Edward Norton is not pictured here, but his CGI counterpart is in this still from The Incredible Hulk
by Gary Sundt
Five years ago, director Ang Lee made Hulk, a movie I have often referred to as the single worst movie theater experience of my life. See, I was dating this girl, and our relationship was heading south. I was only 15 at the time and couldn’t drive anywhere. And I was watching Hulk. I couldn’t drive away, couldn’t indulge my hormones, and the flick was simply awful. Art-house and comic books might be able to mix, but there needs to be… well, some sort of action in a Hulk movie. Instead, there was a whole lot of talking, jumping through the desert and monster-poodles.
Thankfully, director Louis Leterrier has corrected the horrors of the first film, and made a nifty flick in the spirit of (dare I say)… the comic book! The Incredible Hulk may not quite be as great as the title suggests, but this movie knows its subject matter. A Hulk movie should have an introspective genius named Bruce Banner who has a nasty habit of turning large and green when he gets pissed, followed promptly by lots of smashing and explosions. This is delivered in full in The Incredible Hulk.
The film opens with an astonishing shot of a Brazilian neighborhood, where Bruce (Edward Norton) has put himself into seclusion in hopes of curing his angry side and avoiding his old buddy, General Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt). Forgetting Ang Lee’s lore entirely involving gene passing, the story goes that Banner was conducting an experiment involving gamma radiation, headed by the cigar-smoking Ross. Things went crazy, the nerd went green, and he had to leave his home and his girl (who also happens to be the general’s daughter) Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) behind in favor of being constantly hunted by the U.S. government.
Banner has been pretty good at playing Jason Bourne, effectively disappearing from the grid and always staying one step ahead of Ross. It is because of this that the general enlists the assistance of Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), a badass to end all badasses who is very capable of extreme levels of badassery. Blonsky leads a team of soldiers, which causes Banner to Hulk-out, and the chase is on. After the initial encounter, Banner goes to get his long lost Betty, while the badass approaches the general in hopes of injecting some gamma-radiation of his own.
The Incredible Hulk begins and ends at the genre of chase movie, which is the type of film Leterrier has made before with efforts like Unleashed and The Transporter. However, because of some pretty big pacing problems, I was disappointed by the former and downright enraged by the latter. With this project, the director has not necessarily fixed these issues, but they are not nearly as glaring. The cast here is pretty phenomenal (Marvel is getting pretty great at drawing A-list talent to their endeavors), and their work, along with the impressive action sequences, allows The Incredible Hulk to flow at a brisk yet reasonable pace.
However, unlike the recent Iron Man, the top-notch cast finds their talents somewhat underused. The rather young Marvel Studios was very afraid of making another Hulk-snoozer, thus Leterrier and Norton apparently were asked to cut approximately 70 minutes from the movie. The result is a fast flick in which, after the opening, the audience is put through one action sequence after another. At that point, everyone (including Norton) seems to doing what they can in the brief spaces between explosions to keep this story as interesting as possible. This isn’t a bad thing, particularly because this is an action movie, but it is a balance that will hopefully be improved upon in future Hulk films.
However, my minor complaints are quite simply that – minor. I thoroughly enjoyed The Incredible Hulk. It was big and loud and awesome, and the film’s final fight sequence between The Hulk and The Abomination (aka gammarrific Blonsky) is alone worth the price of admission. And the script has dropped even more hints as to the future of Marvel comic-book movies. Don’t miss mention of the Super-Soldier Serum that created Captain America and the advertised cameo appearance of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr).
On the related subject, let’s just discuss the issue on everyones’ mind: The Incredible Hulk is not Iron Man. It doesn’t have a hilarious and suave James Bond-ian protagonist, nor does it have the “GO AMERICA!” undertones. Also, this film is simply not as good as Iron Man.
But who the hell cares? This is The Incredible Hulk! And, by God, this is a neat movie. Dare I say… incredi…
No. I’m sorry. I couldn’t do it. Not because of the title, but because it simply isn’t there. Not yet anyway. But we’re certainly getting close.
NOTE: During the film, I and my lady had the unfortunate occurrence of sitting next to a man with some pretty bad body odor. People: movies are for everyone, but consider taking a shower if you happen to notice you are smelling less than your best. I’m just saying.
Running time: 114 minutes. Directed by Louis Leterrier. Produced by Avi Arad, Kevin Feige and Gale Ann Hurd. Screenplay by Zak Penn and Edward Norton. Based on the characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Starring Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, William Hurt, Tim Roth, and Robert Downy Jr. A Marvel Studios release.