The Incredible Hulk
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, William Hurt, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images, and brief suggestive content.
Parental Notes: This is a pretty straightforward super-hero movie. Youngsters may find some sequences too intense, but there’s very little blood. The most intense violence is between the Hulk and an equally unreal creature.
“The Incredible Hulk” has a lot stacked against it. It’s opening just over a month after “Iron Man,” which is an awesome superhero movie. It’s directed by the same guy as the fairly terrible “The Transporter 2.” Its screenwriter was responsible for the dreadful “Elektra.” And it’s only been five years since the Ang Lee-helmed “Hulk” movie, which waffled between superhero excess and quiet introspection without succeeding at either.
Surprisingly, “The Incredible Hulk” is a good movie. It is rebooting the franchise and starting from scratch rather than attempting to build on Le’s film. The script was heavily re-written by star Edward Norton (who gave some of his other films the same treatment) and is very solid. The film gels reasonably well, and the performances range from pretty good to great.
The film opens, wisely, with a credits sequence that doubles as a series of flashbacks showing the Hulk’s origins, then gets on with the story. Most filmgoers know how mild-mannered scientist Bruce Banner became The Hulk, so why rehash it? The film proper picks up in Brazil, where Bruce (Norton) has been hiding out, working in a soda factory and studying the non-violent martial art Aikido to control his aggression. His teacher also shows him to control his breathing and heart-rate. It must be working, because a little title tells us that it’s been five months since the last “incident.” Bruce is even on the trail of a cure for his condition with the help of “Mr. Blue,” an internet friend.
Unfortunately, an accident in the factory leads to a drop of Bruce’s blood getting into a bottle of soda, and when it kills a man in the US, word gets to the military folks looking to hunt Banner down. Soon General Ross (William Hurt) and his men, including a deadly fellow named Emile Blonsky (Tim Roth) on loan from the UK, show up on Bruce’s doorstep. He manages to escape, but not before Hulking out.
This first scene with the Hulk is a masterful one. We barely get to see him at first, he’s just a fist coming out of a shadow to grab someone or a silhouette throwing a huge cylinder at the soldiers chasing him. When we finally do see him, he doesn’t disappoint. Sure, he’s CGI rather than the awesome Lou Ferrigno (who has a cameo!), but CGI has come a long way since Ang Lee’s rendition of the creature. If you loathe CGI on principle you probably won’t care for the way the Hulk looks, but I was impressed.
Bruce is still desperate for a cure. Mr. Blue thinks he can help but needs the data from the original experiment that gave Bruce his condition, so Bruce heads North to the university where it all went down. He reunites with his old girlfriend Betty (Tyler), gets the data, and soon he and Betty are on the run from General Ross and Blonsky, who’s been given a super-soldier serum so he can try to match up against the Hulk. Soon Blonsky has also been injected with some of Bruce’s blood and become The Abomination, a ten-foot tall creature with spikes and a bad attitude who makes the Hulk look mellow and delicate by comparison.
The final battle runs a bit long unless you’re really into watching two gigantic, vaguely-man-shaped beasts slug it out in the streets of new York — but if you want wanton mayhem and destruction, it’ll be right up your alley. The CGI creatures look pretty amazing when they’re only sharing the screen with each other, which helps. Even the best CGI looks a bit weird next to humans on the screen.
Overall, “The Incredible Hulk” is a solid superhero movie. If you like the genre (think “Spider-Man,” “X-Men,” and “Iron Man”), then you’ll probably enjoy it. If you are looking for introspection, character development, or realism, look elsewhere. Oh, and “Iron Man” fans, watch for the little indicators that this takes place in the same world. If Tony Stark’s cameo is anything to go by, we’ll be seeing more of the Hulk in theaters, possibly teamed up with our favorite billionaire.