A brand new spin for Spider-Man

With Tobey Maguire and Sam Raimi no longer on board, the Spider-Man franchise is about to get a significant reboot.

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

"It's all happening right now. It's all coming together and it's very exciting," the actor Toby Maguire sheepishly told a BBC interviewer earlier this month when asked about the long-delayed Spider-Man 4. Less than a week later, the star had been dropped as Peter Parker in Sony Pictures Entertainment's next instalment of the Marvel comic-book franchise. What's more, the director Sam Raimi - whose three Spider-Man films with Maguire had grossed a staggering $2.5 billion (Dh9.2bn) - had also been given the boot. The news followed weeks of script problems in which the studio was rumoured to be at loggerheads with Raimi over which villains to use in the fourth movie. But rather than carry on where the third (huge grossing but rather lacklustre) ­Spider-Man film left off, Sony decided it would bring on board fresh talent and reboot the franchise entirely. A statement from the studio announcing the departure of the series' stars began with the line: "Peter Parker is going back to high school when the next Spider-Man hits theatres in the summer of 2012."

The studio wasted little time in finding filmmaking talent to attach to the project (most likely to be called The Amazing Spiderman), announcing the appointment of Marc Webb on Tuesday. The director rose to fame with last year's rather smug indie romance (500) Days of Summer, but his short career only included pop promos prior to that. The movie was an unexpected box office hit, however. It was also visually stylish and tackled some weighty emotional material - which surely worked in the director's ­favour. The fact that his surname is great for "Webb-slinger" puns probably didn't hurt, either. Reboots have been all the rage in Hollywood lately, with beleaguered franchises such as Star Trek, Batman and James Bond receiving huge commercial and critical boosts by returning to their roots. But despite Spider-Man 3 being less than brilliant, most fans believed that the series was relatively safe in the hands of Raimi - a long-time favourite for his Evil Dead horror films.

Sony's new direction allows the filmmaker to pursue the two dozen or so other projects he is currently associated with, most notably the Warcraft movie, based on the online role-playing game. It has also been suggested that Raimi might be the perfect choice to reinvigorate Superman, another hot Hollywood property (and mainstay of the rival comics house, DC). Maguire, too, is unlikely to be out of work for long, particularly if the persistent rumours that he is set to play Bilbo Baggins in ­Peter Jackson's upcoming The Hobbit ­series are to be believed. With plans for a significantly younger Peter Parker, it's likely that the actor who will take on the role is currently in high school somewhere and not yet a well-known face. Prior to confirmation of Webb's involvement, speculation was rife about which director would take over the series. According to the website Deadline Hollywood, Sony had a shortlist of four directors who were being considering for the job: James Cameron, David Fincher, Wes ­Anderson and Webb.

Most agreed that Cameron - who is currently riding high with Avatar - was highly unlikely to take the job, particularly if the summer 2012 deadline was to be met. Interestingly though, the director had planned to make a Spider-Man film in 2000 but the project stalled. The story that reached the screen in 2002 (directed by Raimi) was rumoured to have been heavily influenced by the treatment that Cameron had written a number of years earlier. Fincher was a more likely choice. With a CV that ranges from The ­Curious Case of Benjamin Button to Fight Club, he has proved himself capable of directing both intense drama and action. However, many felt he would be reluctant to return to a major franchise after a painful experience helming Alien 3, during which Fincher claimed to have endured incessant creative interference from the studio.

The idea that Anderson - the king of quirky dysfunctional-family comedies - would take on Spider-Man was seen as frankly ridiculous by most. Although the series has, since its creation in the 1960s, always been as much about Peter Parker's teenage angst as Spider-Man's derring-do, entrusting Anderson with such a property, could have resulted in Spider-Man donning a tweed costume and Bill Murray as Aunt May. But even if 34-year-old Webb is currently the best fit to breathe new life into Spider-Man, he can only dream of having as much support among fans as Raimi. It's possible that Sony may soon regret its decision to take the reboot route.