Ben Parker's wise words, "With great power comes great responsibility," apparently don't have much resonance in Hollywood.
As fans know by now, the planned fourth movie in the Spider-man series will be made without stars Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and director Sam Raimi.
If that weren’t bad enough, The Los Angeles Times reports the re-envisioned flick will concentrate on Peter Parker as a “teenager grappling with contemporary human problems and amazing super-human crises."
Um, wasn't that the focus of the first movie, which deftly established the Spider-man origin story and the characters, before quickly getting to a whole lot of action?
Sony's puzzling move appears driven by disputes with Raimi over script and budget. The new movie, originally scheduled for next year, reportedly won’t hit theaters until 2012.
These kinds of noxious battles are as common as smog in Hollywood. But Sony, by parting with the creative team that helped bring in $2.5 billion in ticket sales, risks alienating fans.
In two great movies and one pretty good one, Raimi successfully transported Stan Lee's sticky-feet-of-clay creation to the big screen, complete with the humor and humanity of the comic, maintaining the Marvel spirit while tweaking the legend in spots.
Maguire embodied both nebbishy Peter Parker and his wise-cracking, web-slinging alter ego. Dunst imbued Mary Jane with the right combination of sweet and sexy, while projecting a winning vulnerability too subtle for the comics.
Let's be realistic: actors and directors come and go. Fanboys and fangirls like to argue over who's the best Batman. The "Harry Potter" series has benefited from a regular change of directors as the tone of the series has darkened.
Sony would be making a big mistake by looking back when the Spider-man saga should be pressing forward. After being teased by appearances by Dr. Curt Connors, will we ever see the Lizard? Will the Black Cat try to claw her way into Spidey's heart? Will Gwen Stacy return?
Sony is the guardian of the Spider-man legend, giving the studio control over a character that means a lot to many folks. Fans will be watching to see if Sony lives up to Uncle Ben’s credo of power and responsibility.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.