Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Incredible Hulk

While 2003's Hulk had a lot of big ideas, it ultimately didn't pull most of them off, and it really wasn't a very good movie. Not a bad one in my opinion, but still a failure. For this half sequel/half reboot, they lowered the bar quite a few notches, and the film managed to clear it. It's a solid action movie, not successful at everything it attempts but its errors feel more like stumbles rather than a complete collapse.

Obviously, they recast all of the characters and reinterpreted the look of the Hulk, so they're kind of pushing the last movie aside. But on the other hand, if you ignore the opening montage and a couple other flashbacks, it serves almost perfectly as a direct follow-up to that film's events, with Bruce Banner hiding from the military and trying to figure out how to fix his condition in South America. I was a bit nonplussed by the whole sequence showing him working in a drink manufacturing plant and his blood contaminating the product which leads to the government discovering his location. It picks up a bit from there, as he realizes they're on his trail and goes on the run again. The scene where he's running from soldiers through crowded streets and across rooftops while trying to not get his pulse too high might actually be the most exciting in the movie, not that I really want to undersell the Hulk scenes which are generally decent.

Edward Norton doesn't really remind you of the Hulk when you see him, but he does a very good Bruce, coming off as more intelligent than Eric Bana's portrayal and also seeming to be weighed down by the stress of being the Hulk. They actually got Lou Ferrigno to do the voice of the Hulk, and pull that off well, with him coming off a bit closer to the comic book interpretation than the other movie's version which only roared outside dreams to my recollection. The Hulk model itself doesn't seem as real as the other one did in 2003, but the focus is less on that and more on him just destroying crap. I've never been very impressed by Liv Tyler, though I do think she has more chemistry with Banner than superior actress Jennifer Connolly ever did. William Hurt doesn't really make that much of an impression as Ross, but Sam Elliott didn't either, and Tim Roth did about as much as he could with kind of a dumb villain.

So the movie goes on this way as Banner tries to avoid the military while trying to find a way to fix himself, as Roth's character gets obsessed with becoming as strong as him. Louis Leterrier's direction is competent, and the script is decent, resulting in a very watchable if unexceptional film. There were a few bits I quite enjoyed, and others I didn't. This time they tied the transformation directly to Banner's pulse rate rather any heightened emotional state, which seemed dumb, but it doesn't really break anything. The special effects are pretty competent, resulting in some pretty good action even if the final match up is a bit of a boring one. The end is a bit muddled, but it's set up for further misadventures with one of Marvel's most vulnerable heroes. I was disappointed to find out Norton won't be returning as Banner in Joss Whedon's Avengers movie, and can only hope they find someone who can pull off the part.

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