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The Incredible Hulk Unremarkable Comic Book Fare

  • Stephen McGarvey Crosswalk.com Executive Editor
  • 2008 6 Jun
  • COMMENTS
<i>The Incredible Hulk</i> Unremarkable Comic Book Fare

DVD Release Date:  October 21, 2008
Theatrical Release Date:  June 13, 2008
Rating:  PG-13 (for sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images and brief suggestive content)
Genre:  Action/Adventure, Adaptation
Run Time:  1 hr. 54 min.
Director:  Louis Leterrier
Actors:  Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell, William Hurt

Summer action movies are often nothing more than mindless explosions and special effects with only enough plot to provide an excuse to make the film. Occasionally these popcorn flicks offer something a little deeper. With this most recent version of The Incredible Hulk, clearly the filmmakers are reaching for the latter... with mixed results. .

Bruce Banner (Ed Norton) is a brilliant scientist who, due to a lab accident, has a muscle-bound green alter ego he cannot control. His back story is briefly explained over the film’s credits:  Bruce and his colleague/girlfriend Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) are experimenting with gamma rays under the authority of Betty’s army general father (William Hurt). Bruce is accidentally turned into a green monster who proceeds to destroy everything around him, injuring Betty and killing several fellow scientists. Unable to control his power, Bruce goes on the run from General Ross, who wants to find a way to use Bruce’s newfound power to create “super soldiers.” Unfortunately whenever Bruce gets angry, and his pulse hits 200, he turns into “The Hulk” leaving a path of destruction that’s easy to follow.

For years a regular character in the Marvel Comics universe, The Hulk has appeared in not only comic books and cartoons but a popular 1970s era television show. Nearly five years ago Hulk even made it to the big screen under the direction of Ang Lee. The clunky film was a bit of a flop, disappointing both critics and fans of the beloved green giant. It’s clear that the folks at Marvel wanted another chance to successfully bring the character to film. Upon viewing it’s not clear if it’s intended to be a sequel or a redo. Perhaps either; or perhaps both.

This version of Bruce Banner’s story begins five years after the accident. Bruce is now living as a factory worker in the slums of an obscure Brazilian city, trying to both stay out of trouble and find a cure for his problem. Despite having a mysterious benefactor named Mr. Blue and a satellite connection to the Internet, he is unsuccessful. Unfortunately Bruce can’t keep himself and his gamma ray-laced blood hidden forever, and General Ross is soon leading a strike team down to Brazil to “extract” him. Of course the soldiers find more than they bargain for when the cornered Bruce goes all “huge green monster” and proceeds to wipe the floor with them. The encounter sends Bruce back to the States in search for his benefactor. It also sends Captain Blonsky (Tim Roth), the only soldier to survive the encounter with Hulk, in search of a way to procure Hulk’s massive strength and power.

To be sure, the film feels more like a “man on the run” movie than a “crime-fighting superhero” flick. And the story is more character driven and emotionally resonant than the Ang Lee version. Norton and Tyler, who are always watchable, are convincing enough in their roles here. Unfortunately the supporting cast, including the venerable William Hurt, sleepwalk around them with little of interest to do or say. And unlike this year’s Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk lacks a certain wit that breaks the tension nicely in a film like this.

While it won’t matter to action movie fans, Bruce as Hulk is completely computer generated. And although the action sequences are impressive, you never for a minute forget that it’s mostly CG, especially in the end when Blonsky gets his own Hulk-like abilities and the two battle across Harlem destroying everything in their path.

Suspending disbelief is the name of the game when watching a film like this, yet there is just a little bit too much to suspend to make The Incredible Hulk a truly great superhero movie. For fans, Hulk is redeemed from his recent fall from grace. Yet for everyone else, the film is slightly above average popcorn fare:  fun to watch but largely forgettable.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity:  A small amount of profanity. The Lord’s name taken in vain once.
  • Violence/Gore:  A great deal of summer action style violence, largely bloodless, but brutal nonetheless. Street toughs threaten Bruce and a female factory worker he is sweet on. Soldiers chase Bruce through the streets of a Brazilian ghetto shooting at him. The Hulk (and later the evil Hulk) destroys all manner of machinery and buildings to defend himself against attackers. All sorts of military equipment and vehicles (from hummers to helicopters) are destroyed during several long battle sequences. Attacking soldiers and assorted bad guys are thrown around like rag dolls. Plenty of gun violence and explosions. Two CG Hulks beat the stuffing out of one another in the middle of New York City, leaving the expected path of collateral damage to the people, vehicles and buildings in their way. Watching the transformation process from human to Hulk is at times a bit gruesome. Several medical scenes, involving needles and injections, are graphic.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Bruce spends the night at Betty’s house, but the two don’t sleep together despite the fact that they obviously want to. Later when they are on the lam, the two of them fall into bed together kissing and groping, intending to have sex. They stop themselves, however, when they realize Bruce’s elevated heart rate could turn him into The Hulk. No explicit nudity is shown.
  • Drugs/Alcohol:  One scene where the general is shown in a bar intoxicated and smoking a cigar.
  • Worldview:  We have the standard morality here typical of a superhero flick. Good guy has a power he would rather not have. Bad guys want to use the power for bad things. It would be a stretch to say that there are lessons in the importance of anger management. In this version of the story, Bruce’s character turns into The Hulk seemingly when his pulse hits 200, rather than simply when he gets angry. As a character Bruce Banner exhibits a sort of tragic nobility, sequestering himself from the one he loves to protect her and other innocents from the power he cannot control.