Marvel’s second attempt at a big budget Hulk film (following Ang Lee’s disappointing 2003 effort) is a much tighter and slick Hulk movie one would hope for.
Continuing with the trend of acclaimed thespians in comic book roles, Edward Norton stars as genetic scientist / man on the run Brice Banner. It is a role surprisingly tailor made for Norton, who has excelled in dual identity roles in the past (Fight Club, Primal Fear, The Score). Also, with The Hulk being Norton’s first action film, he has proven to be a master of all genres having successfully taken on musicals (Everybody Says I Love You), period films (The Painted Veil), and urban drama’s (American History X). Only comedy seems to be his kryptonite.
The Incredible Hulk begins with Banner in Brazil, where he is keeping a low profile whilst working in a bottle factory. He has also learned how to control his anger, with 158 days passed since his last “incident”.
On his trail is General Ross (a sadly miscast William Hurt), who wants Banner in the possession of the military so he can be prodded, tested, and used as a weapon.
Alongside Ross is the experienced yet aging star military recruit Agent Blonsky (an always in form Tim Roth), who has agreed to be a test subject for the long vacant super soldier serum which gives him extraordinary speed, agility, and strength. It also unleashes a destructive side which becomes transcended after a dose of Banner’s gamma infected blood turns him into the Abomination.
After Banner is found out (and the subsequent Hulk out that follows), he returns to the States where he contacts his ex-flame Betty Ross (Liv Tyler, who proves to be the best in an acclaimed group of supporting actors). They in turn seek out a mysterious geneticist (an over the top Tim Blake Nelson) whom Banner has been in contact with via encrypted e-mail messages and who claims to hold the key to curing Banner’s condition.
Needless to say, all hell breaks loos when all parties come together.
Taking over directorial duties is French filmmaker Louis Leterrier, whose action credentials with the first two Transporter films and Unleashed prove him to be the right filmmaker for this type of superhero movie. Gone are Ang Lee’s annoying split screens; the Hulk-outs do not take forever to get going; and a more than adequate villain has been included to go toe to toe with the giant green beast.
The Incredible Hulk features several excellent action sequences, spurned on by some spectacular (if not a little animated) special effects, which culminates in a super charged smack down in downtown New York City between the Hulk and the equally monstrous adversary The Abomination.
On top of being a fine SFX action movie, The Incredible Hulk is also a character driven superhero film which does not resort to the psycho babble of its previous incarnation. The film also features much more of an emotional under current, as pity is felt for this poor man who is persecuted due to his condition.
Another strength is that the film is not an origin story, although an origin of sorts is looked over during the opening credits.
The filmmakers’ objective to merge the acclaimed Hulk TV series with the comic book has been accomplished successfully, creating a taut fugitive thriller superhero movie. In a nice piece of nostalgic casting, Lou Ferrigno – he who portrayed the Hulk in the TV show, now accomplished with motion capture technology – provides the voice of the Hulk.
Also accomplished is something of a Marvel crossover with Robert Downey Jr. appearing as Tony Stark, and the super soldier serum no doubt a reference to Captain America.
However, with its packaged 90 min run time, you can’t help but feel gipped at the films conclusion. Several scenes from the overloaded trailer do not even make an appearance. Supposedly Marvel and Edward Norton were in a bit of a squabble before hand as to which cut would be shown at cinemas. No doubt Marvel won, but me thinks that the Norton cut would be the much superior film, if not a much meatier one.
As superhero films go, The Incredible Hulk is a good attempt yet just shy of reaching the giddy heights of Iron Man or the X-Men.