I don't know what to think about this latest "Spider-Man 4" rumor from Movieline.

John Malkovich as The Vulture?  I can get behind that.  He's physically right for the part, and he's at the age where he suggests the way the character was written, but he's still got the right stamina to actually play the part.  And certainly he's a great actor, and a great villain if the material is right.  And, let's not forget, he was one of the actors considered for The Green Goblin for the original "Spider-Man," and was evidently a real possibility at one point before the role eventually went to Willem Dafoe.

We've mentioned the hunt for Felicia Hardy here on the site before, but if this Movieline article is accurate, the character isn't going to be the character we think she is.   And this is by far the strangest decision they've made yet on this series, and that's saying something after the dance number in "Spider-Man 3."

Felicia Hardy in the comics is a character named The Black Cat.  She's basically Catwoman for the Marvel Universe, a thief of some moral complexity who sometimes romances Spider-Man and sometimes fights him. Hot girl.  Tight costume.  Pretty simple stuff.  And Anne Hathaway, who is alleged to be getting closer and closer to signing for the role, would certainly fill out the spandex well.  She's engaging, she's funny, she's gorgeous and she's physically substantial, so I could actually buy her in the action scenes.

But according to Movieline, although she's possibly playing Felicia Hardy, she won't be playing The Black Cat because Raimi and his round-robin of writers have decided that Hardy isn't The Black Cat, but is instead The Vulturess.

Can this be right?  If so, does that mean that Malkovich and Hathaway are playing father and daughter?  Or some other familial combination?  The original version of Hardy had some daddy issues, so it wouldn't be too out-of-line if she and Malkovich are connected.

But it raises the basic question, asked time and time again as source material is distorted wildly during the adaptation process:  why?  What urgent reason is there to reinvent the character?  If Raimi wants a Vulturess, why not just create one and leave Felicia Hardy out of it?

Oh, well.  One of us is worth millions of dollars and is actually steering the franchise.  And one of us is writing about him.  I think Raimi wins this round, and I'm sure we'll hear in the weeks ahead if this casting is final, and if these character descriptions are accurate.

"Spider-Man 4" is set for release on May 6, 2011.

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