On the same day that Variety's Anne Thompson was enumerating the reasons "Why Iron Man Will Be Huge," The New York Times' Brooks Barnes was writing about a trio of warning signs surrounding the June 13th launch of Marvel Studio's second film, The Incredible Hulk, which include "bad buzz, creative infighting, and superhero gridlock at the multiplex." The general feeling in Tinseltown is that Iron Man will be a major hit, but The Incredible Hulk is in trouble.
One specter hanging over the new Hulk film is the "failure" of Ang Lee's 2003 Hulk, which earned $132 million at the domestic box office, but cost north of $150 million. The retooled Hulk from Louis Leterrier's new film, which is now titled The Incredible Hulk to take advantage of nostalgia for the TV series, will now come only in the nine foot size, whereas Ang Lee's Hulk came in three sizes depending on how upset he was. The Incredible Hulk's first trailer was designed to distance the new film's look from the 2003 movie, but the reactions to the new look have been mixed with Entertainment Weekly referring to the new film's effects as "totally fake-looking."
Then there is the "dispute" between Marvel Studios and the star of the new film, Edward Norton, who was also hired to do a rewrite on the script (see "Edward Norton Writing and Acting in Hulk") as well as act. According to The Times, Norton has let it be known that he won't do publicity for the film if the studio makes certain cuts that have been discussed. Marvel Studios has the right of "final cut," but in a highly competitive high summer movie environment, having a star like Norton out there on Letterman and The Tonight Show, etc. plugging the film is almost a necessity.
But competition (see "Best in Shows 2008, Part 1") is perhaps the major reason that some analysts think The Incredible Hulk might under-perform this summer. It will definitely have to open well, since two weeks later on June 27th the movie adaptation of Mark Millar and J.G. Jones' Wanted opens, followed the next week by Hancock, which features the charismatic Will Smith as a down-and-out superhero, and a week later by Hellboy II: The Golden Army. The high concept Wanted is just different enough that critics and audiences may warm too it (and having Angelina Jolie won't hurt), while Hancock, which was originally entitled Tonight, He Comes, has a very different take on the genre plus Will Smith's proven drawing power.
Still not all the portents are bad for The Incredible Hulk. The film is rated the seventh most anticipated film of the summer; a trailer for the movie will run with Iron Man (and Robert Downey Jr. is just one of a number of stars who will a cameo appearance in the new Hulk film), which should help build anticipation; and the core comic audience appears willing to give the new movie a chance. Critics are much more likely to be influenced by the amorphous concept of "bad buzz" than the general audience, but critical praise is not necessary for a film like The Incredible Hulk to do well, though it might be necessary for the kind of success that Iron Man appears to be poised to achieve.