The Hulk has arrived and with him comes the first real action blockbuster of the summer. Yeah sure Iron Man made some big waves, but it was short on bone aching action and heavy on sleep inducing backstory. Director Louis Leterrier and screenwriter Zak Penn make the assumption you know who the Hulk is, how he came about and what the circumstances are surrounding him, so they’ve decided to skip all the fluff. Say hello to The Incredible Hulk.
It all starts innocently enough with Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) laying low in Brazil, counting off 158 days without incident. That changes in an instant however, when General Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross (William Hurt) and his crack team of commandos, led by Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), come knocking his door down. Turns out, Banner has been trying to cure himself while running from Ross, since he found out Ross wants his gamma-infused blood to create an army of super soldiers. Super soldier is on the mind of Blonsky too; once he sees how powerful Banner becomes, he sets off down a path that he has no hope to return from (although it leads to a fanboys wet dream).
With that out of the way, it’s time to dive into the action and effects. I’m more than happy to say, The Incredible Hulk doesn’t suffer from the same cartoony looks that plagued Ang Lee’s attempt. You can of course, still look at the Hulk and know he’s computer generated but he looks so much more life like now. He’s sinewy and ripped beyond belief – I wish I had the same striations running across my pecs as he now enjoys. The real treat is watching him interact with his surroundings though. He crushes cars like tin cans, tears through the skins of buildings as he scales his way upward and reacts believably, albeit unpleasantly, to the various weaponry being fired upon him. Even the caring way he rubs the cheek of his love Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) is well thought out.
Performance wise, everyone does a good job. I’m not 100% sold on Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, although it is safe to say he does the role more justice than Eric Bana did. The chemistry between Tyler and Norton seemed a bit strained and unnatural but that may be a by-product of very little back story and/or in-depth character development. William Hurt, on the other hand, really shines as he walks the razor thin line between career and country, and friends and family. He’s also damn near unrecognizable (not that that matters for anything). And who knew Tim Roth is such an ugly, ugly little man (not that that matters for anything either)? He certainly looks like he’s having the time of his life playing a character that thirsts for more and more power.
I’d also like to say, I like the fact that homage is paid to the stars of the original television series The Incredible Hulk. Bill Bixby is seen on a television screen, Lou Ferrigno (who could still play the Hulk) gets himself a little cameo and even the original music by Joseph Harnell finds a home in a the movie’s score.
The Incredible Hulk is the movie that should have been made in 2003. It took an extra five years to get there, but this version makes up for that black eye and maybe even a few lumps Marvel Comics has had to swallow from the likes of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Ghost Rider. It is good to see the big green guy get his just desserts. Very good.