Sony Rehires James Vanderbilt to Write Spider-Man 5 and 6
by Brandon Lee Tenney
August 16, 2009
Web-heads young and old, rejoice. We'll be seeing a lot of our friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man on the big screen in the years to come. Now, as for the details of who, what, and when - the web thickens. Just as Sony is ready to launch Spider-Man 4 (set for a 2011 release) with Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire, and Kirsten Dunst all on-board once again, they've hired a writer to start work on Spider-Man 5 and 6, according to Variety. James Vanderbilt, of The Losers and David Fincher's Zodiac, will write an over-arching storyline that will extend from the fifth movie into the sixth - which might mean both films could even be shot back-to-back.
There's no word yet on exactly what Vanderbilt's story arc will contain, or if Raimi or the original cast will return to reprise their roles. Now, Vanderbilt isn't new to the Spider-Man universe, as he wrote the first draft of Spider-Man 4. Many of his original ideas will be seen on-screen come 2011; Raimi and Vanderbilt failed to see eye-to-eye, so David Lindsay-Abaire was brought on to rewrite Vanderbilt, which then led to Gary Ross, who is rewriting the whole thing yet again. In fact, this interconnected storyline was supposed to be a part of 4 and 5, but that idea was scrapped as shooting back-to-back was apparently out of the question.
By forcing the fifth and sixth movies to be shot in succession, Sony is hoping to pump out more Spider-Man films more frequently. As the interim periods have extended from two years to three to four between each franchise installment, Sony hopes to capitalize on the web slinger as often as possible with Vanderbilt's help. But here's the real kicker. Should Raimi, Maguire, and Dunst not want to continue their established roles, Spider-Man 5 will be treated as "the blueprint for a franchise reboot." I know a lot of you are probably seething through clenched jaws and grinding your molars to dust - but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't smiling.
Though I can appreciate the Spider-Man franchise's strengths (by that, I'm talking Spider-Man 1 and especially Spider-Man 2), I've never been a huge fan of what the main creators and cast have brought to the cinematic adaptation of my favorite comic book hero. Tobey Maguire never, ever felt like Peter Parker. And he was no Spider-Man that I recognized (except maybe the Spider-Man in the recent abysmal Brand New Day arc). Kirsten Dunst plays a fine Mary Jane - but she never knocked my costume off like I feel she should have. And while I'm an enormous fan of Sam Raimi's campy horror films (of both past and present), that sensibility never gelled with Spider-Man the way I hoped (and have continued to hope for).
Not to mention it's no secret that the main cast and crew have had their fair share of squabbles creatively. And, for that matter, now that this news has hit - I'm not sure just how excited I am for Spider-Man 4. Originally, Raimi, Maguire, and Dunst weren't even going to return. And with a script now passing through its third writer - I'm thinking we'll be seeing a lot of that discontent on screen. But who knows, maybe because this is their last shot, Raimi et al. will pull out all the stops and send this quadrilogy out with a bang. It could happen, I suppose.
Regardless, my mind is whirring at the mere notion that a new face will be behind those arachnid eyes and those eyes will be behind a fresh pair of taped-up glasses. There's so many directions this reboot could go. Will they incorporate Spider-Man's conception and Parker's most iconic moment of power versus responsibility? Will Peter Parker be in high school again, perhaps a younger take on the hero and a juxtaposition of his transformation as hero as well as a teenage boy raging with hormones (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as filtered through Brian Michael Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man)?
Will they flash forward and welcome us into a more experienced and established Spider-Man universe? A universe (like J. Michael Straczynski's run from #471 to #545) where Mary Jane and Peter Parker are a more mature couple, where Spider-Man has been in the hero profession for a while, yet still struggles to relate to today's youth. As of yet, this is all speculation. And, I'm guessing, will remain as such for a couple of years. Perhaps Vanderbilt's reboot of Sony's Spider-Man franchise will finally provide me the Spider-Man that I know and love from the panels of my Wednesday comics. And - just to get this out there - please, please, please consider Joseph Gordon-Levitt for the role. That's a casting change I can swing behind.