Sony Pictures are about to wrap up deals that will see Sam Raimi return to direct, and Tobey Maguire return to star in, Spider-Man 4 and Spider-Man 5. Yes, two more Spider-Man films, which will be shot back-to-back, starting in the autumn of 2009, with the first set for release in 2011.

Returning with Raimi and Maguire – who have yet to officially sign anything, but it’s only a matter of time – will be producers Laura Ziskin and Avi Arad. There’s been no word yet on Kirsten Dunst, although Mary-Jane Watson will apparently feature in Spider-Man 4, the script for which has been written by Zodiac scribe, James Vanderbilt. The villain hasn’t been confirmed, although a source of columnist Nikki Finke, who originally reported the story, says that, “once you find out who the villain is, you’ll know who’s playing it.” Intriguing…though my money would be on The Lizard, as played by Dylan Baker,k whose arc has been built up to through the trilogy. 

We have to say that, though Raimi’s involvement had been rumoured for a while, we’re a little surprised that Maguire is willing to come back to play Peter Parker. The impression we got from Maguire during press duties for Spider-Man 3 was that he was perhaps done with the character, and was keen to break away from typecasting. Clearly that wasn’t the case – and we’re glad. Recasting the role would have been possible, but Maguire has excelled in the role so far, so we’re glad to see him back.

However, he’s not getting any younger, either, which is perhaps another reason why 4 and 5 might be shot back-to-back, so that Maguire, who’s 33 now, can still convince as a 20something Peter Parker come 2011 or 2012.

Spider-Man 3, of course, made a ton of money worldwide, so there’s no surprise that Sony were keen to make more Spider-movies. But it was also a huge critical disappointment and a massive letdown following the heights hit by Spider-Man 2. So perhaps Raimi’s return to the directing chair is a tacit admission on his part that Spider-Man 3 wasn’t all it could be. Let’s hope that Spider-Man 4 (and 5) is a return to form for one of the most brilliant and naturally talented directors in the business.

Now, go Spidey, go!