Marvel has a lot riding on this latest adaptation of the comic book icon. Giving the reigns to action director Louis Leterrier (Transporter, Unleashed) the 2008 edition, properly titled The Incredible Hulk, is undoubtedly a more enjoyable piece than the much maligned Ang Lee dud. As to whether or not there’s a franchise here, well that’s still shaky territory.
Incredible Hulk walks the line between sequel and re-imagining. Without any origin story, Leterrier’s version piggybacks Lee’s film in this manner. Instead, the film opens with the latest Hulk played by unassuming Ed Norton desperately seeking a way out with a cure. Gamma rays are mentioned in brief dialogue exchanges without any direct lines stating that’s how Bruce Banner came to be.
A heart rate monitor has been introduced to keep the audience aware of exactly when he’s about to change, though why it doesn’t simply affect him when he’s excessively ticked off is an odd choice. It’s only used for one scene to show how the radiation can change his personal life and is somewhat irrelevant for the rest of the film. It only serves as a plot hole later during slower scenes when he remains the Hulk and his heart rate is obviously dropped below the critical level.
Action is loaded into three key scenes, two of which open with an elongated chase. The first that takes place inside a bottling factory, hides the appearance of the Hulk through shadows and smoke. This works for some films, though in the age of the internet and heavy hype, it’s hardly a mystery by the time the audience settles in. Stylistically it works, but if you’re already assuming the audience knows how he came to be, why stay secretive and attempt to build a sense of dread as soldiers are tossed clear across the screen?
As the stereotypical cigar chomping military brass continues to search for the location of Banner (and he makes a mysterious, unexplained trip to America by apparently walking from South America to New York), we’re treated to a large scale brawl in broad daylight. This is where the CG effects begin a tailspin, including some of the worst looking helicopters in recent memory. Some impossible physical movements don’t help either. It has that “off” feel that’s hard to describe, yet you know the instant you see it.
It’s not that all of the effects are bad. There are some truly spectacular shots, particularly one that is ripped right out of the modern King Kong remake. Hulk sits on a ledge peering out into a valley with his love interest, played with an inconsistent performance by Liv Tyler. Their relationship is never fully explained to the viewer other than a past romantic interest. She seems inserted into the story purely for added drama in certain scenes.
Cameos include a “passing of the torch” of sorts from Lou Ferrigno, and of course Stan Lee in a funny bit early on in the film. Comedic relief tends to fall flat with the performance of the bumbling scientist by Tim Blake Nelson. While he does make some sense out of the usual loose comic book science, he’s almost too goofy to fit into the story. The attempts to bring some morals about government testing into the plot through him also fail.
The finale, loaded with the usual array of CG trickery, works for the most part. Edits are too fast, and the effects come off as clumsy as the viewer tries to follow the fight. When two juggernauts face off, the speed doesn’t seem to click with their hulking (pun intended) bodies.
It’s amazing how a simple concept, that of a massive green guy that breaks things is apparently a tough film concept for Hollywood to tackle. The energy for this update/non-sequel/restart/insert your own term here/re-do is high. Not much of that translates into classic comic book movie, and this is nowhere near what Marvel fans were given with Iron Man earlier in the year. For a cheap matinee, the loud booming action will probably offer enough to the average movie-goer to keep them satisfied.Powered by Sidelines