Avengers Month: ‘The Incredible Hulk’ Review

Director: Louis Leterrier

Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson, Lou Ferringo

Plot: Bruce Banner is on the run from the US Government Military who are trying to recover his gamma irradiated blood. Seeking a cure for his condition – transforming into a giant green rage monster – he is forced to return to America.

Review: Needless to say the studio were less than thrilled with the effort Ang Lee turned in with the simply titled Hulk. His artistic approach isn’t completely without merit, but it was very far removed from what both the studio and the audiences wanted to see. So out with the Ang and in with the Leterrier and his pedigree of madcap action and a whole new cast to further separate itself from its predecessor.

The odd thing is that although this movie is clearly trying to start anew it presumes a lot of knowledge on behalf of the viewer. The origin of the Hulk is dealt with in a montage at the beginning and although there are scraps of information dripped through the story but little in the way of exposition. This wouldn’t be a problem if all we were dealing with is a movie about a big green guy smashing shit up by the science and relationships make up the central drive of the movie and it feels as though we’re missing part of the first act. Although the character of Banner is pushed forward by his relationship with Betty Ross and his experimentation with his condition the lack of a detailed backstory means that we only ever see it on a surface level.

"It appears to be...science!"

But of course, what we really want to see it Hulk smashing stuff up. Leterrier and the improved CGI deliver the goods on this level. Once we’ve sat through the per-requisite amount of exposition and romance we do get to Norton Hulk out on three separate occasions. The first time begins with a gritty, handicam chase through some slums ending with Hulk taking down special forces in a factory. Fun, but Hulk winds up being stashed in the shadows the entire time. With the monster having already been revealed in the trailers and the DVD cover art it’s hard to imagine why they didn’t get him into the spotlight at some point. Later when he goes nuts at the military at the university we get to see the iconic character get stuck into the action a bit better, and finally he clashes with the Abomination towards the end with an epic city wide smack-down.

"Well shit."

While these action scenes are decent in their own right, it never feels as though the Hulk is ever completely let of the chain. The fight with the military at the university makes things easy for him by rolling in the big weapons about two at a time, and the whole sequence it edited so you rarely see Hulk on screen with his opponents. The final showdown is impressively visceral and cool, but winds up longer than it is exciting. It drags on to the point that audience members start tuning out – something shorter but more intense would be better.

Cast-wise things turn out pretty well. Norton is on form now that Banner is as much a survivalist as he is a scientist, Tyler makes a rare recent appearance and generates realistic chemistry between the two of them. Roth plays a menacing villain who eventually becomes the Abomination and brings his vicious nature across even through the CGI. The rest of the cast feel quite incidental – Hurt is fine but his mustache does most of the work and Nelson is brought in to set up a sequel, making his role pointless for anyone unfamiliar with the comics.

Ironically once again Tim Roth is playing Orange.

A solid movie with plenty of good ideas. Banner trying to find ways to deal with his anger gives viewers some of the most interesting character moment and the grounded feeling the rough setting adds a welcome sense of realism. It always seems to be lacking a spark though, as though everyone is playing it on the safe side to avoid another Ang Lee situation. From what we’ve seen in the trailers from The Avengers Hulk is finally going to be able to cut completely lose on the big screen.

Score: SIX outta TEN