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Movie Review: The Incredible Hulk

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I think I am one of about 27 people on the planet who liked, and more specifically appreciated, Ang Lee’s take on the title character in Hulk back in 2003. Although it certainly wasn’t as good as it could have been, I admired the ambition and the vast difference from all those other comic book movies out there.

But it proved a dud for movie-goers (although it made a lot of money at the box office) and left the producers looking for another way to bring it back to theatres without people holding the first one against them. And I am pleased to say that they have delivered what the fans wanted and didn’t fully receive from the first envisioning — full-on “Hulk-smash”, even if it lacks what I personally appreciated in the first place.

This time around there is no 45 minutes of an origin story (save for a small two-minute segment explaining the necessary basics of how the character became what he is) but rather it practically jumps right into it with Bruce Banner on the run and in hiding from General Ross and the US government. We soon are thrust into the action when Ross manages to find Banner and the chase is then on. As Banner tries to evade captivity, another man by the name of Emil Blonsky decides he wants what Banner can become for himself and eventually becomes an even more dangerous version of it.

The blockbuster season of 2008 was successfully kicked off with satisfying quality by Iron Man, a comic book movie that didn’t demand you knew anything about the character to enjoy it. However I think The Incredible Hulk does require some knowledge or at least interest in the character itself to “get it”. Now I am sure in a basic movie-going sense anyone (i.e. someone who doesn’t know the character from a hole in the ground) could get some sort of kick out of the action sequences. But it’s the scenes involving verbal confrontation and discussion of certain elements that may leave the casual, un-savvy viewer a bit miffed.

Although it’s one of the details that is of minor importance, the script is one of the weaker elements of The Incredible Hulk. Although they have it nailed when it comes to the action, and to be correct that’s the work of director Louis Leterrier and not the script the dialogue, in particular Liv Tyler’s as Banner’s love interest, Betty Ross, seems at times quite clunky and unconvincing. A lot of the film, in the non-action scenes anyway, doesn’t seem to gel together as well as it should and as a result it seems a bit all over the place in terms of how we go from one scene to another.

Most of the cast are fine in their roles, and I for one was perfectly content with the cast of the 2003 version, with the exception of Tim Roth as the Hulk’s adversary. He is absolutely badass in the role, even before he becomes the monster he does, proving that he has what it takes to play so many diverse roles, from Mr Orange in Reservoir Dogs right up to this truly villainous role as the soldier who ultimately becomes The Abomination. You’ll hear no outright complaints from me about the cast.

I really like how the film pays homage to both the origins of the character and the original, much loved '70s TV show. Lou Ferrigno, who played the character when he was in Hulk mode in the TV show, not only lends his voice for a little Hulk dialogue but also reprises his small cameo role as a security guard from the 2003 version. Just the sight of this guy again, who I am sure hasn’t done all that much since the original show, is almost worth the price of admission right there. They also include the theme tune that used to play when Banner would be trying to hitch a ride on the highway that should bring a smile to the face of anyone who has fond memories of the TV show. And there’s also a cameo appearance from the creator of the character, Stan Lee, adding to the list of cameos he has done for all sorts of comic book movies in the last few years.

I think what left me a bit disappointed with the film was how unimaginable its ideas are. It basically plays things out as you’d expect them — Banner on the run, the army catches up with him, he changes into the Hulk, manages to get away, and at the end there is a fight scene between him and the obligatory matching adversary. It’s not that it’s a bad film – far from it, because of how it plays things as expected – but it’s just not a great film because of it. Having said that I loved the way you can feel how the film builds to the final battle, and although shorter than I had heard and would have liked, it does deliver. The action fan in me just finds something satisfying seeing two giant creatures knocking the crap out of each other for minutes at a time. Something tells me the novelty will last a hell of a lot longer with this film than it did with Transformers, which wore off before I even left the cinema.

All those people out there who expected one thing from 2003’s Hulk and got another, less appealing thing will be satisfied with this version. It delivers the “Hulk-smash” mentality that people were looking for and it’s a satisfactory entry into the blockbuster season of 2008. However I can say with a straight face and a sense of conviction, and I have no doubt I am in the minority, that I preferred Ang Lee’s more ambitious version to this one.

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About Ross Miller

  • Count me as one of the 27 that enjoyed Lee’s Hulk. To be honest, this one doesn’t interest me that much. CGI looks kinda sloppy and the whole thing seems rather predictable. I liked Lee’s grappling with the character and thought the action sequences that were in the film were incredible. I may see this one, but I’m in no real hurry to do so.

    Cool review, by the way.