The Incredible Hulk
It seems like a risky move to remake an unpopular film just five years after it came out, but then again, as the folks behind The Incredible Hulk will tell you, it’s not a “remake” of Ang Lee‘s 2003 superhero dud. It’s more like a “do-over,” as in, “we’re going to tell a different story, but pretend the first movie never happened.” Sure, that’s easy to explain to the unsuspecting moviegoer.
Actually, the ads have the right idea – they don’t give any explanation whatever, instead simply trying to sell the film on its own merits. That works for me, since I somehow never got around to seeing the first Hulk. Marvel Studios, which produced the new movie, say they made it because it’s stupid not to try to capitalize on the second most popular Marvel character after Spider-Man, but frankly I never understood the appeal. He’s cool and all, but there’s only so much you can do with a barely-sentient monster who likes to smash things. I grew up as much more of an X-Men guy.
After seeing The Incredible Hulk, I’m still not too enthusiastic about the character, but I was happy to discover that the movie is a well-constructed morsel of entertainment; it’s neither as good as Iron Man, its Marvel cousin, nor memorable, but it’s fast-paced, well-acted, and captures that elusive “comic book feel.”
The origin story that so many of these movies get bogged down in is done away with as a series of brief shots over the opening credits: they were doing an experiment, something went wrong, now Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) can turn into the Hulk and is on the run from the government. All we need to know. I love Batman Begins and Iron Man just as much as the rest of you – seriously, they’re awesome – but starting a movie without a forty-five minute introductory sequence before the superhero part kicks in is a nice change of pace.
No, this time our hero is already a fugitive: living in Brazil, working at a bottling factory, trying desperately to both find a cure and control his anger. His anonymity doesn’t last long, of course, as General Ross (William Hurt) soon tracks him down and leads a crack team to capture him led by wildcard soldier Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth).
Banner escapes, of course, in order to head back to the States and meet up with his old flame Betty (Liv Tyler), the General’s daughter, but not before he Hulks out on the soldiers. The scene is a great slow-reveal of what the big green giant looks like; it’s slightly diminished by knowing exactly what he looks like already from the ads, but what can you do?
The incident further confirms to the General that Banner needs to be locked up
and his power needs to be extracted – obsessed with the technology that led to Banner’s transformation, General Ross dreams of creating squads of gamma-ray-enhanced super-soldiers. Blonsky is the very willing candidate for the test runs.
But let’s stop for a second and admit that Ross is the most obviously awful general in the world. Completely ignoring that his life’s work is a super-sketchy series of experiments that almost certainly are not legal or government approved, the guy is an idiot. He doesn’t seem to get that the Hulk cannot be captured. Bullets bounce off him, and yet he sends squad after squad of army men after him. Oh sure, rockets and such are used, too – they explode all around the Hulk, and when the smoke clears, he’s still standing there, not a scratch on him. And yet Ross continues to throw massive amounts of military resources at him. In the middle, by the way, of an open college campus. His higher-ups cannot be too pleased with him.
But hey, I’m thinking too much, right? Time to just throw rational thoughts like that to the wind and get caught up in the story, which soon sees Banner taking Betty on the run with him as they try to meet up with a mysterious man working on a cure while spending their spare time contemplating the more humorous aspects of being the Hulk. Banner’s constantly on the lookout for “stretchy pants,” a sly nod to the constant question of why the Hulk keeps his pants on, and in one brutally honest scene, Banner realizes he can’t even hit second base without “getting too excited.” Nice touch.
The action culminates in New York City – hey, why not – as Banner tries to be cured by Tim Blake Nelson in an amusingly off-putting performance. It seems like the cure works, but I guess I missed something, because he then transforms to fight Blonsky, who shows up with the General and finally gets pumped full of too many gamma rays, turning into his own version of the Hulk – a slightly more powerful creature called Abomination. Their climactic fight is a glorified cartoon, yes, but it’s technically proficient enough to keep you hooked.
The film has two buttons on the end. The first is a random scene that sees Banner, with no explanation, in a cabin in a snowy forest, doing something or other. It didn’t make sense at all, but then again, I recently read some internet rumors that there’s up to seventy minutes of footage that didn’t make it into the film, so perhaps that would clarify matters.
The second button…well, it was supposed to be a surprise, but now they’re showing part of it in the TV ads. It’s a great way to
end the movie though, and unlike Iron Man
, you don’t have to wait until the end of the credits for it.
Movie Grade: B
“The Incredible Hulk” kicks off an all-new, explosive and action-packed epic of one of the most popular superheroes of all time. In this new beginning, scientist Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) desperately hunts for a cure to the gamma radiation that poisoned his cells and unleashes the unbridled force of rage within him: The Hulk.
Living in the shadows – cut off from a life he knew and the woman he loves, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) – Banner struggles to avoid the obsessive pursuit of his nemesis, General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt), and the military machinery that seeks to capture him and brutally exploit his power.
As all three grapple with the secrets that led to The Hulk’s creation, they are confronted with a monstrous new adversary known as The Abomination (Tim Roth), whose destructive strength exceeds even The Hulk’s own. And on June 13, 2008, one scientist must make an agonizing final choice: accept a peaceful life as Bruce Banner or find heroism in the creature he holds inside – The Incredible Hulk.