Hulk, Shyamalan seek second chance at the movies

Thu Jun 12, 2008 6:05pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - This weekend's lineup at the U.S. box office might well be called a showdown between two Hollywood second-chances -- a remake of a superhero flop and a new film from an acclaimed director whose last movie bombed.

But if early reviews are any indication, the hands-down favorite to dominate megaplexes heading into the seventh week of the lucrative summer movie season is "The Incredible Hulk," a revival of the oversized green brute Marvel Studios first brought to theaters in 2003.

Critics say the new version, emphasizing action over introspection, is markedly superior to the brooding "Hulk" forerunner that got off to a strong commercial start but quickly fizzled as comic book fans found it lacking.

Reviews are less than kind to the only other wide release this coming weekend, "The Happening," the first offering from filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan since his "Lady in the Water" drew critical sneers and sputtered at box offices in 2006.

Still, industry watchers say Shyamalan, whose 1999 sleeper hit "The Sixth Sense" made him a filmmaking sensation, will likely give the Hulk a run for his money with his latest thriller about the outbreak of a mysterious plague.

"There's a lot of interest in this weekend because these two films have a lot to prove for very different reasons," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office tracking service Media By Numbers.

Much is at stake for Marvel, which is seeking to build on the recent blockbuster success of "Iron Man" with what it calls a "re-boot" of another one of its most popular superhero characters, the Hulk.

BIG BUCKS AT STAKE   Continued...

<p>The Hulk in a scene from "The Incredible Hulk". REUTERS/Universal Pictures/Handout</p>