The Spider-Man trilogy is a film series directed by Sam Raimi, featuring the Marvel Comics character Spider-Man. The rights to further motion picture films based on Spider-Man were purchased in 1985 and moved through various production companies and studios, before being secured by Sony Pictures Entertainment. Sony hired Sam Raimi to direct Spider-Man (2002) and its sequels, Spider-Man 2 (2004), and Spider-Man 3 (2007). Through the films, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) developed a relationship with his high school crush Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), and as Spider-Man, battled villains such as the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), the New Goblin (James Franco), the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), and Venom (Topher Grace). The first two films were met with positive reviews from critics, while the third film met mixed reviews. While a sequel to Spider-Man 3 was in development, Sony announced that the franchise would instead be rebooted. Raimi's trilogy, produced on a total budget of US$597 million, grossed nearly $2.5 billion worldwide.
Spider-Man follows Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), an orphaned high schooler who pines after popular girl-next-door Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). While on a science class field trip, Peter is bitten by a genetically-engineered "super spider." As a result, Peter gains superhuman abilities, including increased strength, speed, and the abilities to scale walls and generate organic webbing. After his beloved Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) is murdered, a murder Peter could have easily prevented, the teenager realizes that he must use his newfound abilities to protect New York City. Meanwhile, wealthy industrialist Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), the father of Peter's best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco), subjects himself to an experimental performance-enhancing serum, which creates a psychotic and murderous split personality. Donning a military battlesuit, Norman becomes a freakish "Green Goblin", who begins to terrorize the city. Peter, as Spider-Man, now must do battle with the Goblin, all while trying to express his true feelings for Mary Jane.
Spider-Man 2 picks up two years after the events of the first film. Struggling to balance both his superhero life and private civilian life, Peter still pines after Mary Jane, who is now engaged, and Harry continues to thirst for revenge against Spider-Man. As the stress of his dual life causes Peter's superpowers to wane, the hero must contend with the presence of Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), a.k.a. Dr. Octopus, a mad scientist with four mechanical tentacles fused to his spine who sets out to recreate a dangerous fusion-based experiment that could destroy half of New York City. As the villain rampages across the city, Peter must choose between living the normal life he desires or committing to his responsibility to protect New York as Spider-Man.
Spider-Man 3 picks up months after the events of the second film. The film finds Peter basking in the spotlight as Spider-Man, and finding a balance between being a superhero and being with his love, Mary Jane Watson. Harry finally decides to take his revenge by setting up Mary Jane, then becomes the New Goblin like his father the original Green Goblin , and threatens the elements in Peter's life. Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), another photographer for the Bugle, sets out on a mission to defame Spider-Man and incriminate him. Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), an escaped convict, falls into a particle accelerator and becomes a shape-shifting sand monster later known as Sandman. He sets out to steal money for his chronically ill daughter. Peter later learns that Marko is the one that killed Uncle Ben, causing Peter's own dark intentions to grow. This vendetta is enhanced by the appearance of the mysterious black alien symbiotic substance that bonds to Peter, resulting in the formation of a new, jet-black costume. Once Peter separates himself from the alien, it finds a new host in the form of Brock, resulting in the creation of Venom.
In 2008, Spider-Man 4 entered development, with Raimi attached to direct and Maguire, Dunst and other cast members set to reprise their roles. Both a fourth and a fifth movie were planned and at one time the idea of shooting the two sequels concurrently was under consideration. However, Raimi stated in March 2009 that only the fourth film was in development at that time and that if there were fifth and sixth films, those two films would actually be a continuation of each other. James Vanderbilt was hired in October 2008 to pen the screenplay after initial reports in early 2008 that Sony Pictures was in contact with David Koepp, who wrote the first Spider-Man film. The script was subsequently rewritten by playwright David Lindsay-Abaire and rewritten again by Gary Ross in October 2009. Sony also engaged Vanderbilt to write scripts for Spider-Man 5 and Spider-Man 6.
In 2008, Raimi expressed interest in portraying the transformation of Dr. Curt Connors into his villainous alter-ego, the Lizard; the character's actor Dylan Baker and producer Grant Curtis were also enthusiastic about the idea. Raimi also discussed his desire to upgrade Bruce Campbell from a cameo appearance to a significant role. It was reported in December 2009 that John Malkovich was in negotiations to play Vulture and that Anne Hathaway would play Felicia Hardy, though she would not have transformed into the Black Cat as in the comics. Instead, Raimi's Felicia was expected to become a new superpowered figure called the Vulturess. However, several years later Raimi stated that Anne Hathaway was going to be Black Cat if Spider-Man 4 had been made.
Sony Pictures announced in January 2010 that plans for Spider-Man 4 had been cancelled due to Raimi's withdrawal from the project. Raimi reportedly ended his participation due to his doubt that he could meet the planned May 6, 2011 release date while at the same time upholding the film creatively; he admitted that he was "very unhappy" with the way Spider-Man 3 had turned out, and was under pressure to make the fourth film the best that he could. Raimi purportedly went through four iterations of the script with different screenwriters and still "hated it".
So why reboot a property like Spider-Man so soon? Money, for one thing. After three films, Spider-Man star Tobey Maguire was getting $50 million to stay with the franchise for a least two more films – that’s $50 million in the budget just for the star to show up. Other big players in the franchise like Kirsten Dunst or director Sam Raimi would’ve also gotten fatter paychecks – and Raimi was pushing for more creative control on Spider-Man 4, after Sony forced him to wedge so many story elements into Spider-Man 3 that the whole thing became a bloated mess that most fans point to as the worst in the series.
In addition to the dispute over story elements and villain choices between Raimi and Sony Pictures for Spider-MAN 4, a big reason for the cancellation was that Raimi said to them he cannot make their deadline to have the film release at the top of summer 2011. Raimi reportedly wanted a budget around $300 for the film but Sony wanted something closer to $200 million. Why so high a budget? After three super successful installments, the cast salaries went over the roof since they were option just for the trilogy and had to re-negotiate with the cast to do a fourth.
Raimi's Thoughts on the Film
Raimi admitted to being "exhausted" with the "tremendous amount of delegation" needed to make "gigantic" movies like the Spider-Man films. However, it ultimately came down to an inability to get together a suitable story that led him to pass on a fourth installment of the blockbuster franchise.
"It really was the most amicable and undramatic of breakups: It was simply that we had a deadline and I couldn’t get the story to work on a level that I wanted it to work", he said of his split with Sony Pictures. "I was very unhappy with Spider-Man 3, and I wanted to make Spider-Man 4 to end on a very high note, the best Spider-Man of them all. But I couldn’t get the script together in time, due to my own failings, and I said to Sony, ‘I don’t want to make a movie that is less than great, so I think we shouldn’t make this picture. Go ahead with your reboot, which you’ve been planning anyway’".
He continued, "[Sony co-chairman] Amy Pascal said, "Thank you. Thank you for not wasting the studio’s money, and I appreciate your candor." So we left on the best of terms, both of us trying to do the best thing for fans, the good name of Spider-Man, and Sony Studios".
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