Spider-Man 4 … and 5 … and 6 …

Spider-Man 3 hasn’t even opened yet, and I think it’s already made something like $5.7 billion. As if any of us actually had any doubt, Superhero Hype! reports today that director Sam Raimi said Sony Pictures is planning three more installments before the first reel of Spider-Man 3 is even warm.

It’s hard to beat the first two Spidey flicks, which for my money are so good because of Tobey Maguire’s successful, accessible channeling of Peter Parker. We can all relate to this guy, whose best is never enough no matter how hard he tries, and whose best intentions have a way of coming right back around to knock him down hard. Knowing what he’s feeling makes it that much easier to root for the guy, and that underdog quality is what makes the character so human.

That’s why I’m still a little bit worried that Spider-Man 3 might be biting off more than it can chew. The Venom storyline is pretty far out there, and it might be difficult to believably translate that to a series that so far has focused primarily on heart. (And yet, with 76-year-old Alvin Sargent still in the writer’s chair and Sam Raimi still calling the shots, I’m sure it’ll be just fine.) In addition to Venom, there’s Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), Sandman’s connection to Uncle Ben’s death (which I’m hoping doesn’t turn out the way I’m afraid it’s going to turn out), Gwen Stacy (played by the ridiculously gorgeous Bryce Dallas Howard), more drama with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), battles with Harry (James Franco) and who knows what else they’ve crammed in there. We’ll find out soon enough.

I’ll be fine as long as there’s not another musical cameo by product-placed Macy Gray.

I bet the original meeting about that went something like this:

Sony Pictures President: Thanks for coming by my office, Stan.

Sam Raimi: It’s Sam.

Sony Pictures President: Thanks, Stan.

Sam Raimi: Sam.

Sony Pictures President: Here’s the thing, Sam-a-lam-a-ding-dong. The fellas over in the music division have got this new firecracker of a gal named Gravy May —

Sam: Macy Gray.

Sony Pictures President: Gesundheit! And we’re going to need you to put her in the movie in a singing cameo to help ship some soundtracks. How about that, Stan?

Sam Raimi: Sam. And I really don’t think I can do that. I mean, something so commercial and pandering and totally irrelevant to the rest of the film would be a major artistic and narrative stumble.

Sony Pictures President: I see. You’re right. Okay. Well. I’ll make sure Gravy Train —

Sam Raimi: Macy Gray, and I really can’t put her in the —

Sony Pictures President: — is down there on the set first thing Tuesday morning. We’re all part of the big machine here. We’re all in this together. Besides, if you say no, we’ll replace you with my nephew who just dropped out of his fourth film school.

Sam Raimi: Okay. Fine.

Sony Pictures President: Big thanks. I knew you’d do the right thing, Stan.

Sam Raimi: God damn it.

The question is, will Raimi and Tobey and the rest of the gang carry on after the third film? In this article on ComingSoon.net, both Raimi and Dunst say they’d do another.

Tobey Maguire, meanwhile, told the Associated Press at Spider-Man 3‘s global premiere in Tokyo on Monday that he’d do another “if a story presents itself, if we come up with something we feel deserves to be told,” adding, “I’m not going to make them just because they’ve been successful.”

Given enough cash, I’m sure they’ll all come back. And I hope they do, because I’ve loved these movies so far and can’t wait to see the third one.

(If I were lucky enough to be playing a comic book hero, I’d be begging for the 70-year contract and cranking out another movie as often as they’d let us make one. And I’d be rich, and I’ll take all of us out for pizzas and Pepsi.)

I’m sure we’ll find out what the future holds soon enough. In the meantime, Spider-Man fights all of his villains, 11 of Batman’s, indigestion from a bad burrito and some mild anxiety as he swings and flips and webs his way toward a theater near you on May 4, 2007.