Abomination Villian in Hulk 2?
Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The following was originally posted on CNNMoney.com:

In his office, surrounded by his Hebrew comic books and an army of Marvel action figures, Arad seems supremely confident that his company is making the right move. "We have the most valuable library in the world," he says. "We've had one bad movie, Elektra, and it was bad because we didn't have creative control. That won't happen again." Soon, Arad is musing about the Hulk, whom many Hollywood observers now believe has the inside track to be the star of Marvel's debut self-made film. It would be an interesting choice, given that Ang Lee's version was a box office disappointment. But Arad thinks he knows what went wrong, and he has a plan for fixing it.

After praising Lee as a genius, Arad observes that "the Hulk movie was a study of anger, and people wanted a popcorn movie." Lee's film focused on the Hulk's origins - Bruce Banner's abusive father, his mutated DNA, the gamma ray accident that gave him the power to transform into a walking steroid attack. It was dark and intense, and Banner didn't even do his Hulk bit until nearly halfway through the film. "Our Hulk," Arad says, "will be a diet Hulk. Lighter. Focusing on the love story, Hulk as hero, and his battle with the villain."

For that villain, Arad has chosen one of his favorite baddies: Abomination, a former Yugoslav spy who has mutated into a 980-pound freak of terrifying strength and unpleasant demeanor. "He's capable of amazing feats," Arad says, eyes gleaming. And if Arad is right and the Hulk sequel or some of Marvel's other self-made films break into blockbuster territory, people will be saying the same thing about him someday.

And the Marvel plan seems to have already run into snags. Hollywood insiders say Arad had hoped to make Captain America Marvel's debut film. But that's not happening; Arad says he couldn't line up the director he wanted until 2009. Moreover, two films Arad now says could be among those first out of the gate, the Hulk sequel and Iron Man, aren't covered by the Merrill loan, which means Marvel will need another way to finance them. Arad won't say how he'll do that, but Marvel is not a particularly big company right now, and its resources - and ability to withstand costly flops - are limited. "It's one thing for major Hollywood studios to lose money," says former AMC Entertainment president Robert L. Friedman. "For smaller studios, it's a whole different ball game. Marvel had better keep its budgets in line."

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