Soon enough Banner finds himself tracked down by a team of commandos led by a mercenary named Emil Blonsky. But when Blonsky witnesses firsthand the power of the Hulk, he wants that power for himself. And General Ross is more than happy to oblige.
With an enhanced Blonsky on his tail, Banner races home for one last shot at a cure. But he’ll need help from his former love Betty Ross and Mr. Blue to rid himself of the Hulk forever.
“The Incredible Hulk” is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images, and brief suggestive content.
One of the most satisfying things about “The Incredible Hulk” is just how tied it is to the original TV show and the Marvel Universe. It’s not so much so that non-comic fans will be distracted, but the comic and TV geeks (like myself) will find it to be a major treat. You’ll find mention of the ‘super soldier serum’, Doc Samson, Mr. McGee, Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D., and more. There are cameos by Tony Stark, Stan Lee, Lou Ferrigno, and others. The Hulk does trademark things like a thunderclap hit with his hands and yelling out, “Hulk SMASH!!!” The “Lonely Man” theme from the TV show is even played a couple of times. (Not nearly enough in my opinion.)
Another major reason “The Incredible Hulk” works is Edward Norton. His performance as Bruce Banner is flawless. He’s believable as both a geeky scientist on the run and as a man on the verge of exploding with rage. He plays Banner completely straight but does, on occasion, let some humor shine through in his performance. In one scene he asks for ‘stretchy pants’. In another, he butchers “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” in Portuguese. In another scene we see his forbidden love for Betty become even more forbidden as his heart begins racing. It’s all quite fun. And it’s because he’s such a likable character that “The Incredible Hulk” is still interesting even when the Hulk isn’t on the screen. You become emotionally invested in his character so that when he’s being chased through the slums in Brazil, you’re holding your breath as he tries to get away. I don’t know what Norton contributed to the script, but his performance alone makes him an MVP.
I also really like how Louis Leterrier emphasized the ‘fugitive’ aspect of the story. This, too, hearkens back to the TV series. We see Banner trying to blend into society, meeting random people, and becoming friends with ‘the little guy’. Banner takes roles as a maintenance man, a pizza delivery guy, and other small jobs in his quest for a cure. The international setting in Brazil also helped give the movie a unique feel. Leterrier makes the most of his locations shot there.
The CGI was pretty good, too. I think they managed to give this version of the Hulk a lot of personality and a lot more facial expressions than Ang Lee’s Hulk. Sure, he still looks cartoony, but I don’t know how a 10 ft tall green monster doesn’t look cartoony. I think scaling him down in size, making him darker, and generally keeping him in the shadows helped a lot. The Hulk’s final battle with the Abomination is everything you hope it would be. As the monsters tear down the street after each other, their footfalls shake the theater. It’s a feral battle that will satisfy your inner action fan. But an earlier fight with a super soldier serum enhanced Blonsky is equally satisfying as we get a brief hint at what Captain America might be capable of doing.
This does bring up a good point the commercials and trailers don’t ruin all the best scenes in the movie. Despite what you may have already seen, this film has some very cool stuff still left in its bag of tricks. You’ll be impressed.
As much as I enjoyed “The Incredible Hulk,” it did have some problems. And these were mainly ‘cheesy’ moments that could have been fixed.
The movie is quite strong for the first hour or so. They do practically everything right in that time span. Things start falling apart when Tim Blake Nelson appears on the screen. It’s at that point that things start getting a bit hokey and a bit ‘comic booky’, if you know what I mean. Nelson does some silly things and it veers from being reality based to being ‘over the top’. The story also seems to hurry up a bit too much as they rush to give Blonsky his final transformation into the Abomination monster. It didn’t feel like a natural progression of the story like everything else before it. The story quickly accelerates to the final battle and you soon forget this bump in the road, but it’s enough to knock the film down from a solid 8 out of 10 to a 7.
The supporting cast also does a pretty good job, but they could have been better. Liv Tyler is a little flat as Betty Ross. I would have liked to see a bit more life in her like in a scene where she flips out on a cab driver. That kind of passion is what Ross needs. (There’s also a bit of a plot hole as its never really discussed why she’s dating Doc Samson.) William Hurt is also rather disappointing as Gen. Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross. His character ranges from being dangerous to being incompetent to being crazy. Hurt seems to take a different approach depending on what day he’s filming. I liked Sam Elliot better.
Deleted Scenes – When this movie was released, it was said that around 40 minutes of footage was cut, much to Edward Norton’s disliking. It was also rumored that a longer cut of the film would be released on DVD, presumably with these deleted scenes. Well, after having seen the deleted scenes, I have to say Marvel probably made the right call if it’s true they trumped Ed Norton. While these scenes are interesting, they add very little to the theatrical version of the movie. There’s a lot more material with Doc Samson and the love triangle between him, Betty, and Bruce. There are a lot of minutes between him and Bruce – we see a dinner scene with the trio, a deep conversation by a fireplace between the two, etc. It fleshes out the character of Samson more but does little for the overall story. There’s also a bit more talk about the Super Soldier Serum between Blonsky and Ross. We find out there were a number of previous failures with the serum and there are references to Cap, but it’s not much that you can’t pick up from the theatrical version. Rounding out the deleted scenes are a few moments of Bruce setting up a makeshift lab in Brazil, a little more online conversation with Mr. Blue, and other brief moments, all of which were still apparent in theaters. There are some scenes of Bruce making pizza deliveries which are amusing, but better left in the deleted scenes.
Feature Commentary with Louis Leterrier and Tim Roth – It’s a real shame that Norton didn’t take part in the commentary, but it’s not terribly surprising considering the controversy surrounding the film. I’ll be surprised if we see him in an Avengers movie. I still hope Marvel can work something out.
All-New Alternate Opening – For comic book fans, this may be the highlight of the bonus features. In it, we see Bruce Banner traveling by truck to the arctic. When he makes his way to a remote glacier, he pulls out a gun and prepares to shoot himself. But before he can, his pulse races and he transforms into the Hulk. Hulk then smashes the glacier and the blocks of ice fall into the frozen ocean….revealing the faint form of Captain America frozen in a block of ice. Too bad they couldn’t keep it in the movie!
The Making Of Incredible – This is your standard ‘making of’ featurette. You see the cast and crew shooting in the bottle factory, shooting at the university, shooting in Brazil, and in Toronto (doubling for New York). They also talk about the casting of the film and the transition from Ang Lee’s film to this reboot. I gained a greater appreciation for Louis Leterrier as he displays a lot of enthusiasm for the project and a good understanding of the Hulk mythos. Norton is also seen heavily involved in every aspect of the making of the movie all the way down to demonstrating Hulk moves for the animators.
Becoming The Abomination – Here we see Tim Roth and the stuntmen filming the motions for Abomination. There’s also a lot of discussion on the design of the character and his exterior skeleton.
From Comic Book To Screen – A sequence from the comic book “Hulk: Grey” by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale (both of “Heroes” fame) is animated. It was the basis for the ‘grotto scene’ in the movie between Hulk and Betty.
Becoming The Hulk – This is pretty self explanatory. I was impressed with a new technique they used for facial motion capture. They put green paint on Edward Norton’s face, then used cameras to track motions of the irregular paint patterns on his face. The result is an amazing capture of Norton’s facial expressions which are then stretched out and put on the Hulk’s face. For techies and special effects aficionados, this is cool stuff.
Anatomy Of A Hulk-Out – The three big ‘Hulk Out’ scenes are highlighted here – the one at the bottle factory, the one at the university, and the one in New York. You see the intense preparation for the explosion and effects and it’s pretty neat. I was impressed with how they made Tim Roth run at 40 mph using wires.
The Bottom Line: