Throw away your copy of 2003’s “The Hulk.” Something incredible has arrived.
The opening sequence of the 2008 installment of The Hulk movie saga, “The Incredible Hulk” makes it clear that producers are going to pretend that the earlier installment never was created as the first few minutes sum up the events of the initial movie.
Bruce Banner (Edward Norton), through a freak accident with gamma radiation, has become the Hulk. End of story.
Those comic book nerds who are waiting anxiously for this stream of Marvel movies to culminate in the “Avengers” movie should pay close attention during this opening sequence; the easter eggs come at you fast.
If you’re not well-versed in the Hulk story, head to your local comic book story, because the movie dives right in. Banner is hiding out in Brazil, in an effort to protect those close to him, namely his love-interest, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler). At the same time, he’s trying to escape the men who are seeking to experiment on and contain him as a military tool — namely Betty’s father, General Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross (William Hurt).
This works out well until a drop of Banner’s blood mixes into the drinks that the factory he works at is bottling and leads to the man who drinks it (easter egg here!) being hospitalized due to gamma poisoning. This gives away Banner’s location, and is followed by subsequent chase scenes across Brazil and into the United States, and also the release of the Hulk.
Banner immediately goes to find Betty, but sees that she has found a new love in the form of a psychiatrist. It does not take long for her to be back in Banner’s arms, and this leads to a big confrontation between the General, his daughter, and Banner/The Hulk.
The movie ends up coming to the conflict that summarizes the Hulk story line; should Banner contain the Hulk and live out his peaceful existence, or should he unleash the beast within.
Edward Norton is spot on as Bruce Banner, the angst-ridden scientist who is not exactly courageous but is responsible about the unexpected result of his experiment with radiation. The chemistry between Norton and Liv Tyler comes through clear as well, making their love believable if not a little too melodramatic. But the story is written more for the comic book gurus than for the everyday public, unlike its Marvel-superhero counterpart in “Iron Man.”
The Betty/Banner/Hulk relationship is confusing for those of us who pause long enough to think about it. Betty is always the person that can give the Hulk pause in his rampaging, but does this mean that the Hulk is in love with Betty too? Apparently not, but 30 seconds worth of dialogue could have cleared that up. Also, while the CGI is great, and a vast improvement to the 2003 installment, it seems that every time the Hulk is shown he is a different size. Apparently this is another nod towards the comic book, where the Hulk is different sizes in reference to the size of his wrath. But without an explanation it just looked like crappy editing.
The fight scenes were amazing. Watching the Hulk duke it out with Abomination (Tim Roth), a military man gone bad who tries to combat the Hulk by becoming “an abomination” in an attempt to become like him, were some of the most epic fights in the history of comic book adaptations. Hearing the Hulk yell “Hulk… Smash!” was enough to raise goose bumps on the back of anyone’s necks.
Fanboys will squeal at the amount of easter eggs and nods to the previous and upcoming “Avengers” set-up movies (“Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk” this year, “Thor” in 2010, and “The First Avenger: Captain America” in 2011), but it was almost as though the creators of the film were too scared to acknowledge was they had. The Hulk was only outwardly referred to as “The Hulk” around three times, but was mostly implied as being “that big scary beast that we really do not want to have anything to do with.” The beating around the bush left a little bit lacking; the Hulk should have been embraced for being the maniacal creature that he is instead of being hidden in the shadows as though he was something to be ashamed of.
The movie was a little on the angst-y side, but that is just the story of the Hulk. Writer Zac Penn tried to capture the snappy dialogue that made “Iron Man” so endearing, but fell a bit short of his goal. “The Incredible Hulk” was a decent movie, but would have done much better out of the shadow of a summer dominated by far superior superhero movies.
All in all, it was the appearance of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) at the end of the movie that had me writhing in my seat in excitement. Three cheers to “The Avengers” in 2011.