production executive since the beginning of the franchise. “Now everything begins anew, and that’s got us all tremendously excited about what comes next. Under the continuing supervision of Avi and Laura, we have a clear vision for the future of Spider-Man and can’t wait to share this exciting new direction with audiences in 2012.”
"Spider-Man will always be an important franchise for Sony Pictures and a fresh start like this is a responsibility that we all take very seriously," said Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures. "We have always believed that story comes first and story guides the direction of these films and as we move onto the next chapter, we will stay true to that principle and will do so with the highest respect for the source material and the fans and moviegoers who deserve nothing but the best when it comes to bringing these stories and characters to life on the big screen."
The studio will have more news about Spider-Man in 2012 in the coming weeks as it prepares for production of the film.