Incredible Hulk, The (2008)

The Incredible Hulk (click for larger image)Reviewed by Nomad

Starring Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth and William Hurt

Directed by Louis Leterrier

Hot on the heels of the screaming success known as Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk has a lot to live up to, and one past ghost to overcome. Ang Lee’s sensitive tale of a man struggling to outrun his past while dealing with forces that have changed him from creator to destroyer, did not sit well with the public at large and comic fans who only wanted to hear two words. HULK SMASH! Now, with Marvel at the wheel, it seems there is an extra dose of love for the source material in play, but will it be enough to make an 8 foot tall, muscle-bound green man believable?

In the comics, it is a moment of self sacrifice where Dr. Banner throws wayward Rick Jones into a ditch to shield him from a Gamma blast that transforms a meek scientist into the rampaging Hulk. In this film, Banner (Norton) subjects himself to unspecified experiments when things go horribly wrong. Now Banner is on the run with US military on his heels, eager to retrieve what they see as a powerful new weapon…and they’ll get it out of Banner one way or another.

The Incredible Hulk (click for larger image)Now Banner has made a crucial error, sending General Ross (Hurt) and his “Hulk-Buster” team (not named so in the film as few people know about the Hulk yet) right for an intercept. Of course there is one problem. If Banner gets excited, it’s time for big green. Of course this happens, putting one elite trooper by the name of Emil Blonsky head to head with a power he never dreamed possible. Now Blonsky wants a rematch and he’s counting on the help of General Ross; by way of his access to Banner’s research; to help level the playing field. Monster madness ensues!!

The level of acting in this film seems up 300% from the last effort, as it should be. It’s not that the cast from the previous film were terrible; it’s just that the subject matter was so odd at times and often, I felt no chemistry between anyone. The anger between Betty Ross (Tyler) and her father (Hurt) is so thick it will make you slightly uncomfortable to watch…like taking a girl out to eat and running into her abusive ex-boyfriend who is also your waiter. You can also feel the affection Betty has for Bruce Banner as she instantly becomes a mess when seeing him in danger. Oddly, I didn’t feel it flowing in the opposite direction. Banner seems more intent on fleeing the military forces than rekindling his love and Norton’s performance hammers this home. It’s not like I expected him to be falling all over her but little moments where their eyes meet would have been extremely satisfying. I swear you’ll see more chemistry between Betty and Hulk!

This is not to say that Norton’s performance in solo scenes is un-watchable. Norton is more than up to the task of playing Banner as a man forced into a dire situation and making the best of it, taking responsibility for his actions and even taking steps to make sure it happens as infrequently as possible. Norton brings an amazing level of humanity to the character as he transforms back into Banner, not knowing where he is, barely clothed, with violent flashes of those who attacked his alter ego at every turn. Imagine having to pick up the pieces after every transformation…left stranded with no money, means or ability to call a friend or apparent way to make life easier. Sitting alone on a street corner with a strip of clothing, hoping someone will take pity.

The Incredible Hulk (click for larger image)It is also worth mentioning Roth’s Blonsky who runs through this film like a junkie turned mercenary, fighting for his next fix. Sweaty, pasty and twitchy become second nature as we watch Blonsky’s descent into self destruction, coming to a head when he discovers that missing ingredient that will make him Hulk’s equal. Roth is at first a cold warrior, then sympathetic old war horse, then sadistic, driven maniac making one last grab at immortality. The clash between Blonsky and Hulk is just as compelling as the inevitable throw-down between the grotesque Abomination and unstoppable Hulk…if not more so due to a higher level of emotional content.

Seeing the Hulk do what he does best is at once satisfying and conflicting. There are times where the CGI just doesn’t cut it and I’m left feeling I’ve stepped out of the movie and into a video game. Other times, it is so energizing watching Hulk take a blast from a weapon, rip a car in half or simply bound from building to building, you won’t be able to suppress a child-like giggle. My advice is to do your best to ignore the short comings of the technology and simply sit in awe of what you are watching…a HUGE green monster-man ripped straight from the comics…and one we’ve been waiting for for a long time. You’ve also got killer Marvel touches to look forward to and more importantly, details harkening to battles yet to come in future films…even beyond the green goodness.

The Incredible Hulk is not exactly the love letter Iron Man was, but more like an apology.

Dear Marvel Fan,

Sorry for that last time with the pudgy green guy who didn’t break…well…much of anything. We realize people watching the Hulk do so because he is a giant, rampaging beast that crushes most things in his path, so we should have given you that. Now that we are more in control of these films, we promise you will always feel we did our best to be true to the comic history.

Marvel then goes on to make a list of things we always wanted to see in a Hulk movie and even addresses some key Hulk mysteries like how he keeps his pants on and what happens when puny Banner gets a little randy. Every bit of it is in the new film. With excellent pacing, perfect tonal changes and well placed geek nods, Marvel once again cranks out the stuff of dreams. It may not be a beautiful theatrical painting, but Hulk most definitely does SMASH!!!

4 out of 5

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  • PelusaMG

    I finally saw this film and thought this review was spot on… Thanks!

  • Hunter1006

    I thought it was great.

  • Sirand

    Saw it and dug it…but Ang Lee’s film was better.

    • Nomad

      Ang Lee’s film wasn’t The Hulk though.

      • Sirand

        Yes it was. It was more accurate than the new version. Read the comics.

        • Uncle Creepy

          I remember the comics being fun, not a boring and flaccid telling of Oedipus Rex with ludicrous CGI.

          • Sirand

            See Messiah’s post below. The comics in their prime were about more than “Hulk Smash!”

          • Nomad

            Well then that’s his Hulk, not mine. My Hulk rips apart half the city and then stops to shield a little girl from an oncomming tank..then bounds away to the forest where banner wakes up by a stream with does sleeping around him. For me, its about the monster who surfaces to do what Banner can’t, so there is rage and power but under it, there is always sacrifice. Ang Lee’s film was too much about man’s soul and nature and buried anger..etc etc. I don’t want to watch that hulk. I want hulk to break things!

          • Uncle Creepy

            Yeah, what he said!

        • Nomad

          Hehehe..really? Absorbing man is Hulk’s dad who turns into a cloud to do battle? Hulk grows to 13 feet and sweats back down to size?

          The new version follows the ultimate story line to a degree.

  • ivelnoslo

    He turns into a giant monster. And we loves the Hulk, don’t we?

    I’m glad to see this news on my favorite horror website. I love horror. I love giant monsters. I love the Hulk.

    I’ll be seeing this opening day.

  • Chainsaw

    Who cares if it belongs here or not, it looks like it’s fun as hell.

    • Terminal

      I hope we get to see a review of “Passion of the Christ.”

      It had blood, guts, torture, a monster, and gore galore!

      Damn, I hope so.

      • Sirand

        Do you have to have an opinion of every single movie, review, comment, and forum post on this website? Give it a rest, man.

        • Sam Hell

          I say a movie that has its roots firmly planted in classic horror stories such as DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE, and even the first two FRANKENSTEIN films with Karloff, fits nicely on a Horror movie site.

          Basically, it’s a bit silly to haggle over something like this. No one, to my knowledge, has written some sort of Horror Manifesto that defines the boundaries of this genre. There are some aspects to horror that are purely subjective. There are films out there that clearly belong in the category, and there are films that aren’t as simple to define but still borrow elements of horror to make their story more potent. And without these elements of horror the story could not exist, or least it wouldn’t be worthy enough to hold any interest.

          It’s these films that are worth mentioning on this site just as much as FRIDAY THE 13TH PART INFINITY: JASON ON A PLANE. Because by doing so, it’s the same thing as saying “Here’s a film that wouldn’t be shit without the horror genre.”

      • PelusaMG

        I think the defining aspect of a ‘horror movie’ is the intention behind making them. IMO ‘Horror movies’ are intended to scare and/or disturb people etc. However, if you make a movie which has gore and disturbing images in it, but it is not your intention for your movie per se to scare and/or disturb people, then I would question whether it is a ‘horror film’.

        “The Passion of the Christ” is a gore-fest, but then so are the “Saw” films, but no-one would think they belong in the same genre or are attempting to be the same thing to the viewer.

        However, your point is an interesting one and begs the question as to why “The Exorcist”, “Stigmata”, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” etc. are unquestionably reviewed, but not “The Passion of the Christ”, which along with these other movies, addresses religious themes and the supernatural in graphic and disturbing ways…

  • Terminal

    This is horror? Heh. My seven year old nephew wants to see a horror movie? I have to halt plans to see it then. That’s the sucky thing about running a horror site, inevitably you want to review some things other than horror. I remember when Arrow in the Head started reviewing drama and comedy for a while and suddenly his site became horror, Science fiction, AND action. Hell, even Final Girl gives her opinions on dramas and comedies every once in a while. It just happens.

    Ah well, I’m not looking forward to this. Still seems like a sub-par effort, and Marvel’s insane pushing on it makes me dread it.

    I STILL love Ang Lee’s film.

  • Daymare

    I love Ang Lee’s take on the material (poodle-from-hell excluded!), but, yes, it was bound to disappoint the kids;)

  • RingoJ

    Leterrier is already talking about the DVD, which, according to him, will have up to 70 minutes of deleted scenes, one of which involves Captain America.

  • LSD Zombie

    I don’t care how advanced CGI becomes, it’s never going to look 100% organic. You will always be able to distinguish CGI from real flesh. With that said, I think the CGI looks pretty damn convincing.

    • PelusaMG

      The struggle has always been to replicate the texture of human flesh – somehow our subconcious always seems to know its not the real thing – but CGI ‘monsters’ is a different kettle of fish altogether. No-one can deny that the CGI has improved there in leaps and bounds…

      You know, if the CGI in this Hulk is shite, it makes me think they should go back to using a beefed-up guy spray painted green; and in a funny way, Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk is still way more scary than anything I have seen in these most recent incarnations – and I’m (very) old enough to know better!

  • Kryten Syxx

    The first Hulk film has much to apologize for: Babyface Hulk, Hulk Poodles, fighting in the clouds, comic book panels, and a total lack of thrills until the last half hour.

  • bludgeoner

    One would assume that in making a movie about THE HULK the main priority would be perfecting the CGI?? Any flaws or short comings on the CGI FX is just lazy if you ask me and deserves not to be ignored but questioned.

    • PelusaMG

      There is no excuse for bad CGI appearing in any film these days; unless it’s an Asylum production… :-/

      • Nomad

        You want to see bad CGI, take a seat for The Happening. With The Hulk, I just don’t think the technology is there yet.

        • PelusaMG

          For really bad CGI in a recent big-budget production, you can’t beat the opening tentacle attack in “The Mist”… No wonder they released a black and white version of the film, ’cause that looked totally shit in colour!

          • G.D.

            Yeah, that is fucking awful. I hadn’t really noticed it when I originally saw it but I watched it on DVD last weekend and yeah, jesus…wow…awful.

  • Sirand

    Ang Lee’s movie doesn’t need to be apologized for.

    • PelusaMG

      Ang Lee’s “Hulk” is a great film; it just had a lousy ending and some wierd dog-transformation shit. Change that wierdo freaky ending and get rid of the dog-shit, and you would have people loving it a lot more than they did.

      The transformations and moments of total destruction were out of this world… Don’t tell me you didn’t get a buzz when Hulk smashed up those tanks in the desert.

    • Nomad

      Sure it does. I love Ang Lee’s other work. It’s just not suited for the Hulk. It’s like hiring him to make the next Terminator film and allowing him to delve into the human survival instinct of Skynet, with scenes of exoskeletons trying to feel something while caressing flowers. You want to make a touchy feely robot movie? Fantastic..just dont call it Terminator. Ya get me?

      • Messiahman

        You obviously didn’t read HULK when Peter David was writing it during the nineties, did you? David’s run on the title was groundbreaking, and it’s from this that Lee culled many of the “touchy feely” ideas that he brought off so brilliantly in the first HULK film. Personally, I think Peter David was the best thing that ever happened to the title (which saw a drastic increase in readership and won well-deserved awards during his run) and Lee captured those themes perfectly.

        It’s a terrific film that nails the character and absolutely needs no apology, and your analogy is based on pure ignorance of the comic.

        Those bitching about it were only relying on their faded memories of the formulaic television show and the very early days of the comic.

  • frank_dracman

    I think it’s here because horror is close to fantasy. And fantasy is comics, after all. I also find that a lot of horror fans have more in common than just horror. Metal music, action movies, comic book movies with green monsters, dark comedies, dragons, etc. This is just from my personal experience, of course. So maybe the twisted minds that loves all things horror also like some of the same stuff out of the horror genre.
    As for the Hulk, this ALMOST makes me want to see it. Maybe I’ll just take the kids next door, they want to see it. Hell, if I can sit through Kung Fu Panda, I guess I can sit through damn near anything.

    • PelusaMG

      Just because it’s the Hulk, why debate its place here? DC covers stories to do with werewolves (Wolfman), so why not this – it’s the same premise (someone changing into a ‘monster’). The Hulk is the equivalent of a modern day Jekyll and Hyde.

  • Kryten Syxx

    Yes, it is a monster movie.

    • Terminal

      A PG-13 superhero science fiction action thriller, also! Horrifying!

      • Uncle Creepy

        The bottom line is that The Hulk IS a monster, and just like many other comic characters like Blade and Swamp Thing, we covered it for existing within the horror realm. Anyone who sees this truly spectacular little flick cannot deny that the last third of the movie is nothing more than an adrenaline fueled monster-mash with some kick ass creatures.

  • Blockbuster

    It’s here because he’s a big green monster, right?