The Incredible Hulk

Marvel's angry green giant returns to the big screen in The Incredible Hulk, both the latest summer blockbuster superhero movie and part of Marvel's attempt to create a cohesive universe for their upcoming Avengers movie. Ang Lee's bizarre and disappointing interpretation of the Hulk mythos has been forgotten for a more traditional story.

The movie opens with flashbacks showing Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) accidentally turning himself into the Hulk, which leads to his injuring his girlfriend Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) and incurring the wrath of General "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt) before destroying much of a military base and escaping.

We then see Banner living in Brazil, living as anonymously as possible while trying to cure his condition. He experiments with drugs, practices meditation and martial arts to control his rage. (A pulse monitor warns him when he gets too worked up.) He also corresponds anonymously with someone about his condition, and he pines for Betty.

The military hasn't given up on capturing Banner and turning his condition to a weapon. Ross is still determined to bring Banner in, and he recruits Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), a hotshot soldier, to lead the capture. Blonsky is all action, and when he willingly lets others inject him with the "super soldier" serum to get stronger, well, neither fans of the comic book nor anyone who's seen the trailer for the movie will be surprises to find out where that leads.

This movie is a mix of action, drama, and melodrama -- with mixed results. The special effects are light years ahead of those for the last movie, and the Hulk's big battles -- against the military and the Abomination -- are truly amazing. Director Louis Letterier also handles the chases well, as Banner hauls ass while trying to keep his cool.

Unfortunately, when the movie slows down its flaws show through. Edward Norton shines as Bruce Banner, but the rest of the cast is one dimensional. Liv Tyler is extremely dull as the suffering love interest; and why did they bother to make her a scientist anyway? William Hurt is okay as General Ross (even if he looks and sounds exactly like Captain Stottlemeyer from Monk) but he's undercut by a character without any redeeming qualities -- a villain we're supposed to hate absolutely. Likewise, Tim Roth has little to do but fight scenes and express a desire for more action.

There are lots of small items tossed in for fans of the comic book (notably Tim Blake Nelson as Samuel Sterns, a likely candidate for the villain in the inevitable sequel), the inclusive Marvel movie universe being created (with a mention of Nick Fury and appearance by Tony Stark), not to mention cameos from Stan Lee, Lou Ferrigno, and even Bill Bixby. The Incredible Hulk does have a certain superficial feel to it that only vanishes when the big green guy is destroying stuff.

Overall Grade: B

Reviewed by James Lynch

No comments: