People Tell Me I Look Like Han Solo.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
  Spider-Man 4 revamp proves I don't actually know anything
I discussed in this space a few days ago the rift between Sony Pictures and director Sam Raimi over the direction (i.e. the villains) in the fourth Spider-Man movie; Raimi, a fan of vintage Spider-Man comics, was pushing for the classic baddie the Vulture, while Sony, I guess terrified of the prospect of trying to market a superhero blockbuster co-starring a middle-aged bald guy in a green vulture-suit, wanted anyone but him to be the villain. I concluded that the notion of Sony moving ahead with a fourth Spider-Man movie without Raimi (who seemed to be returning mostly to make up for the disappointing Spider-Man 3) was a longshot. After all, Raimi made the first three movies, has more invested in the character and world than any other director of a superhero franchise I can think of, and is a major reason for the series’ success.

Shows what I know.

The news is now that Sony and Raimi are parting ways – apparently amicably – and the studio has bumped the targeted release of Spider-Man 4 one year to summer 2012, and is planning to revamp the franchise with a new director and a new cast. (There was actually a rumor around the time Spider-Man 3 was nearing production, when Tobey Maguire wasn’t getting into shape fast enough after injuring his back making Seabiscuit, that Jake Gyllenhaal may get called in as a last-second replacement.) As much as I didn’t think it would come to this, I’m sort of glad it’s working out this way. As much as I didn’t care for Spider-Man 3 myself and would have liked to see Raimi leave the series on a higher note, I have nothing but respect for him as a filmmaker and I think he should move on to something else (they guy’s spent the better part of a decade basically living in the Spider-Man cinematic universe; I’m sure he’d like to do other things). And I dig Tobey Maguire in the lead, but I’ve always hated Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane (she is hideous and unlikeable), so I won’t miss her. And Maguire is 34, so he may be getting a little long in the tooth to play the wall-crawler. I think a new cast could be a really great.

My only concern at this point is that if this is a sort of “reboot” to the series, we’ll have to sit through another origin story. I am so sick of origin stories. I love superheroes, but I’m so tired of every superhero movie/franchise starting with an origin story, where viewers has to spend an hour or more watching events line up so the protagonist can become the character we paid our money to see. Spider-Man has as compelling an origin as any other superhero, and Raimi did an excellent job adapting it to the screen in the first movie; what I’m afraid of is the studio and/or the new director will feel the need to put their own stamp on it, and we’ll have to sit through another 55 minutes of Peter Parker getting bullied and not talking to girls and getting bitten by enhanced spiders and learning to use his powers. I’ve seen that already. With any luck, this “new” Spider-Man 4 will do what I’ve been waiting years to see in a superhero film; start the story with the character already established in the world, and just go from there. Audiences aren’t so stupid that they need to be reminded who Spider-Man is just because there’s a new actor in the blue and red tights. But everything in the story I linked to suggests that we’re going to get exactly that.


In related news, they started shooting the Thor movie this month. Thor is a character I didn’t really get into until I got older and began to appreciate the awesome madness in combining ancient Norse with a sci-fi design sensibility that artist/co-creator Jack Kirby dreamed up for the character in the 1960s (not to mention the idea of mythological characters in what was up until then a very science-based universe; the classic Marvel books were very much artifacts of the Atomic Age), and ever since then I’ve had a soft spot for the hammer-wielding hero. The idea that they’re shooting a big-budget Hollywood Thor movie– directed by Kenneth Branagh no less! – is a serious trip. I sort of never thought I’d live to see the day, you know?

Thor stars Chris Hemsworth in the title role (I’ve only seen him in a couple of things, like the excellent little thriller A Perfect Getaway – full DVD review coming soon but I think he will be awesome), alongside Tom Hiddleston as his evil half-brother Loki, Natalie Portman as his human love interest, Jane Foster, as well as Anthony Hopkins as Odin, plus Ray Stevenson, Idris Elba, Colm Feore, Stellan Skarsgård and a several other people that I sort of can’t believe are in a Thor movie. Hopefully I’ll have finished picking up the pieces of my mind from the floor in time for the May 6, 2011 release date.

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A blog about movies, by a guy who probably watches too many.

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