Friday, June 13, 2008

The Incredible Hulk (Review)

One can hardly blame Marvel for wanting to hit restart on the Hulk films. As one of their big 3 properties and second only in character mass appeal to Spidey, it must have been hard to stomach the fan reaction to the Ang Lee joint. I guess this one is for the fans but as a stand alone film it’s only just OK. During the opening credits you see (silently) the creation of this version of the Hulk. Interesting that despite the reset this is not an origin film and it is set 5 years after the events of the credits… which also happens to be 5 years after Eric Bana went GREEN. I’m still not sure what to make of that. But in the present day Ed Norton’s Hulk is hiding out in South America doing odd jobs, keeping a low profile and taking anger management courses. One small misstep sends William Hurt’s General Ross down Amazon way with hired gun and all around psycho Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) in tow. Norton of course escapes but only after long foot chase and a teaser of a hulk-out. Back in the good ol’ USofA Banner has returned home to find his girl Betty Ross – daughter of the general (Liv Tyler – daughter of the rocker). They catch up but an ambush is in the works and we finally get a full on fight… one in which a slightly enhanced Blonsky is left a shattered husk. But that slight enhancement kept him alive and he juices up for fight #3 where we switch coasts (Iron Man already trashed LA) to Harlem(!) where Banner and Ross go to meet a not all there scientist type overplayed by Tim Blake Nelson. He succeeds in quashing the genetic changes of one outburst but in doing so Banner is captured. As he’s flown away Blonsky who is now totally off his rocker forces the doc to give him the Hulk treatment turning him into the Abomination and setting up the next villain in the process. And then there’s the final Showdown at the Apollo!!!

While this film doesn’t quite touch the lows of the former film, it never comes near the highs either. Lee explored the psyche of the character while Norton’s version is worried about how a lusty romp might excite him too much. Lee’s brilliant comic book editing, stunning visuals (non CG) and iconic superhero moments are all absent from this film as are the great acting abilities of Bana and Connelly. The villains though are a step up with Hurt’s no nonsense General getting a slight edge and Roth’s seething but never hammy performance blowing Nolte away. The tone of this film is more “bland damsel in distress melodrama” with pithy jokes tossed in, ya know - a superhero movie. Its also chock full of full on geek-out moments that will have the fans cheering which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Unfortunately, Hulk drops a month after Marvel Studios brought us the revelatory RDJ as Iron Man and this one just can’t hold a candle to that. It’s not an abomination but it ain’t nothin’ to ink home about either. If Marvel can keep all their output somewhere between this and Iron Man though, I’ll be quite happy with the master plan.

Geek Note: no need to stay for the credits – they bumped the Tony Stark cameo to just before it fades to black.


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