Sunday, June 15, 2008

This Hulk isn't Incredible, he's Incredulous

The Incredible Hulk is as ferocious as its title character. Never mind the fact that it comes just a month after Marvel’s huge success of Iron Man and five years after the original that it would just as soon forget. Less than two months ago, nobody was very interested in this movie and just last week the buzz was unbelievable. After coming in at number one at the box office, the Hulk proves he’s got strength and smarts.

I’m not really a fan of the Hulk character and I did not think much of Ang Lee’s film outside of the curious casting of Eric Bana. But, I was interested in seeing this one because I am a big Ed Norton fan and like the fact that he rewrote much of the movie, even without an eventual credit.

Directed by Louis Letterier of Transporter fame packs much more action than the first movie, and maybe even more than Iron Man, but still retains much of the sensibility of the Hulk comics. There are great references to both the comic books and the television show and in jokes throughout the movie (Gen. Ross drinks Incredible Hulks!) and a requisite cameo from Stan Lee, Lou Ferrigno and Robert Downey Jr. But, it is a really good movie, with enough character development to really keep you interested in them, especially both Banner and Blonksy.

While it goes without saying that Norton is typically brilliant, I thought the real stand out was Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky. He took what could have been a rather one dimensional villain and made a soldier that you actually started to root for against the Hulk just for keeping up with him. He didn’t go complete DeNiro-Raging Bull for the role, but he did change his body type for the different levels of the super serum sequences. I would really like to see him back in the eventual sequel. I think he could be the Harry Osborn to Banner’s Peter Parker. Except with a good actor.

Ed Norton was really good, channeling his role in b to show Banner as a guy who is constantly getting pushed around and trying to brush it off and go about his business. He was really good internalizing his conflict and his feelings for Betty. Liv Tyler was really good as Betty Ross, showing the lighter side of her character that I didn’t get from Jennifer Connelly in the first movie. Of course, she’s pretty easy on the eyes too, but I’ve always thought she makes the most out of her material, especially when she wears glasses i.e. Jersey Girl. William Hurt played Gen. Ross ably. He was very stone faced in the film, but I think that’s a very specific decision by both the director and the actor to portray a man who has nothing but his work which is running down the street, tearing up Harlem.

All these characters work together very well in a story that doesn’t try to hard to explain where it came from, but only where’s it going to. The pace is fast, the action exciting, and there are great moments in between where I found myself totally involved without even realizing it until the movie was over. Some fanboys might argue over the Hulk’s perceived strength or different abilities, but when he Hulk Smashes in the final showdown, even I started clapping like a kid again. I like this movie, especially considering everything that it was up against. It was not as good as Iron Man, but definitely the third best comic book movie this summer.

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