The Incredible Hulk (2008)

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When I reviewed Iron Man last week I mentioned I will be watching The Incredible Hulk next. Surprisingly I did not completely hate it, but sadly it was nowhere near as good as Iron Man. After Ang Lee’s artsy, fartsy convoluted blockbuster fiasco it seems that this time around the producers went for dead simplicity. The new Hulk movie is just that – simplistic, action packed and on the move never stopping to explore Bruce Banner’s curious predicament.

Ed Norton does a great job as the leading man. He practically bends over backwards to inject some life and character into the protagonist. But there is preciously little material there to work with. Bruce Banner’s psychological profile was shallowed out to the extreme. Lee went for the inward and introspective angle while Leterrier seems to be hell bent at doing the opposite and keeps us at an arms distance at all times. Which is a pity because there is enough there to make an interesting story about anger, suppressed emotions and psychological turmoil. But there is none of that there. In fact, I don’t that in this movie Bruce Banner ever changes into Hulk because he is angry, or frustrated. He never looses control – he only changes when his life or freedom is threatened, or when it is heroically appropriate (to fight a bigger monster).

This was disappointing. I really expected to see Banner suffering some kind of mental breakdown at some point simply relinquishing control to Hulk with no regard for safety and well being of other people, only to regret it later. In my honest opinion it was a waste of great potential.

On top of that the movie is littered with sub par performances from the supporting cast. Liv Tyler just doesn’t fit here. I had a hard time believing that she was supposed to be a nuclear physicist, and even harder time to believe that her and Ed Norton were supposed to be lovers. The chemistry was just not there. They didn’t click together. Maybe it was the writing, maybe it was the breakneck pace or perhaps it was Leterrier’s irrational fear of delving deeper into Bruce Banner’s psyche. The spark was just not there.

Tim Roth’s character is just horrible. Part of it is the excruciating overacting, part is the stupid accent, and finally it is the shallowness of his character. From the moment you see him walk onto the screen you know he is the designated bad guy of the movie. He is a jerk without any real human motivations and redeeming qualities. His goal in life seems to be able to kick more ass, and he willfully wants to become a Hulk like monster. His sole reason for existence is to provide a worthy opponent for Hulk to fight with at the end of the movie.

William Hurt and Tim Blake Nelson also deliver rather uninspired performances. Both are overacting (though not as hard as Roth) and fail to bring anything interesting into the movie. Nelson Plays an eccentric scientist by going into a full blown nerd mode straight from the Hollywood playbook. It’s classic, but old bag of tricks which makes him extremely annoying despite relatively small role.

Hurt plays Taylor’s father and the US army general who is responsible for hunting down the Hulk. He must continuously choose between his duty, and his daughter who wants to help Banner. Very few characters in this movie have this kind of meaty conflict to flesh them out. But Hurt fails – partly because of the writing, and partly because of his own interpretation of the character. He is wooden when the situation would require emotion, and over the top when he should be calm and leveled. His conversations with Liv Taylor are bereft of any kind of registrable emotion and he comes off as an asshole most of the time, rather than a deeply flawed and conflicted character he could be.

The final battle while full of pretty CGI which will likely look like total shit in 2 months when a new even shinier movie comes out is long, uninteresting and completely unnecessary. It is also a curious mirror of Iron Man ending in which the hero must fight a bigger and badder version of his own suit. Hulk fights a bigger, more evil and thus more spiky Hulk. Personally I think this movie would be perfectly fine without Tim Roth’s character turning into a gigantic towering beast. It could have been all about Bruce Banner trying to control his inner anger, and tame the beast lurking inside of him. But alas, that would be a step into territory tainted by the Ang Lee fiasco.

In the end we get a rather shallow and superficial movie, which dishes out fan service and nods towards the original source, and previous adaptations (with exception of Ang Lee’s movie of course) in heaps. I didn’t hate this movie the way I hated Spiderman 3 for example. It’s watchable, but it is a step down from the higher standard set by Iron Man which while far from being perfect, managed not to annoy me.

The cameo by Robert Downy Jr. is superb though. Arguably this is the best part of the movie in which Tony Stark walks onto the screen and pretty much says “Yeah, I know this Hulk thing sucked ass, but don’t worry. Avengers movie will be awesome cause I’m in it!” And you know what? I almost believe him!

[tags]the incredible hulk, hulk, ed norton, robert downy jr, liv taylor, william hurt, marvel[/tags]

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3 Responses to The Incredible Hulk (2008)

  1. ZeWrestler UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I am going to have to disagree with your review. Personally, I think you’re being hard on this movie because Iron Man raised the bar for you.

    A couple points you said that I want to touch on:
    Banner in this movie has been the Hulk for 5 years. As shown in the beginning of the movie, he’s been doing what he can to control himself and keep himself in check. This is more about him coming to terms with his predicament, rather than suffering from it. He doesn’t change when he’s angry in this movie, because he’s working on controlling that.

    I’ll agree, they probably could have cast a better Betty Ross than Liv Taylor. However, I don’t think she’s as bad as you made her out. The relationship between these 2 has been around for years. It doesn’t develop because of that, the relationship has been there. The problem from that comes from that fact that not everyone is familiar with the story. People who’d have read the comic or seen the series would know and be fine with that. Those who’d haven’t watched it before, would be wanting to know what their relationship was. This is a bad example to explain what I mean, but picture never having read/watched Spiderman before the third movie. Would you be asking why Parker and MJ are they way they are at this point in the series? I think the part she played best in that movie was Ross after the taxi ride.

    As Hurt’s character goes. Thunderbolt Ross earned that nickname because he’s over the top with the barking orders. I think Hurt almost nailed his character perfectly. His conflict isn’t him deciding between duty and family. That decision was made. He acts on duty first and uses his daughter as his reasoning for doing what he does. He is purely obsessed with capturing the Hulk and proving to his daughter what a monster Banner is. Thus the scene on the campus where he makes the comment “Now I’ll show you what a monster he is.” Their relationship can best be summed up by the line “the only reason you’re not in cuffs with him is because your my daughter”. In general, capturing the Hulk is an obsession that he’s doing for duty, and claiming his doing it because the Hulk is hurting his daughter emotionally. In reality, he’s too blind to see that he’s the one hurting her. My only complaint about Hurt’s performance is he needed more of a temper.

    Anyway, those are my initial comments. I’m interested in seeing how Stern’s character is going to develop as the Leader in the next movie. Of course, I can’t wait to see how the Avengers movie is going to be. Who do you think they’re going to make a film about next. From what I’m seeing, the next Marvel Movie is Punisher 2, but the next movie with an Avengers member is the Wolverine movie in May 2009.

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  2. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Actually, I don’t think Wolverine was ever in the original Avengers. The original team was Ant-Man, Wasp, Thor, Iron Man, and the Hulk. Then Hulk left and Captain America joined it.

    I don’t think that Ant-Man and Wasp will get their own features, and I’m not sure they will even get into the movie. I think that Captain America movie is in the works right now so he will probably be next.

    Also, I believe the Wolverine movie is a prequel to X-men talking about his origins based on the Weapon-X story. But it’s not out of the question that they might try to smuggle him into Avengers since he was a member of The New Avengers at some point.

    Another established superhero who might be in the Avengers movie is Spider-Man who I believe joined the team somewhere in the 90′s (at least according to Wikipedia). I guess we will see how it goes.

    I’m very curious as to what will be the the Avengers team roster in the movie.

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  3. Nate AUSTRALIA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    [quote post="2589"]Tim Roth’s character is just horrible. Part of it is the excruciating overacting, part is the stupid accent, and finally it is the shallowness of his character. [/quote]

    I’m going to have to voice a disagreement with that. For starters, Roth is using the same accent he used in Pulp Fiction which is, oddly enough, his native accent. The character of Blonsky was originally VERY russian in the comic book, and as evidenced by Cate Blanchett in Indiana Jones recently, that doesn’t go over as well as it used to, especially if a non-ruski is doing it. Hence the rewrite to make him a russian-born british soldier. As for the overacting… I really didn’t see it. To me, the character was a driven, ambitious, power-hungry soldier, hiding a deep-seated feeling of inferiority (hence his need to be better than all the others, even better than Hulk). It’s natural that he was intense and came on strong.

    However, even though I disagree with large parts of your review, at least you’ve constructed some good arguments – better than the usual LOL DIS MOVY SUX that you usually see. Kudos to that :P

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