STARRING: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt,
Tim Blake Nelson, Christina Cabot, Lou Ferrigno, Martin Starr, Ty Burrell
2008, 112 Minutes, Directed by: Louis Leterrier
new Incredible Hulk movie couldn’t be more different to its 2003
predecessor . . .
Few movies had as drastic a
change in box office fortunes as Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk
movie. In its first weekend in the USA, Hulk earned a promising
$62 million. The weekend after that it fell sharply to $18 million, and
then to $8 million the weekend following that! Bad word-of-mouth sunk the
film: it simply wasn’t what audiences expected. Walking out of cinemas
screening it, the sheer disappointment amongst ten-year-old boys was
palpable. Nothing had prepared them for the rather oddball art house flick
meets superhero comic book that was 2003’s Hulk. All they wanted
was to see was Hulk smash puny humans . . .
But if you don’t succeed at
first, then try again. And it is with this philosophy in mind that Marvel
decided to give their potentially lucrative Hulk comic book franchise
another shot. The new movie is simply titled The Incredible Hulk, hinting
that this time around the movie has more in common with the popular
late-1970s TV series than with the comic books – or heavens forbid! - the
first movie. And that, dang it, this time round the Hulk will be truly
Incredible Hulk thus
boasts an entirely brand-new cast and creative team.
An excellent Edward Norton replaces Eric
Bana as Hulk / Bruce Banner and Liv Tyler replaces Jennifer Connelly (not
a good move actually – Tyler is rather bland) as Banner’s ex-girlfriend,
Betty Ross. A stoic William Hurt replaces the gruff-voiced Sam Elliott as
Betty’s father, General Ross. Transporter 2 director Louis
Leterrier takes over at the director’s chair from Brokeback Mountain
director Ang Lee, bringing his action movie sensibilities with him in the
process. The screenplay is by
X-Men: The Last Stand
and Fantastic Four scribe Zak Penn along
with actor Edward Norton (writing under a nom de plume). Penn is a busy
guy by the way: he has already been signed to script 2011’s upcoming
Avengers and Captain America movies for Marvel . . .
"Much more action-packed and entertaining than the previous Hulk
movie. . ."
Judging from the credentials
involved you may think that The Incredible Hulk has dumbed down –
and you’d be right. But it in actual fact suits the material at hand much better.
After all, this is a movie about a big green giant dude in purple pants who
smashes stuff when he gets angry – which is about all the time! The Hulk
has never exactly been Marvel’s deepest superhero and is pretty, well,
one-dimensional when one thinks about it. But here the Hulk is portrayed
as a more “human” character instead of the single-brain-celled creature he
is usually portrayed as in the comics.
Straight-forward where the
first movie was convoluted, action-packed where Hulk dithered,
The Incredible Hulk dispenses with whatever back-story and exposition
there is over the film’s opening credit sequence. No tortured unresolved
oedipal conflicts here!
The Incredible Hulk
assumes that audiences already know the character and his back-story:
following an accident involving gamma rays, scientist Bruce Banner becomes
the raging super-powered, green-skinned monster The Hulk whenever he gets
angry. Of course the U.S. military in the guise of the corrupt General
Ross (William Hurt) - who also happens to be the father of Banner’s
girlfriend, Betty - is interested in getting their hands on the Hulk and
using his blood to manufacture a new breed of super-powered soldiers.
Banner becomes a fugitive, hoping to find a cure for his condition before
Ross and the U.S. military industrial complex can get their hands on him.
In that sense it is more of a sequel than a remake than some of the “let’s
give it another shot” talk may have let on.
The story kicks off in Brazil
where Banner works as a manual laborer at a bottling plant, trying to
find a cure and learn Portuguese in his spare time. (One of the film’s
funnier lines involves his broken Portuguese.) Soon however crack U.S. commandos
led by Tim Roth with a permanent five o’clock shadow (do they allow this
sort of thing in the U.S. military?) are on Banner’s case. He
escapes – narrowly – in an exciting foot chase on top of rooftops in a
densely populated Brazilian slum, an interesting and exotic choice that
makes a change from your standard Hollywood action movie locales.
must come to a head however. Banner must find a cure and he soon finds
himself back in the States where the Hulk faces off against the U.S.
military in a thrilling show-off on a university campus that may lack the
scope of a similar fight in the first movie, but which is emotionally more
This time Roth’s character
has however been injected by super-soldier juice and is well on his way to
becoming The Abomination, an over-sized monster against which the Hulk
faces off in a no-holds barred epic battle at the movie’s climax. This
final battle in New York streets replete with flying cars, lots of stuff
exploding and fleeing bystanders actually outclasses the final show-off in
the recent Iron Man by the way.
Except for one or two quiet
moments shared by Banner and his girlfriend while on the lam,
Incredible Hulk doesn’t waste a single frame on dull talky exposition.
It is all plot-driven and action-filled. In fact, unlike the much-hyped
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal
Skull, The Incredible Hulk never runs out of steam. Put simply:
this is the movie which audiences wanted to see back in 2003. No dull
existential angst and weird split screen film techniques. No mutant
poodles either. Instead we get some nice comic asides, including another
cameo by Stan Lee and a riff on those mega-stretchy purple pants Banner
always seems to wear.
With The Incredible Hulk
Marvel has done it again. Like the recent
Iron Man, Incredible Hulk is a definite Saturday matinee
crowd-pleaser. Kids – and their parents – will love it. Unfortunately the
only thing standing in the way of Incredible Hulk becoming the
summer hit it deserves to be will be audiences’ negative memories of the
2003 original. Well, forget about all that: The Incredible Hulk may
ultimately be as brainless as its main character, but it really is
“incredible” this time around. And Hulk smashes stuff too . . .
Don’t read any further if you haven’t seen the movie yet. Some notes
fellow comic book geeks would be interested in: One can see that Marvel
now has more control over the movie adaptations of its material in the way
they have now brought the concept of “cross-overs” to them. Robert Downey
Jr. as Tony Stark (Iron Man) makes a cameo appearance towards the end of
the movie and hints that a “team” – no doubt the Avengers – is being
Events in this movie also
hint that the villain in any future sequel would be “The Leader”, the
green-skinned criminal mastermind with the over-sized brain. In the movie
he is Samuel Sterns (played by Tim Blake Nelson), the scientist who helps
Banner with a cure. Speaking of cameos, look out for one by body builder
Lou Ferringo who used to be Hulk in the 1978 television series as a
pizza-loving campus security man. Also, Tim Roth’s character in the movie
states that he is 39 years old. The actor is in fact 47; closer to the age
Hurt’s character estimated him to be. END SPOILERS!