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]