Next Superman Movie May Get a Hulk-Style Reboot

Is Hulk's success a factor in the next Superman movie? Warner Bros may be waiting to see if The Incredible Hulk reboot works before they decide what to do with the next Superman movie.

NEXT week's release of The Incredible Hulk could well be a green signal for a total restart to the Superman movie franchise.

There have been claims that the upcoming Hulk movie - a 'reboot' that's entirely unrelated to Ang Lee's 2003 version - will test the public demand for remaking recent films that didn't perform as expected.

Some have said that Warner Bros executives will be watching the performance of the new Hulk movie very closely, before deciding what kind of Superman movie they want next: a direct sequel to Bryan Singer's 2006 Superman Returns or a restart that's entirely unconnected (with a new cast and a new director).

The Incredible Hulk remake is notably different from its 2003 predecessor - there's a lot more action, it's closer to the TV series (which is the version most known to the mainstream), and it's less introspective and abstract. It also has a superpowered showdown with comicbook villain Abomination (although the look of that character has been altered from the comicbooks' more reptilian image).

There are definitely similarities between Ang Lee's Hulk and Bryan Singer's Superman Returns. Both underperformed at the box office and both were criticised for being overly arty and for being very much the individual visions of their directors at the expense of the characters and original material.

But the precise figures for the two movies are different.

Ang Lee's 2hr 15mins Hulk cost $137million and made back $132million in the USA and a further $113million overseas, a box office total of $245million (it would be $266million if adjusted for inflation to the same year Superman Returns came out, to create a level playing field). The film's takings plunged nearly 70 per cent on its second weekend, putting it in at number 48 in the all-time list of biggest drops at the box office. On the review site Metacritic, it got 74% from critics and 90% from the public viewers. On the RottenTomatoes site, which compiles critics' reviews into a rating, it gets 61%.

Bryan Singer's 2hr 34 mins Superman Returns cost around $204million according to The Numbers website. The figure of $270million on Box Office Mojo seems to wrongly include the costs of previous attempts at getting a Superman movie off the ground. The film made $200million in the US and $191million overseas. The drop on the second weekend was 58.5%. Superman Returns got 72% from critics on Metacritic and 57% from the public viewers. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 77%.

So, Superman Returns wins the battle with Hulk financially, in terms of gross takings and also profit (and its second weekend drop was not as high). While the RottenTomatoes total favours Superman, Metacritic makes Hulk the winner. The public viewers seem to like Hulk much more - and yet that enthusiasm didn't seem to translate into box office success. It might well be that a liking for the Hulk has increased over time.

Neither are terrible films but both failed to meet expectations and relied more on subtext and vague backstories than on punchy drama or action.

Marvel took back the rights to the Hulk from Universal and have now revamped it entirely. Whether that was a good idea will become obvious next week when The Incredible Hulk opens at the box office, and in the following weeks of its release - many are predicting the movie will not repeat the success of Marvel's current blockbuster Iron Man.

Reboots can do well. Batman Begins successfully restarted that franchise in 2005 after the more flamboyant Batmovies of the 90s (particularly the critical and commercial failure of Batman and Robin in 1997), though the film was not a massive blockbuster and had to struggle to regain public appeal after the bad taste left by the earlier movies. This summer's follow-up The Dark Knight is likely to do far better now a darker, edgier tone has been established.

Similarly, Casino Royale had something of a struggle in trying to restart the franchise in a more grounded and gritty style (with a more rugged actor in the lead) after the often-criticised Die Another Day. That previous movie was commercially successful but has been blasted for taking the Bond movies to the heights of pop culture fun (including a Madonna cameo) and stretching plausibility with FX-laden, far-fetched fantasy - a doomsday death-ray machine, an ice palace, an invisible car, 007 surfing on a tidal wave and the villain's ethnicity-changing plastic surgery. Nevertheless, Casino Royale was a massive success and is lilkely to build on that with Quantum of Solace later this year.

Fanboys are prone to crying 'reboot' when they don't get exactly the film they wanted or when movies go too far in a certain direction. The graphic shown here (above right) shows one online fan's feelings about these earlier movies (all deemed 'failures') and the hope for a restart to Superman.

Bryan Singer seems keen to do a more action-oriented sequel to his first Superman outing but we've heard nothing official from Warner Bros so far. Whether the studio is waiting to see how the Hulk reboot performs before deciding whether to give the go-ahead to Singer, or start afresh without him, is not known but the fans will certainly be watching to see how Hulk does so they can gauge for themselves whether a reboot is the answer.

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