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The Hulk is no match for Charlie's Angels

Arthur J Pais | June 30, 2003 17:47 IST

The green giant was swept off the top position over the weekend as Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle rode away with $38 million at the US box office.

Ang Lee's The Hulk tumbled to second spot, having lost about 70 per cent of its box office muscle. While big-budget movies proved disappointing over the weekend, the scary sci-fi film 28 Days Later, made at $8 million, rode to fourth position, grossing a handsome $9.7 million.

Though many reviewers ridiculed the new Charlie's Angels movie for being more mindless than the first, viewers apparently had a very good time. But Sony was expecting a bigger take. Three years ago, the first Charlie's Angels grossed a strong $41 million in North America and went on to become a surprise hit across the globe.

Movie critic Roger Ebert called the new movie 'harmless, brainless, good-natured fun' in Chicago Sun-Times; the Daily News in New York gave the film three (out of four) stars. Many other reviewers were quite nasty about the film. The movie revolves around the exploits of three women  -- Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu -- who bust a plan to break a code that would reveal the identity of those who are under a federal witness programme. 

In Cincinnati Enquirer, Margaret A McGurk wrote 'the film is full of embarrassments,' while New York Post's Lou Lumenick called it an 'overproduced lingerie party.' One of the worst slaps came from Mike Clark in USA Today: 'Hard-sell and impersonal, the second Angels outing may be full throttle, but it's running on an empty tank'.

On the other hand, 28 Days Later which, unlike the major movies, is showing only on about 1,250 theatres (Angels is screening in over 3,500 theatres), is the clear surprise hit of the season. The film, already a big hit in England where it has grossed over $15 million, tells the story of a virus that places its victims in a permanent state of killing rage. Released accidentally from a research lab, it spreads across the planet. Twenty-eight days later, a small number of survivors trapped in London are struggling to protect themselves. As they continue to think of the means to save themselves, they slowly realise who their real foes are.

Fox Searchlight, whose other hit Bend It Like Beckham, is approaching $25 million across North America, will add a few dozens new locations to 28 Days Later next week.

Written by Alex Garland, directed by Danny Boyle and starring a number of talented but not much known (at least in America) artists such as Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Megan Burns, Christopher Eccleston and Brendan Gleeson, the film received generally upbeat reviews.   

While Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Eleanor Ringel Gillespie called it 'a fine apocalyptic nightmare,' Los Angeles Times' Manohla Dargis argued it was 'a shrewd modern nightmare.' The New York Times thought it was a film dealing with profound issues. Its critic A O Scott wrote: 'When 28 Days Later is not scaring you silly, it invites you to reflect seriously on the fragility of modern civilisation.'  

The film has boosted the reputation of Danny Boyle who made the anti-establishment hit Trainspotting in 1996 and the less-than-satisfactory The Beach with Leonardo di Caprio in 2000. While the former was a funny and angry film about Edinburgh heroin addicts, The Beach studied the adventures and misadventures of a group of people looking for an Eden-like settlement.

Despite the nasty fall, The Hulk is expected to make a moderate profit, which could be boosted by a good run abroad. But its performance will certainly be disappointing considering many people, especially producer Universal Pictures, had expected the film to be among the top five achievers of the year.

While most of the new films in the last two weeks have disappointed, old favourites such as Finding Nemo, Bruce Almighty and The Italian Job are still going strong.

These would not be affected much by the big trio -- Terminator 3, Sinbad, Legally Blonde 2 -- that opens July 2 because they have earned most of their money. 

But The Hulk could take a scary fall as Terminator 3 will make inroads into the action market. Sinbad will seek to win over millions of young fans who have already made Finding Nemo one of the biggest hits of the year (the movie got a cumulative $254 million). And Legally Blonde 2 will wean away many female fans from Charlie's Angels.


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