Not a sequel to The Hulk, The Incredible Hulk is more of a renaissance. It’s a rebirth of Ang Lee’s interpretation constructed to fall in line with the upcoming barrage of Marvel motion-pictures.
Speaking of which, at the close of The Incredible Hulk, fellow Marvel star Robert Downey Jr. makes a cameo as Tony Stark. Unfortunately for The Incredible Hulk, Downey Jr. steals the final minute and leaves viewers starved for more Iron Man rather than bowled over by the story of Bruce Banner.
Not to say that Norton – or any member of the cast – disappoints, but The Incredible Hulk is deficient in character development and script. On the contrary, there’s enough CGI stomping, clapping, and smashing to appease the action hounds and keep most viewers generally satisfied.
Without delving into the origin of Bruce Banner’s (Edward Norton) genetic accident (past the opening credits), we find Banner – five years later – hiding in a Brazilian favela. As Bruce works manual labor at a soft-drink bottling factory, he also works hard at keeping his heart rate under 200 bpm. This is because, with an elevated heart rate or a spurt of anger, Banner mutates into a nine-foot-tall green destructor.
When General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) discovers Banner’s whereabouts, the General sets his arsenal from stun to kill. This results in Banner secretly returning the U.S. to unite with the General’s estranged daughter Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) and find a cure for his gamma radiation. However, when the General hires British special-ops expert Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), Banner finds it hard to rid himself of the Hulk.
As expected, The Incredible Hulk lacks in building its mundane lead. Banner is not your average superhero, who traverses through a psychological progression of being conscious of his/her powers and deciding how to use them. Conversely, he is depicted as more of a victim of a dreaded illness than a fortunate recipient of superhuman powers. When he morphs (like a werewolf) into a big green lug, you witness Bruce attempt to suppress the change and regain control. After all, in his green giant state, Bruce becomes a beast that can only mutter short syllables and smash everything in sight. Likewise, Bruce remains largely unconscious of the Hulk’s actions.
In comparison to Batman Begins and Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk is merely equivalent to the first acts of the films. Seeing Banner repeatedly succumb to his larger, greener self is like watching Bruce Wayne adjust to his gadgetry or Tony Stark test out his flying suit. Regrettably, it isn’t until the end that Banner seems to establish control over his flare ups and use them purposefully.
Hulk, as a character, is more relatable to King Kong than a courageous caped superhero. The green guy is large, strong, and – in the face of danger – out of control. However, on the inside, a gentle side exists—especially for his damsel in distress.
Much like Banner’s transformations, The Incredible Hulk provides rounds of random firings of a swollen green monster and the action he induces; not much else occurs in-between. With that said, non-fans of the comic book and/or Transformers-esque action should steer clear. Otherwise, grab a bucket of popped corn, munch, and tuck this one in your back pocket for 2011. Even though it’s no Iron Man, consider The Incredible Hulk part of the foundation to the master plan (The Avengers).