[Update: E! Online‘s Ted Casablanca reports that all talk on Spider-Man 4, as well as 5, is “jumping the gun” according to his sources. He adds that Tobey Maguire has not signed on to return calling the earlier claims “premature.” Although it appears Maguire will probably return. – Jamie.]

Despite the fact that it made $900 million, I’ve yet to meet a single person who actually liked Spider-Man 3. Hell, the audience I saw it with went full-on MST3K resulting in huge laughter during the midnight screening.

But since its release, there have been countless rumors regarding the future of the Spider-Man franchise. “Is Tobey Maguire going to stop playing Webhead?” and “What will Sam Raimi’s involvement be… if any?” were among the many questions asked by fanboys across the internet.

Now it looks like plans are under-way to get Webhead’s fourth cinematic outing to the silver screen ASAP.

According to Nikki Finke over at Deadline Hollywood Daily, Sony has hammered out new deals for director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire to return for Spider-Man 4 among other things.

Even though most people would prefer her non-participation, Sony supposedly “would never recast” Kirsten Dunst as Spidey’s main-squeeze Mary Jane Watson. Although Finke was quick to point out no deal is in place for her yet – this despite the fact that her character will return.

“Once you find out who the villain is, you’ll know who’s playing it” says their source(s) regarding the identity of the next Spider villain. Um, okay. I would assume then they’re referring to Dylan Baker’s Dr. Conners. That’s the Lizard for all of you non-comic book readers out there!

And what about those rumors at the start of the summer of Spider-Man 4 and 5 being filmed concurrently? Apparently, Sony is considering it. While those God-awful Pirates of the Caribbean and Matrix sequels are not the best example of this, it did work for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Honestly, I find it hard to believe Sony is willing to fork all that money to Raimi and Maguire considering the reception of 3. I’m sorry, but this franchise needs new blood behind the camera. On the other hand, Jamie Vanderbilt is writing the script – the same guy who penned the most excellent Zodiac, which starred Robert Downey Jr.

Not to mention, Tobey’s getting on up there in years. He’ll be 36 years-old when its released in May 2011. You think he can still effectively play a character whose in his early-20s by then?

And what’s with the sudden “sacred cow” of keeping Kirsten Dunst around when damn-near nobody wants her (or her character) to come back?

I’m pretty iffy about this news, folks. Personally, I’d take it with a grain of salt until we hear something official from Sony.

Spider-Man 4 is currently aiming for a May 2011 release.

Source: Deadline Hollywood Daily