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Hulk... smash!? (film only)
The Incredible Hulk (DVD)
Member Name: calypte
The Incredible Hulk (DVD)
Advantages: more action-packed than the previous, good cast, good SFX
Disadvantages: not the most interesting of characters, and little sense of fun
The first plus, in my opinion, is that the movie doesn't assume the audience needs yet another genesis-of-superhero/mutant/whatever story. The opening credits whisk us through a bit of background, showing the experiment gone wrong and various newspaper clippings of Hulk stories. But we soon join up with Bruce Banner - this time played by Edward Norton - on the run from a US Military which thinks it owns the Hulk power (and thus Banner), and hiding out in Brazil as he tries to find a cure for his condition.
Norton struck me as a very weird choice to take over as the Hulk. He's a bit... weedy, perhaps? More of an Ac-tor, luvie, if you know what I mean. But I soon realised that he's here to play the tormented scientist rather than the creature, and he's for acting his little cotton socks off getting that sense of pathos in there! From lessons in anger management to just trying to stay off the radar, it's all set to be another tortured angst take on the story... until the commandos show up!
Yes, thanks be praised, the film-makers have twigged that the audience is only mildly interested in the 'Clark Kent' half of the character, so to speak, and we're all really here to watch the not-so-jolly green giant go a'smashing! It's a big relief to find that the special effects have also taken leaps and bounds: Hulk is no longer a cartoon-y green jelly, but has more of a solid, rough and downright mean feel to him. It. Him. Whatever! I certainly got the sense that this time around, the monster aspect is being acknowledged as the 'reality' of the piece, rather than something to be treated almost metaphorically. It does look as if just huge amounts more effort have gone in to the SFX, and unlike the previous effort, we aren't limited to seeing Hulk fighting in the shadows.
And fight he does! Having managed four transformation-free months, and five years off the radar (aside: it's been 5 years since the previous movie, which is a nice nod), Bruce's peaceful existence is shattered by the arrival of the US Army. Lead by an under-used William Hurt, the only real point/person of note is Tim Roth as the cocksure Blonsky, who becomes obsessed with stopping Banner and the Hulk. The lure of a super-soldier potion to let his 40-year-old body regain its youthful abilities is too much, but the question is - is it enough? How far will Blonsky go to get the upper hand?
Roth again seemed like a non-obvious choice, but he does deranged so well! He really throws himself into the character, and while it's hardly a fun ride, he definitely seems to be relishing it - without ever quite going over the top. The transformation into The Abomination (mentioned in every summary of the movie, so not a spoiler, I hope!) is less about the physical than the mental decline of the man.
That said, Incredible Hulk is very definitely trying to be an action movie, and while the contemplative side is still apparent, you can at least see the attempt not to allow it to slow the pace too much. Although I would suggest that it's a relief to see the glee of Roth's eventual transformation compared to the misery and suffering of Norton's Banner. And while the action is in the fore, there was still a bit too much of the other, especially in the scenes of lingering sorrow between Banner and his former paramour, played by a dull and an annoyingly breathy Liv Tyler. I haven't heard a good word about her performance, and I'm not about to add one!
Ultimately, I have to agree with other critics that the Hulk is just not the most interesting of characters. As a man, Banner is on the run and bemoaning his tragic fate; as a monster, he just throws and tantrum and smashes things. I did like the subtle twist here, with the Abomination character and Banner's reaction, but overall there's just not a great deal of variety in what the character can and does do. He gets hungry - urm, I mean angry ;) - and goes on the rampage. The 'deep and meaningful' psychological undertones (about inner rage, blah blah) are a bit too unsubtle and one-dimensional to *really* do much for me, and the overall tone just lacks any real sense of fun or humour - the things that made me adore Iron Man, and the lack of which leave me just a tad cold to Hulk.
Talking of Iron Man, and to inject a more positive note, I was hugely entertained by the crossovers and sly nods to other Hulk incarnations. The TV version's 'David Banner', Bill Bixby, is seen on TV at the start of the movie; the Hulk from the show, Lou Ferrigno, gets a (second) cameo as a security guard, and also voices the Hulk creature here. However, the real interest is the creation of a single 'Marvel Universe', letting all of these characters exist in a single world. Thus, the weapons technology comes from Stark Industries (Iron Man), and the man himself (Tony Stark aka Robert Downey Junior) pops up briefly at the end, and with hints of the continuation of the series. It's just a small fun touch to a movie that I did think needed a bit more light-heartedness to break the otherwise bleak tone.
So overall then, no - I wouldn't say this Hulk is a smash. For me, the tone was just a bit too world-weary to be really enjoyable - although that's really the set-up from the comic (and TV show), and I'll grant that the film is then a fairly good version of it all.
Despite not being entirely my cup of tea, The Incredible Hulk is a perfectly good addition to a genre that includes Spider-Man, Batman and The X-Men, and the second in a new 'Marvel universe' that started with Iron Man and looks set to expand with Captain America and more. I say - bring on the next slice of that world, and I'll go in the hope of more interesting 'heroes'.
Running time: 112 minutes
Full cast details can be found on imdb.co.uk
Summary: A tortured soul in a giant green body... goes to SMASH things!!!