Everyone loves a superhero, but apparently no one wants to be one. At least that's what Marvel and its accidental superheroes will have us believe. One of the most paradoxical of these is the Hulk, the all-powerful alter-ego of Bruce Banner.
When Stan Lee co-created this accidental overdose of gamma radiation, he intended him to be more realistic than the cape-toting superheroes. When Zak Penn wrote The Incredible Hulk, he had a lot more to worry about. Not only did he have to improve tremendously on the disappointing Ang Lee version with Eric Bana, he had to re-create the magic of the TV series. The first step he took in the right direction was keeping the name from the series, The Incredible Hulk.
This movie was intended to be a sequel to the 2003 movie. When Edward Norton signed on to play Banner, though, he re-wrote a lot of the script to add flashbacks and allowed the film to instead become chapter one of an independent series. And I think this freedom from association really helped give the film a very individualistic character.
So, as the movie progresses past the titles, which show in flashes the effect of the excessive gamma radiation and the transformation of Banner, we join the fugitive superhero in Brazil, where he's trying to get rid of the Hulk. At the same time, he's trying very hard to avoid any incident until he finds a cure for his affliction. Through some terrific action sequences, we follow him as he returns inevitably to the States, and naturally runs into his ex-girlfriend Betty Ross, who coincidentally happens to be the daughter of the man responsible for his condition, General Ross. All you comic book fans already know what happens next — Blonksy, a Russian agent on loan to Ross, tries to confront the Hulk, and the battle begins.
The director, Louis Letterier, employs very well the natural talent of Norton, Liv Tyler, and Tim Roth, and makes the film darker than Spider-Man and more believable than Superman. The computer-generated imagery of the Hulk, very thoroughly criticized in The Hulk, is improved a great deal, and even the Abomination (though not addressed as that in the film) is also portrayed as a realistic and gradual transition. Another trump card used by Letterier is using the voice of Lou Ferrigno as that of the Hulk, which would definitely help humanize and familiarize the character to viewers.
The screenplay is taut, fast moving, and very self-contained. In fact, even Hulk novices could watch the movie, and not only enjoy but also gather a pretty clear understanding of the sequence of events, except of course the David Banner era, which we can, for now, just pretend wasn't there. The climax is very well conceptualized and the open ending leaves enough chance for multiple conclusions, either with only the Hulk or the Avengers.
The performances by the entire cast are exemplary. Norton as Banner is dead on in his usual hesitant drawl-y demeanor, and Tyler is very effective as the girlfriend who tames the Hulk. On a side note, is it just me or has Tyler gotten broader as she's progressed in age? Moving on though, Roth is very good as the poorly aging warrior with power as his only aspiration. Similarly, the cameos including the one by Farrigno are perfectly cast.
The Incredible Hulk is entertaining cinema at its almost best. It doesn't try to break any barriers of commercial cinema, but for a summer blockbuster, along with Iron Man, this year it's probably worth your while to visit The Incredible Hulk. I'd score the film on a scale of 1-10 at a very good 8.