What's the deal? Well, James Vanderbilt had worked on a script that was intended from the outset to shift the focus away from the bloated grand-standing of Spider-Man 3 -- a wise move -- but also shifted the timeline back to a high-school Peter Parker, which the current franchise obviously moved beyond. There are, according to industry insiders, plenty of people who believe in Vanderbilt's take, and he is a respected writer of films like Zodiac and the underrated The Rundown. I haven't a clue what Sam Raimi's qualms were with this screenplay, but they probably had something to do with the reimagining of a world he had already created to wide critical acclaim (until the 3 debacle) and ridiculous amounts of money. They went back and forth. Raimi led a fury of re-writes. And then, finally, it fell apart.
Except it didn't totally fall apart....it just fell apart with Raimi. And with Raimi's exit went Tobey Maguire. That obviously means no Kirsten Dunst, either. And yet Marvel plans to go through with a version of Spider-Man 4 -- Vanderbilt's version, to be exact, and he is apparently on the hook for Spidey 5 and 6, too. This is one of those stories that just makes the little squiggles and stars spark over your head in a way similar to what Charlie Brown experienced when he got pummeled on the pitcher's mound. It makes no sense...yet it is happening.
The result, I suspect, will be similar to the awkward effect of Edward Norton's Incredible Hulk reboot in 2007, except the film's maladroitness will be even more glaring, since the Spider-Man franchise is way bigger -- it is really one of the two biggest franchises of the last decade, and is probably the absolute biggest -- and it was all put together by the man who just walked away. It will feel weird...and wrong, regardless of how ably the enterprise is re-cobbled.
See you in 2012.