But, then, this had been the story of the series from the beginning: In the now-distant days of the millennial turn, fans were bracing themselves for - among other apocryphal permutations - the possibility of Freddie Prinze Jr. in a Chris Columbus-directed abomination, or Arnold Schwarzenegger as Doc Ock for James Cameron... and you don't even want to know what kind of horrors were to be visited on Spidey's costume.

The selection of movie-geek cult icon Raimi was a megaton bomb of heaven-sent good news to the "fanboy" set (I remember myself and four other ostensibly grown men, all of us on-duty video store clerks, literally jumping up and down for joy upon hearing the news) and the results were like some kind of dream: A lavish, heartfelt translation of the Lee/Ditko Spider-Man, complete with a perfectly cast Tobey Maguire in the most accurately-translated superhero outfit since Christopher Reeve. Raimi, so went the legends, had saved us all from what Sony Pictures thought a Spider-Man movie ought to be.

Subsequently, anyone also following the development of the fourth film had heard that the same old rift between director and studio was happening all over again. Still smarting from the mess the shoehorning of Venom made of Spider-Man 3, Raimi was (allegedly) keen to refocus the villain roster on the "golden age" 1960s Spidey-foes he preferred over 1990s "grim 'n' gritty" standbys like Venom (or Carnage, who's basically Venom but somehow even less interesting); specifically The Vulture. This evidently didn't sit well with Sony, and rumors flew that they were angling for the inclusion of Spidey's comic paramour The Black Cat in the story - nevermind the fact that they just did "tempted by other woman" in the last movie (though, admittedly, the sight of the rumored Ann Hathaway filling out a flesh-and-blood Felicia Hardy would've certainly helped gloss-over a lot of story issues).

Whatever happened between flash-and-bang no one has (publicly) revealed, but the final result looks an awful lot like both sides calling each other's bluff: Raimi walked away (presumably to dive into production on his World of Warcraft movie) and the producers immediately declared intentions for a back-to-school reboot of the series... which they already had a writer and script for! (Meaning, for those less-conversant with the business, that they'd been planning this in some form for likely several months.)

Even still, the maneuver on Sony's part represents a rare confluence of cynical market-driven groupthink and legitimate risk taking: "Start over, cast younger" certainly worked (from a profit standpoint, at least) for J.J. Abrams' slicked-up/dumbed-down Star Trek reboot (guaranteed to be the #1 example cited by Sony all the way through production on this new film), after all. But if nothing else, going for a full reboot rather than just continuing with or without the original cast (let's face it - while a fine actor, Tobey Maguire isn't the movie's star, Spider-Man is) would have been a safer, less controversial move to mainstream audiences than outright starting from scratch.

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