The Incredible Hulk

    As everyone knows, this has been tried before. Five years ago, serious independent director Ang Lee made the Hulk’s origin story into a movie. Although an interesting attempt, it fell short of its goal of making an artsy superhero movie. I suspect that I’m one of the few people who enjoy it but even I can see that it’s a pretty grim affair.
    So the big green guy went home to Marvel Studios to be shepherded into a semi-reboot (the origin is retold in a montage during the opening credits) by people who know comics and who care about them. Marvel Studios have one box office and critical hit on its hands (Iron Man) and the Incredible Hulk is their second film of the summer as well as their second film ever. Can they consistently put out quality films derived from their main product, comic books? Well two movies aren’t going to answer that question.
    At the beginning of The Incredible Hulk we find Bruce Banner, this time played by Edward Norton, hiding out in Rio, actually not far from where Ang Lee left him, trying to keep calm and not turn into the Hulk. The US military, in the person of General Thunderbolt Ross, played by William Hurt, is looking for Banner to study him for the government’s super soldier program. Banner was working on this when he had his accident. Ross has been pushing the research forward, using lesser minds.  He’s also looking for likely volunteers.
    Some unfortunate city is about to be laid waste.
    I read a review of this film that said the main problem was that you couldn’t identify with the Hulk, and I agree. But this reviewer seemed to think that was inevitable, that a ten foot tall raging green beast could never win our sympathy and that’s wrong. It’s been years since I’ve read read the Hulk but I do remember sympathizing with him. In addition to his tender feelings toward Betty Ross, he always seemed to side with the underdog. He’s a powerful child who means well but usually isn’t smart enough to get it right. Both Lee and Louis Leterrier, the director of this film miss that point. The Hulk is you, that rampaging, out of control, always sorry later side to everyone’s personality. He’s Jeckyll and Hyde, or Hercules (another character that the movies have never gotten right) always trying to atone for actions done while drunk or enraged.
    So I think Leterrier and screenwriter Zak Penn started from a flawed understanding of their source. That being said, the end result isn’t too bad. The effects are good, the Hulk looks terrifying and real. I have problems with the casting. Edward Norton is a little detached and doesn’t really engage your sympathy. Now I realize that he’s playing a character who’s trying to stay calm, but I think it’s been overdone and you never really see him let loose with the rage that you know is in there. The approach they took with General Ross is just wrong. Ross is a hard line, do it by the book disciplinarian. William Hurt’s portrayal is too oily and manipulative. Liv Tyler is given almost nothing to do as Betty Ross. The one performance that stands out is Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky, an aging special ops soldier who’s past his physical peak and yet doesn’t want to retire. This makes him a prime candidate for Ross’s super soldier program.
    All that being said, I’m recommending The Incredible Hulk. It is better than Ang Lee’s film.
    I’m still waiting for that perfect Hulk film though.

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