The news that Spider-Man 4 is being cancelled, and the series rebooted, seems to have caused something of a geek civil war to break out on the internet. One faction believes that the a trip to the re-bake factory is just what the doctor ordered for Peter Parker and his buddies, while others hail this ‘instant reboot’ as evidence that Hollywood has finally jumped the shark.

While it’s too early to be certain exactly what will happen with the new Spider-Franchise, a few facts that are already clear:

  • It’s starting a fresh, with a new cast and new director
  • It’s been on the cards for at least a few weeks, as there is already a script, written by James Vanderbilt, who’s previous credits include Zodiac and The Losers.
  • According to Entertainment Weekly, the studio are looking to take the franchise in a ‘more gritty’ direction.
  • The story will not only focus on Spider-Man’s super-heroics, but also on the teenage turmoil of Peter Parker.
  • The release date has been pushed back to Summer 2012 (Read 1st weekend of May 2012).
  • As with all previous Spider-Man films, Avi Arad (Marvel Studio’s CEO) is still involved as a producer.

Speculation based upon this limited information has been rife.

Within minutes of the announcement, many commentators, and a huge number of Spider-Man fans were talking about the possibility of the new films being based on Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man comics.

While this is nothing but wishful thinking at the moment, the fact that Sony seems to want to skew the story as some sort of teen melodrama lends credence to the idea. The focus of the comics is very much on the interaction between Peter Parker and his schoolmates, and they manage to combine web-shooting action with the mundane elements of Peter’s life in a wonderfully comic fashion*.  Quite frankly, Sony would be mad to reboot the series without using Ultimate Spider-Man as the template.

That said, Bendis has responded to the many fan queries about his possible involvement with the film through Twitter, and the signs are not good:

a stunning amount of ultimate spidey love coming at us because of the movie reboot. i have no info on any of this.

if this spidey movie reboot sounds intriguing you should REALLY be reading ultimate spider-man 🙂 thank you 🙂 on sale now 🙂

i work as a consultant on the marvel movies. this is a sony movie. i have no involvement. but maybe if you all scream loud enough 🙂

A few hours later he followed up with what seemed like conclusive proof that he would not be involved with the project:

i am truly overwhelmed by the spidey love today. you guys are awesome. very inspired to make some cool comics. eff movies. comics is it.

Hopefully Sony will see sense, and at least hire him as a script consultant before they start the production process proper.

One of the other topics of discussion has been the cast. Both HitFix and Empire have suggested a list of possible Peter Parkers, and amongst the ludicrous suggestions is one that might be a possibility: Anton Yelchin. In fact, if Sony were simply intending to mimic the previous series he’d be an utter shoe-in. But what if they aren’t?

In their press release Sony made a big point of Peter Parker’s return to high school. It’s not too much of a leap of the imagination to suppose that they would want to keep him in high school for as many movies as possible.

Part of the appeal of Spider-Man, at least to the core audience of young teens, is that he is one of them. The moment he moves on from high-school, a lot of that appeal dissipates. If Sony have Peter as a fifteen year-old, rather than the eighteen year-old of the original series of films, then they can squeeze out three ‘adolescent Peter’ films, before having to worry about him growing up and going to college.

In fact, if they cast an actor who is actually around fifteen, and crank the films out at a rate of one every eighteen months or so, then they might even be able to make six before they have to think about their next reboot.

With that in mind, it’s more than likely that the future Peter Parker, as well as the supporting cast, will be young unknowns, rather than an established actor.

Raimi’s replacement is another hot topic, and again, Empire have cobbled together a list of possible helmers. While it presents some interesting talking points, and it’s hard to argue with the idea of Edgar Wright taking the reins of the franchise, none of the names on the list are particularly realistic.

Various sites have suggested Michael Bay or James Cameron for the job, but it’s pretty safe to assume neither is seriously being considered. Quite apart from the potential scheduling clashes, not to mention the potential ego clashes, there is no way that Sony would be willing to pay the sort of money either man would cost.

Gary Ross, who is set to direct Venom** has been mentioned by Entertainment Weekly as a possible director, and if the spin-off has been cancelled, then he might have a shot at the job, but he’s got an insanely busy schedule, and if Sony want to begin production any time in the next six months, then it’s unlikely he’ll be involved.

The other name mentioned by Entertainment Weekly was Marc Webb. Of all the directors who have been suggested by the citizens of the interwebs, Webb seems most likely. 500 Days of Summer was a fairly likeable film, and certainly didn’t do too badly at the box office. It certainly showed he can handle the complexities of his character’s relationships without letting them overwhelm the film. He’s also relatively new to the industry, so will be unlikely to have arguments with studio executives over the integrity of his ‘vision’.

What’s really been getting people excited, however, is the possibility of Peter Parker somehow being incorporate into the wider Marvel universe.

If Marvel were still an independent studio it’s fair to assume Sony may have played ball, and allowed their new Peter Parker to interact with Tony Stark and co., if only as a way of courting the smaller studio. Now that they are a part of the House of Mouse, it’s less likely that Sony will be quite so willing to jump into bed with Marvel Studios. That said, back in the eighties Disney did manage to play nice with Warner Bros., Universal and a slew of other companies to produce Who Framed Roger Rabbit, so it’s not without precedent. The real key to a cross fertilization is Avi Arad, CEO of Marvel studios, and producer on just about every film based on  a Marvel property. If he can persuade Sony that it will help the film make money, then we may just stand a chance of seeing Spider-Man join the avengers some time in the future.

Over the next few weeks, if not the next few days we’re expecting to hear some news on the project, and we’ll make sure to keep you informed. In the mean time you can occupy yourselves by letting us know what YOU would do with the Spidey Rebake below. Who would you cast? Who should direct? What should the story be? Best answer gets either my respect, or a romantic night out with HeyUGuys very own Ed Whitfield.

*Yes, I am a huge fan.

**If there is still a Venom film, that is.