The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk

Film review by: Witney Seibold



            “Grrr! I just split my pants like THE INCREDIBLE HULK! See that? Brawndo will make you need NEW PANTS!”


                                    -Commercial for the “Brawndo” sports drink



            So this 2008 film isn’t really a sequel to Ang Lee’s 2003 “Hulk.” In fact, “The Incredible Hulk” goes to great lengths to distance itself from the 2003 film. It has the decency not to retell the same origin story covered in “Hulk,” but it still manages to callously ignore any details or precedents set by the previous version.


            This irked me a bit, but then I openly acknowledge that I am one of the few “Hulk” apologists. I actually appreciated the 2003 film in all its oedipal and introspective glory. I liked Lee’s take on comic book material even though he admittedly had never picked up a comic book in his life. He got right to the heart of the Hulk mythology, which is less superhero and more Wolf Man.


            But this non-geekboy approach to a famous comic book character really grated on the nerves of the legions of comic book readers out there (a clan, it must be realized, that has, for better or worse, inherited the Hollywood blockbuster for itself), and they (I guess) demanded another Hulk movie. This time with more fights! This time with more chases! More action! Bigger fists! We wanna see The Hulk yell “Hulk smash!” and pound away with his oversized fists on another supermonster! Well, thanks to screenwriter Zak Penn (“X2: X-Men United,” “Elektra,” “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “Captain America,” “The Avengers” and “X-Men: Enough Already”) and director Louis Leterrier (“Transporter 2”) we’re now treated to that very thing. “The Incredible Hulk” is bigger, louder, faster, action-ier, and way less intelligent than “Hulk.”


            Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is living in Rio, trying to meditate his way through his angry spells and stay as hulkless as possible. It’s not just anger that transforms him this time, though, but anything that quickens his pulse (exhilaration, exhaustion, and even sexual arousal are bad news). He is secretly communicating with a university scientist (Tim Blake Nelson) who may be able to cure him of his anger-induced greenman transformations.


            Back in America, General Ross (William Hurt), a man who now co-created the Hulk using a super-serum (which wasn’t mention in “Hulk”) is trying to locate Banner and extract his irradiated blood in order to create a race of supersoldiers. Would an entire army of rage-fueled, uncontrollable behemoths really be worth a flip? But never mind. Also back in America is the general’s daughter Betsy (Liv Tyler), Banner’s girlfriend from the first movie, now a little less versed in Banner’s hulkiness (she acts surprised the first time she sees him transform into the giant green beast). Also on Banner’s trail is a bloodthirsty soldier named Blonsky (Tim Roth, easily the best thing in the film) who eventually volunteers to become a supersoldier-cum-rampaging hulk himself.


            Yes, of course the two hulks end up doing battle. And of course it’s on the streets of New York City.


            No introspection. No inner conflicts. Very, very little dramatic tension. There’s a scene in the film in which Banner offers to fall from a plane, hoping the exhilaration would transform him. Betsy pleas for him to reconsider: “You don’t know if you’ll even  change!” If there’s something that everyone in the audience knows at that moment, it’s that Banner will most definitely change. Everything is about as tense and as realistic as a low-watt comic book.


            Even the Hulk itself (voiced by Lou Ferrigno, who played the monster in the 1978 Hulk TV series) looks more cartoony in this film. Leterrier tried to make the monster grittier by smearing dirt all over its green skin, but its straight-outta-the-pages-of-a-comic-book face and oversized hands and feet rob it of any realism it may have had. The effects of the animated hulk monster are still really impressive, and the hot hulk-on-hulk action was handled with more grace than you would expect. It’s just not subtle by any means.


            Reportedly Edward Norton got into a few arguments with the producers over the film’s final cut. It’s a tempest in a teapot, if you ask me. They seemed to be fighting to turn a potentially mediocre film into a “kinda good” film.


            “The Incredible Hulk” is, ultimately, kinda good. Not deep, not moving, not definitive. Just a fun romp. It’s the rampaging Hulk movie the fans demanded and the safe one Hollywood wanted (complete with a 7-11 Slurpee™ tie-in. It has the geek-placating cameos by Ferrigno and Marvel bigwig Stan Lee. It has the musical quotations of the 1978 TV theme song. It’s a perfunctory and just satisfying enough. If you’re a Hulk fan then you could do a lot worse than this movie.


            Although, in my humble opinion, they’ve already done better.

Published in: on July 14, 2008 at 9:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

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