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.