a critiQal film review The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Plot: Caught in the heart of a gamma explosion, Dr. Bruce Banner (Norton) now finds himself transformed in times of stress into seven feet, one thousand pounds of unfettered fury - The Incredible Hulk. On the run from military forces lead by General Thunderbolt (Hurt), Bruce desperately searches for a cure - even while having to face a new more powerful foe: The Abomination (Roth).

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  • ...Hulk: Ultimate Destruction with too much Liv Tyler and not enough Edward Norton.

Ol’ green skin is back on the big screen. Following in the wake of the success of Iron Man (2008), will the unjolly green giant be able to overcome the bad press relating to his last outing, Hulk (2003), and make The Incredible Hulk the start of a true Marvel summer?

Edward Norton portrays the mild-mannered alter ego to The Hulk, Bruce Banner, in The Incredible Hulk. While Eric Bana’s Banner was uninteresting from the word “go,” Edward’s best scenes occur right in the beginning of the film, before his “dark side” even puts in an appearance.

Norton does a good job of conveying someone walking on an edge, and doing his best to overcome what he’s been dealt. From learning to control his breathing to a comical sequence with Grover from “Sesame Street” (TV) as Banner tries to learn Spanish, Norton does a good job of connecting with the viewer right from the start.

Unfortunately, when his alter ego does put in an appearance in The Incredible Hulk, Norton loses complete control, since The Hulk is little more than uncontrolled rage. Since The Hulk is such a big part of the film, it’s hard for the viewer to keep the connection Norton established in the beginning of the film, and the viewers instead focus on the impressive special effects.

The rest of the cast varies greatly in The Incredible Hulk. Liv Tyler, in a ridiculously breathy voice that sounds more like a forced whisper, does her best to suck all entertainment out of each scene she’s in, and the viewer is glad when they have the effects to focus on instead.

Tim Roth, who was so good back in Reservoir Dogs (1992), comes across in The Incredible Hulk as nothing more than a power-hungry brain-dead foot soldier.

William Hurt, the wounded general bent on a twisted revenge, does little to separate his character from it’s very simple comic book origins, making his character come across as little more than a cardboard cutout.

That’s not to say the acting in The Incredible Hulk isn’t without it’s surprises. The guest appearances of Stan Lee, Lou Ferigno (looking more muscled than ever – even after his own stint as jolly green in “The Incredible Hulk” (TV)) and Robert Downey Jr. are highlights of the film, and got well-deserved rounds of applause in the theater.

While the setup is good, the bizarre changing of the origin (now it’s at least partially Banner’s fault, rather than just an accident) doesn’t make any sense, and will throw a couple of viewers of The Incredible Hulk for an unneeded loop. There are so many ways this could have been left alone and still worked with the storyline, but apparently, the filmmakers decided it was easier to throw out the lore of The Hulk. Just like the hero’s newfound ability to shoot webs without the need of his scientific wizardry in Spider-Man (2002), this is one change that wasn’t needed at all.

The special effects, for the most part, are very impressive. Hulk himself is done much much better in The Incredible Hulk, and looks entirely believable in the situations they put him in (sure, Liv does occasionally look the wrong way during her Hulk scenes, but that’s just Liv). While the previous version was a cartoon gone bad, this time around he’s as fleshy as can be, and will easily have the viewers rooting for him.

Unfortunately, not all of the special effects are up to par. Some of them – like watching The Abomination try to run – aren’t that good, and come across almost laughable. Even those scenes, however, are miles better than anything seen in Hulk (2003).

For fans of the recent video game Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, this film is a must see. After all, Hulk does both the ‘car gloves’ and the ‘thunderclap’ moves from the game! Both are highlights of the effects, and are even cooler seeing on the big screen. And for those of you who haven’t played the game as of yet, you are in for a treat when you get to see those moves for the first time.

Unfortunately, The Incredible Hulk takes too many of it’s cues from video games. Rather than a complete storyline, the film seems to be split up into “missions” – with short interludes of acting in-between. While it’s nice to see the video game world brought to life so spectacularly, future Marvel productions should look at the success of Iron Man (2008) and give more thought to the plot.

While The Incredible Hulk blows it’s predecessor Hulk (2003) out of the field, it can’t match up to the spectacular goodness of Iron Man (2008).

A very good second try – but it could have been even better.

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