Incredible Hulk, The (2008)

hulk - Incredible Hulk, The (2008)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.

hulk1 - Incredible Hulk, The (2008)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.

hulk2 - Incredible Hulk, The (2008)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!!!

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4 out of 5

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