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Weekend Forecast for June 13-15, 2008

By Reagen Sulewski

June 13, 2008

At long last, Hulk has remembered how to smash.

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If you thought last weekend's releases were interesting, wait until you get a load of this week's. Both come in with significant questions, to the point that many moviegoers are likely asking, "why were these films made?"

Released in the second wave of the comic book movie renaissance, 2003's Hulk should have been a slam-dunk. One of the more popular characters in the history of comics, with one with the most action packed stories, there should have been no doubt about it being one of the biggest movies of that year. Then Ang Lee happened. Turning one of the more straightforward comic characters into a plodding psychological study with dodgy FX, it was met with one of the more negative reactions ever for a blockbuster film (for the record, I kind of liked it). It limped to $132 million domestic and appeared to kill the franchise in its cradle.

Let's skip to five years later, though, with Marvel taking more control over the movie versions of its properties. One of their first choices to revisit: Hulk, this time with more Hulk Smash, and less daddy issues. Somewhere between a reboot and a sequel, it takes some of the key points of the first film and carries them through, but with an entirely new cast. Eric Bana is wiped away for Edward Norton, Jennifer Connelly becomes Liv Tyler and Sam Elliot becomes William Hurt. The new director is Louis Leterrier, who has helmed such illustrious films as The Transporter 2 and Danny the Dog.




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Norton's Hulk is now on the run from the US government, trying to hide and control his abilities/curse, wherein excessive rage turns him into a giant green monster. After the government tries and fails to find him, they decide the best way to catch a monster is with one of their own, which is entry #26 in the Bad Ideas Hall of Fame, right after reading something called the Book of the Dead. Tim Roth plays Emil Blonsky, transformed into The Abomination via the same process that gave us the Hulk. Suddenly Hulk doesn't look so bad, and he's called upon again to fight for the good guys (through one of the least hid cameos in recent years, Tony Stark/Iron Man from the insanely successful film that started this summer).

Some of the uglier effects problems seem to have been fixed with this edition of Hulk, and Leterrier probably doesn't even have the foggiest idea of how to go about exploring the larger psychological issues of being a huge green guy, even if he wanted to. Critical reception is surprisingly strong, though I detect a strong tone of "at least it doesn't suck like the last one" to them. The ads recently have been, if not outstanding, at least enticing, and the recent inclusion of Iron Man seems destined to drive a few million more to the box office. What remains to be seen is how much audiences are willing to forgive the previous film. The Batman franchise took a tremendous hit in its reboot, and it certainly looked better than this does. However, Marvel and Universal have done a fantastic job of selling this and it could easily wash out the sour taste of that previous film. Watch for a strong opening weekend of about $66 million.


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