Why It Truly Was the Incredible Hulk

Yes, it’s time for another one of my movie reviews, because I’m just obnoxious enough to think that people really give a shit. If you’ve read my reviews before, then you should be familiar with the format; I do a general over-view and then break down specific elements. If I post any spoilers, I’ll label it under a specific paragraph and then make it so it’s only visible if you highlight it. Also, my reviews are sort of R rated. So anyway, here’s to it…

In the course of Marvel Comics brief film history, I think there will be two eras: everything before Iron Man, and everything after. For those of you not in the know, Iron Man was the first film to reap the benefits of Marvel Enterprises’ purchase of their own film studio, allowing them to produce their own films (which will include everything not previously licensed out). In the past, film studios have done what they wished with the properties. Some film-makers showed respect to them (Sam Raimi, David Goyer, Bryan Singer {I’m not counting Superman Returns}). Others have strip mined the source material, and made comic book films which featured the characters in name only (Tim Burton, Ang Lee). Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I think Iron Man, and now the Incredible Hulk, have proved that basing the film on the comics over-all provides a more satisfying movie, regardless of whether or not you’ve read the comics.

I loved the Incredible Hulk. It may not be as funny as Iron Man (what with Banner being a much more morose, tortured character than Tony Stark ever was), but I’d say I enjoyed it at least as much, if not more.

I never saw the Ang Lee film. I was turned off by Jennifer Conelly’s description of Lee’s vision for the film as a Greek tragedy, not to mention the trailers which showed off a hairless, green King Kong. It’s not surprising that Marvel chose to pull a “Batman Begins” and ignore the first film altogether. Their commitment to making this film as continuity-free from the first is spelled out in the opening sequence. Everything you need to know to enjoy this film are spelled out in the opening credits, and the details are filled in as the we go along. The film is a perfect mix of the sad, tortured world of Bruce Banner, and the primal, fantastic world of the Hulk. Neither is neglected.

Banner

I would never make this comparison in the comics, but I found a lot of resemblances between Bruce Banner and Jason Bourne while watching. The scenes in which Banner is evading his military pursuers evoke the kinetic action of the Bourne Identity. Not to mention the similarities in their life styles and some of their motivations. Both are military experiments gone wrong. Both are being hunted because of their values as weapons. And Bourne and Banner are both trying to understand who they are now and what has happened to them. I would never have thought to make those comparisons, but it works.

Between the espionage-inspired elements, we’re given a lot of human moments. It is made very clear from start to finish how alone he is, how much he needs Betty, and how desperate he is to get his life back.

Edward Norton absolutely awesome as Banner. He’s one of my favorite actors, and it’s easy to see why here. There is a moment early on where he adjusts his glasses, which directly mirrors a panel from Bryan Hitch’s illustration of Banner in the Ultimates.

Just in the way he adjusted his glasses as Banner would, I knew he was perfect for this.

The Hulk


I’m not sure how much Ang Lee focused on humanizing the monster in his film, but Louis Letrrier and Norton went a long way toward showing that the line between the man and the monster is far finer than one might think. Sure, for the most part the Hulk is still unrestrained fury, a force of nature… but there are asides throughout that show recognizeable connections to his humanity.

But don’t worry, there’s plenty of HULK SMASH, and a hell of a smashing it is. There are about four action sequences featuring the Hulk. Each one gets better than the one before it. And the best part is that it isn’t just the Hulk smashing things. There are plenty of trademark moves from the comics, and one from the video game, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, in which he tears a car in half and uses it as boxing gloves. My inner fanboy barely resisted cheering out as he took on Thunderbolt Ross’ assault teams.

CGI

It looked about a lot more realistic than I would have expected. Not real, mind you, but close enough so that it wasn’t a distraction. He’s not neon green in this one, and he doesn’t look like a retard. The facial features in particular were very impressive. And the Abomination looked really fucking crazy. I would probably crap my pants if I saw that coming at me.

The Actors

Unlike Iron Man, I was very satisfied with who they cast.

Live Tyler is one of those actors, who kind of plays herself in every role she’s in. She wasn’t nearly as spunky as Betty is typically portrayed. Betty Ross is supposed to be the only person on Earth who would actually yell at the Hulk. Plus, since they fuck, she should presumably have a humongous vagina. Or maybe Hulk is over compensating. That being said, I like Liv Tyler, and I thought she had a lot of chemistry with both Norton and Hurt.

And William Hurt is always good. There were moments here and there where he seemed detached, but when it counted, when facing either Banner or Betty or showing his Ahab- like obsession, he came through.

The only other major player was Emil Blonskly, played by Tim Roth. In the comcis, Blonsky was cold-war spy who gets gamma irradiated by accident and turns into the Abomination. Well, the Cold War is over, so they made him a special ops guy on loan from… I don’t know, some country or another. I thought Roth was effective as a career military type who will do anything to achieve his mission. Roth makes it clear though, that it’s more about ego than honor for him. This is a guy who doesn’t like to lose. And he’s crazy enough to do anything to make it happen.

What they took from the comics

A lot. Actually, the attempt was made to make it more like the TV Show from the 80s, even going so far as to bring in Lou Ferrigno for a cameo (and just to warn you, Ferrigno is mentally handi-capped, and while his speach ability is much better than when he was on the show, you will likely have no idea what the fuck he is saying, just appreciate the geek moment of him being there). As mentioned previously, there’s a moment Norton takes directly from the Ultimates. I’d bet there was a lot more that I didn’t spot. Fans should be on the lookout for a familiar name from the Hulk universe. And even Banner’s contact protocol was taken directly from Bruce Jones’ run on the title. Like Iron Man, you don’t need to be familiar with all of this, but the fans will get an added geek bonus from the experience.

Overall

The conept of the Hulk has always been a combination of big budget monster movie and psychological human drama. This film delivers both, in spades. I can’t think of a single second where I was distracted by an inaccuracy, shitty dialogue or any of the usual problems I have with this sort of film. I’d see it again. In fact, I probably will, just to enjoy without the sceaming children from yesterday’s showing.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by M to the Licious on June 17, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Hmmm, I didnt really have a desire to watch this until reading your review–you should get paid for this. I have always thought you to be VERY persuasive! 😉 HAHA.
    Ill have to check it out.

    Reply

  2. Heh. I WISH. I would love to write reviews in a magazine for a living. Thanks Babe.

    Reply

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