Genre: Action/Adventure, Adaptation and Sequel
Running Time: 1 hr. 54 min.
Theatrical Release Date: June 13th, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images and brief suggestive content.
Directed By: Louis Leterrier
Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, Christina Cabot
The Incredible Hulk is infinitely superior to 2003s Hulk — but unfortunately that wasn’t difficult to achieve. Although the film has a surfeit of action and gargantuan battle sequences (involving more devastation than Cloverfield), Leterrier’s Hulk is little more than King Kong. An insipid love story, predictable villains and jargon-drenched palavers don’t help the mighty green giant from becoming anything more than a typical superhero. At least the attention to seriousness is comparable to Christopher Nolan’s re-imagining of Batman.
Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) has accidentally unleashed a gamma poisoning mutation within himself that causes his body to transform into a hulking green monstrosity. Unable to control the raging Hulk, which is summoned by his anger, he hides away from the world in the crowded favelas of Brazil. Bruce converses with a mysterious Mr. Blue through an encrypted satellite connection, in the hopes of learning the secret to removing the contamination from his body.
Meanwhile, General Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) diligently scours the globe looking for the elusive Banner, who he tricked into experimenting with the radiation for use as a military weapon. The General’s daughter, Betsy (Liv Tyler), is still in love with Bruce, but he keeps his distance to prevent hurting her or causing the deaths of innocent people. To help with the manhunt is Russian professional tough guy Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), on loan from the Royal Marines. But after witnessing Banner’s unbridled powers as The Hulk, Blonsky desires such abnormal invincibility for himself — leading to further freakish experimentations that will unleash an abomination.
The opening title sequence for The Incredible Hulk rapidly sums up the entire Hulk origin, thereby leaving the brunt of the film to serve merely as an episode of adventure. The General occasionally fills us in on missing pieces of integral information, but for the most part, this film could serve as both a remake and a continuation (a retcon, in comic fandom) of Ang Lee’s Hulk from 2003. Not having much to live up to, The Incredible Hulk easily outperforms its predecessor, but not to the point of undeniable success. In an age where comic book movie adaptations are no longer once-a-year or out of the ordinary, this latest attempt sadly feels like a typical superhero movie. The special effects are better, the editing is certainly more tolerable, and the characters are handled with more sincerity and seriousness, but the story is frightfully familiar and rather un-involving.
Attempting to create reason behind unexplainable elements such as The Hulk’s ability to keep his pants on (which is both impossible and largely unnecessary), the film temporarily forgets that it is still leaps and bounds from being even slightly reasonable. It does distract us with Cloverfield-rivaling destruction at Culver University and New York City, and the Hulk-Abomination fracases are magnificently constructed and shot. The Hulk doesn’t defy gravity or fly around like Lee’s original version, but occasionally his movements are too light and graceful for his tree-stump figure.
Director Louis Letterier does succeed in making a darker, more violent and more serious Hulk, and the references to other Marvel creations, the expected cameos, and explosive action remains. But despite crafting a better Hulk, the story and overall entertainment value can’t compete with the choice superior superhero movies that demonstrate both creativity and heart — such as Iron Man and Batman, which are more frequent than ever before.