|By Zach Patterson||Thursday, 17 Jul 2008|
I feel like this review is a few weeks too late to change anyone’s mind about seeing it, as they either already have, or are never going to. But in spite of that, I’ll press on. The Incredible Hulk is Marvel’s latest superhero movie, which is actually a reboot of the Hulk movie series in general. It’s a concept that’s fairly common in comics, that when a comic isn’t selling well or they’ve simply written themselves into a corner, they end the series and relaunch is awhile later with a brand new #1 issue and a completely new creative team giving the book a much different feel. While, it doesn’t happen too often in movies, Batman Begins and Casino Royale (and the Bond series in general) are good examples of taking the general idea of movies that came before it, but changing in favor of luring in some more viewers. For The Incredible Hulk, all the original cast from the 2003 movie is gone. Now we have Ed Norton as Bruce Banner, Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, and William Hurt as General Thunderbolt Ross. I’m not sure I’m 100% in love with the casting changes, as I thought Eric Bana was a perfect Bruce Banner, Jennifer Connelly was a great selection for Betty Ross, and you can’t beat Sam Elliot in any role, but I can understand that they wanted to go in a different direction. While I rather enjoyed the first movie, many people did not, and niggling little things about it ruined it for them (questionable director choice, Nick Nolte’s theatrics, bizarre ending). Well this movie fixes some of the big issues: namely, a hell of a lot better CG, more evenhanded acting and directing, no gimmicky “comic book panel” transitions, and better action scenes.
So this movie takes the general idea of the first movie’s conclusion (Banner is in hiding outside, government wants to get him back) and starts over. I think the best part about this new movie is that it is a good Hulk movie. What I mean is that this movie really feels like it takes the spirit of the television series and gives you a good “on the run” movie featuring the Hulk, whereas the 2003 movie really was a good Bruce Banner movie that was hampered by some Hulk scenes that took the reality out of it (and some of the CG hasn’t aged that great). But like I said, this movie really has some fantastic Hulk battles such as the one in the college park and the conclusion battle with Abomination. Additionally, the action is tight even in non-Hulk scenes, with a tense action scene early where Banner is running through the streets of Brazil trying to escape operative sent to capture him. The ending, which I think was a bit too much CG, was nonetheless an amazing action sequence that had me thinking “damn, this is what a Hulk movie should be like.” It was a rough, ragged fight between two monsters that shows that the Hulk can really be a brutal, unstoppable beast.
The weakest part of the movie, I felt, was the actual human interaction scenes outside of the big action pieces. It’s not that any of these actors did a bad job. Tim Roth, for one, was a fantastic villain here that wasn’t horribly stereotyped or obnoxiously overacting. Instead he just comes off as a man who wants to be powerful and strong and realizes that he is never going to be as good as he was when he was younger. Add that to a vendetta he wants to settle with the Hulk for beating the shit out of him a few times, and you have an excellent villain. Norton does a serviceable job as Banner, a man who is trying to contain his inner demons and get rid of them forever, but finds that this is impossible. The problem with Ed is that Eric Bana just did such a great job in the previous movie, that it feels like Banner in this movie isn’t much of a tragic figure. His only real issue is “Need to get rid of Hulk, miss Betty”, whereas in the previous movie they delved into Banner’s family issues and own personal demons. Liv Tyler is a pretty bland Betty Ross. I mean, nothing about her performance was terribly special. She worked in the role, that was about all I could say. Thunderbolt Ross is pretty much the same character as the last movie, a man who wants the Hulk at all costs, though his morality is a lot more in question in this one, as he knowingly makes Tim Roth’s Blonsky character into a monster throughout the movie. Additionally, his change of heart at the end of the movie to help Banner seemed poorly cut and hard to believe, like there was a full scene cut out somewhere. Because one moment, he’s finally got Banner and they are taking him away, and the next minute, he’s letting him go to fight Abomination.
So while I would call this a better Hulk movie, I do lament that this movie just doesn’t seem to have as much of a ‘heart’ as the first one. Good action movie, no doubt. Very entertaining. But that’s all it is. It doesn’t give you a lot more than that, and, for all the little issues with 2003′s Hulk, it definitely gave you a lot more than just the Hulk at times. Still, I would recommend catching this movie. I enjoy both Hulk movies, and this one is a worthy successor/reboot. It’s a lot of fun, and there’s a great ending cameo that fan’s of Marvel movies will love.