Power players: some heroes super on film

May 03, 2007|By Tim Swift | Tim Swift,sun reporter

Spider-Man 3 swings into theaters at midnight, the latest in a long line of comic-book heroes who've gone Hollywood. While the past two Spidey films have set the commercial and artistic standard for the genre, not all superheroes pack the same punch. Here are some of the strongest - and puniest (all box-office numbers are unadjusted U.S. grosses from the Internet Movie Database):

Poised to save planet

X-Men: Unshackled from chunky exposition that hindered the first one, X-2: X-Men United was one of the best comic-book movies. And although X-Men: The Last Stand faltered creatively, Part 3 defied box-office expectations - making what was billed as the end merely a midpoint. A film for Magneto, the chief villain, is planned for 2009.

Total box-office haul: $606 million (after three major films)

Last movie: $234 million (X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006)

Batman: In 2005, director Christopher Nolan scraped the cheese off this once-dead franchise. With Christian Bale as Batman, Nolan brought back the darkness that the Caped Crusader demands. Next year, Batman faces his archenemy, the Joker, in The Dark Knight.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday?s Today section incorrectly reported box-office figures for the Superman movies. The correct amount is $518 million.

Total box-office haul: $776 million (after five major films)

Last movie: $205 million (Batman Begins, 2005)

Earned key to city

The Fantastic Four: 2004's Fantastic Four had what is missing from many of these super-serious movies: a sense of humor and fun. But when it was time to actually save something, the action fell flat. That problem may be alleviated in this summer's sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, when the team faces an eater of planets. Rise of the Silver Surfer opens June 15.

Last movie: $154 million (Fantastic Four, 2005)

Superman: Out of the movies for nearly 20 years, the Man of Steel resurfaced in last year's Superman Returns a lot more sensitive but a lot less super. But there were glimmers of greatness, and a trimmed version may have played better. The movie didn't gross as much as the studio had hoped, and a sequel - although often discussed - is in limbo.

Total box-office haul: $367 million (after five major films)

Last movie: $200 million (Superman Returns, 2006)

Dog catchers

Hulk: If there ever was an ill-advised pairing, it was the brutish Hulk and the pensive Ang Lee. The director showed grace and skill in the action genre with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But little of that awesomeness carried over into 2003's The Hulk. Although it tanked at the box office, the green guy's owner, Marvel Entertainment, wants a do-over. Columbia native Edward Norton plans to rage out in The Incredible Hulk next year.

Last movie: $132 million (Hulk, 2003)

Aquaman: HBO's series Entourage has had a lot of fun at the King of the Sea's expense. In the show, Vincent Chase plays Aquaman in a box-office smash. The network even put out a mock ad saying the nonexistent movie grossed $116 million. The ruse worked so well it fooled CNBC. Ironically, the fake buzz has created real buzz. The CW considered (but passed on) a TV series last fall, and a movie has been rumored. It was pitched as a comedy, but this is the guy whose superpower is having long chats with dolphins.

Fake box-office take: $116 million

tim.swift@baltsun.com

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