The Incredible Hulk (2008)

19 Mar

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

When Ang Lee’s “Hulk” was released in 2003, it left many movie audience members (and a few fans of the original Marvel comic book series) feeling disappointed. I think it was due to the fact that it was heavy on character development rather than action sequences (the special effects didn’t impress them either). So, a sequel was out of the question and a “reboot” was called on schedule to completely ignore the 2003 disappointment.

As a result, the reboot, entitled “The Incredible Hulk,” is a fairly decent superhero movie. When “Hulk” was more of a character piece, “The Incredible Hulk” has some of the same characters (Bruce Banner/Hulk, Betty Ross, and General Ross), but not much development. And no, I don’t just mean compared to the 2003 film either. But on the plus side, Bruce Banner is given enough development—that counts, considering he is the central character. And the character is played by a terrific actor who almost always has great screen presence—Edward Norton. I have to be honest—I wasn’t sure Edward Norton could hold a candle to Eric Bana (who played the Bruce Banner character in the 2003 film). Eric Bana showed a great sense of vulnerability as the character and was the subject of a tragic case. In Norton, I felt he was just as strong and added some original touches to the character.

The movie begins with an opening credits sequence that shows images of Bruce’s back-story. Bruce Banner was part of an experiment for the government that went totally wrong. Bruce became the Hulk as a result—for those who are new, the Hulk is the nickname for a giant green monster that Bruce transforms into when he gets angry. When the opening credits are over, we see Bruce hiding out in Brazil, where he learns to control his anger so the Hulk doesn’t take over, much like “Jekyll and Hyde.” Bruce is trying to find a cure for…I was going to say, “disease,” but what exactly do you call this? I dunno, but if he wants it gone, it’s a disease in this case. Anyway, Bruce works at an energy-drink bottling plant, where a drop of his blood accidentally drips into one of the bottles. This leads to General Ross (William Hurt, chewing the scenery here) discovering where Bruce is and sending his soldiers to chase after him.

This leads to a few action sequences that I have to admit are more fun than in the 2003 film. They’re so alive and energetic. They’re as much fun to watch as the action sequences in “Iron Man,” of which this film is in the same universe (you’ll find out what I mean when you see the very last scene of this movie). But what doesn’t quite work in “The Incredible Hulk” was an element that helped make “Iron Man” a strong piece of work—the love story. While the romance between “Iron Man’s” Tony Stark and Pepper Potts was fresh and very sweet, the romance between Bruce and Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), the daughter of General Ross, just seems all too generic. Also, Liv Tyler’s performance was pretty bland. But to be fair, I think that had to do with the way the character was written. There isn’t much juicy material written within the Betty character. There is one exceptionally clever moment with Bruce and Betty’s relationship later in the film as Bruce and Betty are about to make love when Bruce realizes that he can’t get too excited. (I would love to explain the dangers of a superhero sex scene, but I’ll save it for a superhero movie that actually has one.)

I also should say I like this 2008 Hulk better than the 2003 Hulk. It looks a lot better than the former Hulk (which looked more like Shrek on steroids) and has better movements. Sure, it’s CGI and there were times when I didn’t believe it was there. But in the 2003 film, I really didn’t believe the Hulk was there. Wrapping this up, what have I left out? Only the soldier played by Tim Roth, whose character’s motivations are given away by the film’s trailers (shame on the marketers, by the way).

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