Whatever Marvel did with The Incredible
Hulk, it would be most important they didn't make us
bored. They wouldn't like us when we were bored, though
even then we took Ang Lee's Hulk to somewhere over
$200 million. This time around, the introspective Lee has
been replaced by the respectful and hyperkinetic Louis Leterrier,
and one thing you can say about this Hulk - it's never boring.
Admittedly, it's occasionally silly, but
to its credit rarely ridiculous. Like the first Marvel Studios
production Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk puts
fun first, and somehow it's hard to shake the feeling that
that's going to tick off some fans. There's no pleasing
Even star/uncredited writer Edward Norton
seems okay with having some fun. At times, his Dr. Bruce
Banner acknowledges the oddity of his situation with a resigned
smile. He's had time to get used to it. In this go-round,
Banner has been living with the curse for more than five
years. Subtitles even fill us in on how many days he has
gone without "incident."
Leterrier and Norton wisely dispatch their
version of the Hulk's origin in the opening credits. For
a lot of fans, it will look familiar, borrowing more from
the television show than the comics. Regardless, everybody
knows it, so finally a superhero movie dares to be quick
about it, thus getting us deep into the meat of the plot.
And whether Norton or Zak Penn laid the
plot out, it's stuffed to the gills. Even as we see Banner
working off the grid in Brazil, General Thunderbolt Ross
(William Hurt) has a squad of Hulkbusters at the ready,
waiting for the moment Banner slips and reveals his location.
Meanwhile Banner communicates with the mysterious Mr. Blue
via encrypted IMs, trying to find a cure for his verdant
Along the way, the script weaves in the
origin of The Abomination, here played by Tim Roth, and
actually gives the character a motivation that doesn't seem
arbitrarily evil. At first, anyway. As part of the bigger
picture for fans, clues drop that will skip around a variety
of franchises. Look to 2011 for the payoff for some of the
references made in this movie.
The cost of all this is that a lot of character
development does have to get taken for granted. Banner's
bemusement we can understand; Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) still
doesn't get much to do but look worried with tears welling
up in her eyes. For better or worse, these are cartoon characters,
played sincerely and with just enough pathos to keep you
interested when the not-so-jolly green giant isn't around.
When he is around (and it's satisfying),
the Hulk still looks unreal. Though pretty complex as a
visual, his scenes always seem only a step or two above
the videogame tie-in. It can be forgiven when the green
goliath faces down the Abomination, or when the action gets
so frenetic you can't spend time worrying about it. But
in quieter moments, especially in connecting with Betty,
the Hulk and the humans really don't match up.
efficient and fun, but what gives it resonance for this
fanboy are the touches Leterrier throws in to show us he
knows where this all comes from. In addition to a script
really paying attention to the mood of writer Bruce Jones'
run on the comic book, the director nods to everything that
made this possible. The soundtrack occasionally picks up
echoes from the television series' score, hauntingly sad
notes that underscore Banner's tragedy - even if this time
around we don't view it as quite as tragic.
Ferrigno returns in both a physical cameo and voicing the
Hulk. The cleverest and classiest touch manages to get the
late Bill Bixby some screen time, an absolutely deserved
tribute. Without him, the Hulk would not have vaulted into
the mainstream consciousness so firmly.
Some might not be able to forgive the moments
that feel like a comic book, but that's what makes this
movie work so well. It's unabashedly taken from some of
Marvel's most vivid moments, and though it is hokey to have
a character say "…that would be some kind of abomination…"
to name the villain, it's not like this has been adapted
Thank heavens, because Stan Lee is much
more fun to read. And though, yes, The Incredible Hulk
is much more a movie where Hulk was a film, this
time around, it's much more fun to sit through, and far
more inspiring to buy the toys. Hulk smash toy aisles, too.