Theory and speculation as to the studios' ultimate motive already runs rampant. Comic Book Resources, along with many others, sees shades of Brian Michael Bendis' "Ultimate Spider-Man" in the 'teen spidey' angle (a wholly likely prospect that, quite frankly, makes me physically ill) while CHUD's Devin Faraci offers a grimmer but also entirely plausible theory: Sending Peter Parker back to school allows Sony to turn the franchise into their entry on the Angsty-Teens-With-Superpowers Twilight bandwagon.
But... whatever. The net benefit of geek properties now being so entrenched in the popular culture is that likely disasters like this are no longer as devastating to fanboys (well, to this fanboy, anyway) as they are to the careers of the decision-makers. Fourth movie or not, Raimi's films were never going to be the last movies about Spider-Man, and the same will hold true for the Smallville-ized, CW-style turd Sony is now fixing to polish. I'll live to see good movies about Spider-Man again, and so will most of us.
Still, it's all kind of perfectly tragic in its own way. Overall, the current blockbuster business is a kind of wish-dream for lovers of comic superheroes: A world where people are surprised when a movie about Batman doesn't get nominated for Best Picture; where big-name Oscar-winning actors are campaigning for cape 'n' cowl roles instead of the other way around, and where a planned set of Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and Captain America movies all cross-over with one-another in a predetermined buildup to a giant-scaled Avengers film. None of this would be happening without the impact of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films, but now Spidey has to die on the mountain like Moses, watching his descendants cross into the Promised Land, tortured by Sony... much the same as I'm torturing this corny Biblical analogy.
In a way, watching this story unfold has felt like being a (minor) witness to a death - not of a movie franchise, but of a dream. While it's unfair to judge something sight-unseen, it's hard to not notice that the now-proposed "hip, young, with-it" Spider-Man sounds like exactly the kind of lowest-common-denominator tripe comic fans (and gamers, and otaku, and, well, genre fans in general) used to always have to prepare to see their icons reduced to by the studio machine... which is why, in turn, "we" were so elated that Sam Raimi had gotten the job and why his movies (the first two, especially) looked and felt like something out of a dream. Watching this slow-motion-implosion play out, on the other hand, is akin to waking from a dream and remembering that you don't like the real world much at all.
Ah, well. Rest in peace, good Spider-Man movies. We never really know what we have until it's gone
Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.