The Incredible Hulk
It’s easy to restart a franchise when enough time has passed to wash the bad taste of a terrible cinematic outing out of the collective mouths of the movie going public. Just ask Christopher Nolan, who successfully restarted the Batman franchise following Joel Schumacher’s failed attempts at the caped crusader. But what about just five years later, when the stench of failure still lingers? Louis Leterrier decided to find out by rebooting The Incredible Hulk, and where the pairing of Ang Lee and Eric Bana failed (which was everywhere), Leterrier and Edward Norton pass with flying colours, even if they only manage to produce a slightly better than average superhero flick.
Leterrier throws caution to the wind and decides to completely ignore the previous film, and instead take it on a new path, that parallels the iconic 70’s TV show. Provided only a brief, yet informative exposition, we join Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) in self-imposed exile in Brazil, working at a bottling plant by day, conducting his bio-chemical research at night. Gen. Ross has (William Hurt) has vowed to bring Banner back to the States for studying, and has gone so far as to bring in Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), the Russian born, English raised soldier known for his tenacity. After two failed attempts at capturing Banner, Ross and Blonsky conspire to infect Blonsky with the same gamma radiation that transformed Banner, only at a lower dose. Just to even the playing field a bit. This back fires when Banner visits his old love Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), and a maximum carnage battle ensues on a college campus. Blonsky becomes addicted to the radiation, and soon turns into Abomination, sort of a Hulk meets Stegosaurus. Epic battle in Harlem that ends in… I’m not going to tell you the ending. Go see the movie.
Yes, I do in fact recommend this film. The comics and TV show always managed to find the balance between the sublime inner-torment of the character, and the utter ridiculousness of the fact that he’s a scientist turned Not-so-Jolly Green Giant. That’s where Ang Lee’s film failed. He took the subject matter too seriously. But Leterrier found the balance. He injected his film with enough to make the character seem human, one who the audience could connect with. But he kept in the humour, and just a smidgen of camp.
Normally I don’t do this, but I have to give HUGE props to Craig Armstrong, the composer. He incorporated some of the TV show’s original music into his score. I particularly enjoyed his use of the sad walking away music (this piece of music right here).
The thing about Edward Norton (American History X, Fight Club) is that he is such a talented and versatile actor, yet this doesn’t somehow seem beneath him as an actor. This could be that the landscape of superhero movies has changed, with such noted actors as Ian McKellen, Robert Downey, Jr, Kevin Spacey and anyone in the principle cast of Batman Begins not named Katie Holmes, taking on roles in the superhero genre. Norton takes on the difficult role of Banner, and makes it his own.
It ranks up there as one of the better heroic performances in the genre, certainly miles ahead of Eric Bana’s, but he doesn’t wow me in the role, as Bale and Downey, Jr. did in Batman Begins and Iron Man, respectively.
I think the strongest performances belong to the two villains, of all people, Blonsky and Gen. Ross. Roth (Reservoir Dogs, Four Rooms) never goes over the top with Blonsky/Abomination, almost playing him as a junkie. And Hurt (Into the Wild, A History of Violence), going in the opposite direction, plays an often cartoonish villain with the right amount of serious vigour, and goofy, overdrawn mannerisms. His performance comes off as an odd mesh between Patton and Carter Pueterschmidt (that’s a Family Guy reference, second one of the review).
But while this film is clearly a step up from the previous effort, it lacks the social consciousness, or the stunning introverted look at the character that other superhero films have offered.
This marks the end of the official review. In the next paragraph, I’m going to geek out a bit, and it does contain spoilers as to the end of the movie. If you would not like to read the spoilers, surf over to another page.
*I hope that Marvel studios isn’t just toying with us on the prospects of an all star The Avengers movie. If you remember from the end of Iron Man, Samuel L. Jackson showed up as Nick Fury, recruiting Stark to join a “new team.” Well, at the end of The Incredible Hulk, we get a shot of Banner learning to control the Hulk, cut to Gen. Ross in a bar, in walks Downey, Jr. as Stark, looking to recruit Banner for a “new team.” With Captain America and Thor movies in the works, scheduled to be released ahead of The Avengers, it is safe to speculate they are planning an all star Avengers movie. Not to mention, that the Captain America film is called The First Avenger: Captain America. If Marvel is smart with the marketing, and no one has ever accused them of not being smart in that area… they could open up the summer with Cpt. America, and close it with The Avengers. It’s too bad Marvel’s film licensing is spread out all over the various studios, because then they could at least attempt cameos from other stars/heroes.