CATEGORIES Movies
Now that 'Spider-Man' franchise director Sam Raimi suddenly has a lot of time on his hands, will 'World of Warcraft' be his next movie?

Last week's surprise announcement that Sony is rebooting the franchise without Raimi or star Tobey Maguire has prompted speculation about what Raimi will do next. One project on his to-do list is an adaptation of 'World of Warcraft.' Raimi announced in October that he'd hired 'Saving Private Ryan' screenwriter Robert Rodat to write a screenplay based on the popular video game franchise. But with 'Spider-Man 4' looming, that project seemed years away from completion.

Not anymore. Now that 'Spider-Man' franchise director Sam Raimi suddenly has a lot of time on his hands, will 'World of Warcraft' be his next movie?

Last week's surprise announcement that Sony is rebooting the franchise without Raimi or star Tobey Maguire has prompted speculation about what Raimi will do next. One project on his to-do list is an adaptation of 'World of Warcraft.' Raimi announced in October that he'd hired 'Saving Private Ryan' screenwriter Robert Rodat to write a screenplay based on the popular video game franchise. But with 'Spider-Man 4' looming, that project seemed years away from completion.

Not anymore.

"It's in development," Raimi producing partner Rob Tapert told ifMagazine.com over the weekend. "We're in the outline/story/script phase." But does that mean 'Warcraft' is on deck to be Raimi's next film? "I don't want to speak on Sam's behalf, because the 'Spider-Man' thing happened so recently," Tapert told the website. "I think he's getting his feet under him and trying to decide. He might want to do a teeny, tiny small film, but I don't know what he wants to do. I know he had a great time doing 'Drag Me to Hell.'"

Speculation has also been rampant about why Sony decided to overhaul a successful franchise and ditch its director and star in favor of a new storyline centered on a teenage Peter Parker. New York magazine's Vulture blog, talking to Sony insiders, believes it's found the culprit: it's the blue aliens of 'Avatar.'

According to Vulture, James Cameron's visual effects wizardry prompted Raimi to try to step up his game, leading him to propose an elaborate, spectacle-driven storyline for 'Spider-Man 4' that Sony feared would be too costly and time-consuming (with a planned May 6, 2011 release date on the line).

Plus, the blog reports, Sony nixed Raimi's proposed plot as too grim. In Raimi's storyline, Spidey would fight and kill a villain called the Vulture (to have been played by John Malkovich). Unfortunately, the old buzzard's daughter was Peter Parker's fiancée, and she breaks the engagement after her father's death, leading Peter to renounce his powers and toss away his mask. The End. (Well, at least until he presumably reconsiders in 'Spider-Man 5.')

Not only did Sony reportedly see this downer of a plot as a franchise killer, but so did toymaker Hasbro. "'Spider-Man' belongs to a millennial generation that demands continuity, and that requires long-term and careful design," movie toy tie-in consultant Jeff Gomez told the blog. "None of that has existed for 'Spider-Man' since the second movie."

But even if the studio and Raimi had settled on a script, Raimi and Maguire were still due to be paid a fifth of the film's gross. Without them (and with a cheaper, untried director and star instead), Sony's share of the profits would be a lot larger.

Given such penny-pinching decision-making, is it any wonder that Sony and Raimi parted ways, or that he might rather focus on video games?