Monday, May 15, 2017

Making a Marvel Cinematic Universe -- in the 1980s (part 2)

We left off with Universal making a Hulk reboot for theatrical release with the help of Bill Bixby. The problem is, Bixby would be 53 when this movie came out in 1987, too old to be rebooting the franchise.  Bixby would graciously agree to let someone else take over the role in exchange for being able to direct the movie.

Richard Gere would be picked to play Bruce Banner, and they would pick him up cheap because he was still three years from having a hit movie.
Lou Ferrigno would keep the Hulk role, saving the movie a fortune on special effects.

Jessica Harper would take a break from television movies to return to the silver screen as Betty Ross.

The teenager Rick Jones would be played by Jason Bateman, then adored for many television roles as teenagers, while still unsuccessful transitioning to films.

General "Thunderbolt" Ross would be played by Burt Reynolds.

While lacking the pathos and emotional heft of The Fantastic Four, The Hulk would offer suspense, with a bestial, raging Hulk threatening everyone but Betty and Rick in the origin story/first act, the mystery of who the Gremlin is really working for ("If it's not the Russians, then...?") in the second act, and then the Cold War escalation of Gen. Ross wanting to send forces into Russia to retrieve his daughter when Betty and Rick after they were captured by the Gremlin's agents. It would turn out that the Skrulls are behind escalating the Cold War, tying this movie into the FF movie preceding it.

Another historical piece, taking place in 1962, the soundtrack would feature "409" by The Beach Boys" (or "Rick's Theme," as it would become known) and "Crying in the Rain" by the Everly Brothers.

The film would run 108 minutes and make $42 million at the box office, twice its budget, and while that would not be enough to push it into the top ten highest-grossing movies of 1987, it would just meet the threshold for Universal to continue a Hulk series, though the original plan of producing a sequel for 1989 would be pushed back to 1991.

Meanwhile, the Fantastic Four sequel would already be in production. The breakneck pace of a new FF movie every two years would be possible by filming scenes for the sequels during the earlier filmings (a technique that would not actually be used until the Matrix films). Titled Fantastic Four 2: Return of the Sub-Mariner, the movie would begin with a 15-minute opening extended montage set in 1939-1942 and establishing who Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner was.

As for who Namor really was, that would be young actor Billy Zane, then best-known for a small part in Back to the Future.  The story would pick up in early 1962, with the FF tracking down the Skrull's leader, claiming to be a human called the Miracle Man. Super-hypnosis would make the FF think they were fighting generic movie monsters, but the Torch would accidentally blind the Miracle Man during the fight. The Miracle Man would flee and find an amnesiac Namor in a slum building and sic him on the FF. The Namor-Reed-Sue love triangle debuts, culminating in Namor summoning Giganto to wreck Manhattan. The Miracle Man is crushed by Giganto, but Namor gets away, setting them up for the next sequel.

The soundtrack would feature "Monster Mash", but also "In the Mood" during the opening flashback sequence.

Debuting in early 1988, Fantastic Four 2 would do even better than the first movie at the box office, quadrupling its $22 million budget at the box office with $88 million, coming just shy of pushing Die Hard out of the #7 slot for the year. At 118 minutes, this would be the longest Marvel movie to date, giving more time to quieter moments between characters and impressing the critics.

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