I've been listening to all the reports and the like on Spider-Man 4's progress and watched in amazement as Sony announced the reboot, so I thought I'd share my two cents on the topic since most others have already. For reference sake, my view on the series was generally favorable. I loved the original when it came out; the suit, the story, the villain, all done very well. I would have made one or two different casting choices myself, but overall a great film from a director I already adored. Then Spidey 2 came along and blew the original out of the water. Some have complained it was too slow, that his power loss made no sense and the like. All are understandable qualms, but I didn't share them. Overall a fantastic film that holds up as one of the best comic films to date.
Then 3 came....in a word; Disappointed. While it wasn't the worst film, nor even worst comic film around, it was a huge drop from the first two. Speaking as a Venom fan, a lot of my criticism should be obvious, but the film was doomed with or without Venom. Sandman was 'in general' cool, but as Uncle Ben's killer? Really? You want to go there this late in the game? How is this any better than Joker killing Bruce's parents? It's not, and at least that movie had the guts to use it in the first film and not save it for a third film twist. The fun and cheesy qualities of the first two were overblown to the point of being unbearable rather than fun, and it's definition of 'dark' is just whiny depression with loads of crying. Dancing, singing, crying, emo hair, crying, overly/blatantly convient plot twists...
Harry: It sure is a good thing my butler was both a former crime scene investigator and criminal psychologist, or else he never would have been able to tell me that my father was not only stabbed by his own glider, but remote controlled it into himself trying to kill you, just by cleaning his wound! Shame he didn't tell me....you know....before the whole trying to kill you and ruin your life thing...two....maybe three years earlier would have been nice...
When I first heard Spidey 4 was coming with everyone back, I was on the fence. In one hand I loved the first two, but on the other hand the last one was a thud, and maybe it was just a progression of crap. But I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, until I saw the ideas Raimi was having. Vulturess?! Also there was more trouble between Raimi and the studio; history was about to repeat itself. But then the bombshell; Spidey 4 is out, Spidey Reboot in. At first I was disappointed, the idea of sitting through Spidey's original all over again didn't sit well with me.
But as I learned more and more about the possibilities of it, the more the idea grew on me. Now? I'm excited as hell. Going back to high school which, let's face it people, was the period that had most of the best Spider-Man stories. A new take, a new cast, and a new script written by James Vanderbilt, who did a very nice job on Zodiac. Sounds like a plan.
I know that most people blame Sony for the mess that was Spider-Man 3, and to an extent yes, but I think people are being to lenient on Raimi, for he should be taking a fair amount of the responsibility as well. Let's, for a moment, look at it from Sony's perspective. You own one of the highest grossing film franchises in history, coming hot off the heals of one of the best reviewed comic films at the time, and everyone is geared up and ready to go. But you begin to notice that the fans, aka the people shelling out the cash, are beginning to make their own demands. Poll after poll, request after request, they begin to notice a trend. Not all, but a large portion of the fan base is screaming for one character to be the next villain; Venom.
Only one problem, you're director doesn't want to make Venom for 'personal' reasons, saying he didn't get the character as much as the older ones. So now you have to decide, make sure that Venom is placed in the film, or risk upsetting a very vocal fan-base that continues to demand this one character. They go with option B, since that is where the money is coming from. Besides, screw creative integrity, we want our money! They figure 'We're shelling out all this cash to get this movie made, we'd might as well have him put Venom in'. After much pressure, Raimi finally relents and put's Venom into the film.
Forgoing the practices he had used in the past to create compelling, yet relatively true to the source versions of these classic villains (Doc Ock wasn't very true to the source granted, but he was made compelling regardless) as well as common sense and logic as a whole, he decides to make a Venom with no character development, no real personality, and a poorly explained motive for his dark ways. He tosses out nearly every aspect of the character that fans liked, and pushes him to the side to focus more on Peter Parker and the Black Suit, which was handled in an overly comedic way, misleading us to believe it would be more serious in tone. (And don't say he was forced to put too many in, before Venom he was already planning Vulture for 3 as the third villain, he basically just swapped him out).
What happens? Eventually a choppy, boring, and downright silly sequel is made, so far from the quality of the first two that, while still making a lot of money (mostly from unsuspecting fans), garners mixed reviews, mostly poor from the audience end of the spectrum. Now Sony knows it's in trouble and has to make another decision; risk fans by firing Raimi from the next on, or risk losing fans by keeping him on and continuing. They opt to go with Raimi again, promising to give him more creative control. Well we've all seen where that was going, some even speculating some of the ideas were made simply to get under Sony's skin, so Sony panics, and hires Vanderbilt to tweak the screenplay he wrote for 4 and make it a reboot just in case things go well. Making matters worse, Marvel Studios isn't some little annoying nat pumping out fairly popular films anymore. Now they have the unstoppable power of Disney (aka Disney = Japanese Godzilla, Sony = American Godzilla) hovering over them, pressuring them to do something now or risk losing their money maker back to Marvel/Disney. Then the in-fighting starts, Raimi and Sony just can't come to terms on anything, time is ticking away and Disney has just re-acquired the right's to Spidey's cartoon rights.
In their position, you honestly have to wonder what you would do. You begin to see these horrible, b-movie ideas forming for the script of the sequel to really one of the only money making franchises you have. The director has his own ideas that don't fit with what you want. Do you let things go, and watch the horrible ideas brought to the screen and watch the money you poured into the film just flying out the door and look like an idiot, or do you put your foot down, try to fix the mistakes that were made (a good deal of it made by you), and possibly be seen as the bad guys in the eyes of others?
Personally? *Laughs maniacally, twisting his thin mustache around his finger, as Raimi is shown the exit*
I still love Sam Raimi's work I really do (aside from SM3), Evil Dead, Darkman, Drag Me to Hell, even the Xena and Hercules series had their charms. But really, I think that both sides were just too damn stubborn to possibly get along any further and this is really best for both parties, not to mention the films themselves. I know I mostly focused on Raimi in this post, but that's just because so few others seem to be. Sony is FAR from innocent. We've all seen and heard the negatives of what Sony did and how they are responsible for the current mess, but rarely do you hear about Raimi, who still WAS director after all, and most of the ideas used in the film were still his own.
Now, there is still the chance that the reboot will suck, and for all we know it might. But if that is the case, either way we were going to get a shitty Spider-Man movie....at least they tried to go in a different direction this time.
If only Paramount would do the same with that little series about robots. One can dream, at least.