The Incredible Hulk (2008): A 4 out of 10 Movie Review
Yet another film and yet another desperate time in New York City / Los Angeles / any other city in the world as long as it’s in the U.S. Yes that’s right, we in the last few months of 2008 are introduced to Ed Norton as a potentially angry man, Robert Downey Jr. as a technical genius, Liv Tyler as a Bio-scientist and Marky Mark Wahlberg as a biology teacher. There is no question we have taken a one way trip into fantasy land.
The second film from Marvel studios sees a man with very stretchy trousers run around a lot, pine after his ex-girlfriend (whilst her latest flame doesn’t seem to worry and subsequently inexplicably disappears) and fight an equally strange monster with a better vocabulary than his larger, greener alter ego, whilst battling a few anger management issues.
The Incredible Hulk it seems, is for a younger demographic than Iron man. This is confirmed by the equivalent (to Iron man) after-credits scene being before the credits. No, I don’t know why. I just know that I patiently waited the 6 plus minutes for the credits to finish to be greeted with absolutely nothing. Perhaps then, this film is for children? So is this a kid’s film for those Type C: Avoidant characters with repressed rage seeking vengeance on those awful bullies? Well, no. I was “fortunate” enough to sit next to a child in the cinema and although this 8 year old (approx) clapped and cheered when the film began, this soon gave in to extreme fidgeting and asking his parents when they were going home. So it seems then that the Incredible Hulk does not entertain enough for children. I’ll admit, however that I am unable to see why. The big green anti-hero was shown on screen within a very short period of time. Perhaps I just happened to be sitting next to one of the few unfortunate kids with the attention of a goldfish.
This is a film that seems to mimic its peers. It’s not long before Ed Norton goes clambering through the Brazilian shanty towns reminiscent of the Bourne Ultimatum (but not as stylish). The fight that we were teased with, in the trailer gives more than a nod to the Matrix Revelations. There seems to be nothing that is artistically unique in this film and therein lays the problem.
The theme tune and opening credits are a carbon copy of the original 80’s series. This begins the film with a certain familiarity given to the audience. It is good to see some important cameos from the TV series. This includes the late great Stan Lee and the original Hulk (Lou Ferrigno). Why it seems they always seem to cast Ferrigno as a security guard is beyond me. Would it not be more prudent to have the old Hulk front up to the new Hulk, just to get swatted away like a fly in a scene? I admit that this suggested scene is borrowing somewhat from the last Transformers movie, but since this film seems to borrowing everything else, why worry?
In a Hollywood that loves to spit out one origin story or another within a few weeks of each other, it is a refreshing change to see a story that does not need to bother with needless back-story. We know what the Hulk is and he is not some doctor who has repressed his feelings since childhood and gets a bit angry (like in the previous incarnation of Hulk). We do not care what made the Hulk except for “Gamma Radiation”. What is Gamma anyway? Why on earth do these green lasers affect the lonely scientist so much? My penlight / laser pointer doesn’t have the same effect. I don’t go around screaming “HULK SMASH” breaking every object in sight whilst simultaneously stalking my love interests. No! We don’t know and we don’t care. What we need to know is the hero (HULK) and the bad guys (the general fellow and the scary looking Abomination). Okay so it’s never going to win awards and be remembered as fondly as Shakespeare, but we paid to see a bloke get angry, have his eyes turn green, grow substantially whilst keeping his dignity covered and basically smash things up! Can you get those ingredients wrong? Well of course you can. Ed Norton (as good as an actor he is) doesn’t quite cut it as much as Eric Bana as Bruce Banner. I don’t like admitting that, since the previous Hulk was not so popular critically. However the fact is Norton does creepy, but not “Don’t cross me! Just Don’t”. Despite this miscast though, he plays straight humour incredibly well with a classic mistranslation scene “You won’t like me when I’m hungry!”
The film was respectful of its TV series roots with nods to the classic “green eye” shot, purple trousers, the head-down walk that is so iconic of the Hulk’ alter ego. In the scenes in Brazil though, Norton is out of place. He looks like a tourist; a handyman in a factory. He doesn’t look like a scientist pretending to be a handyman in a factory. This is an ultimate shame as the film truly entertains. Yes one of the bad guys switches sides so quickly you’d think he had just been bribed with a few thousand dollars. Yes Liv Tyler’s boyfriend goes for a “Burton” somewhere in the middle of the film and is never mentioned again. Yes, Hulk manages to fall once from a Helicopter from a great height, but has difficulty when he does it again (from a shorter height). Realism though, is not what we wanted. In that regard, the complete angry-green-man-silliness factor was well received.
You cannot mention the Incredible Hulk without mentioning its predecessor (Ang Lee’s Hulk). Whether you like it or not, Ang Lee (in my opinion) got some things right. Eric Bana was excellently cast. He had the right amount of “calm and collected” whilst retaining the “I’ll hurt you if you get in the way” look; the comic book effects were very right. This was a unique (and quite brilliant) way of showing several different angles of the story that honoured the comic book roots. Okay so Ang Lee insisted that Hulk should get around by bouncing (much like the behaviour of a certain Tigger from the Winnie The Pooh stories). Okay, so he gave us more of a repressed anger storyline regarding Banner’s upbringing, but the fact is, if you have certain elements that are right then why change them? I would have been happy with Bana to reprise his role as Hulk. I would have been glad to see the return of the comic book style multi-scene effects. Unfortunately this was not meant to be. However what I did not want to see was bouncing! If you read the latest Empire magazine you will have noticed that Liv Tyler was quoted as stating there was to be no bouncing. This to me is like a red flag to a bull and I set about to prove them all wrong. We were told that a bouncing green steroid induced monster would not be bouncing on screen and guess what? I definitely saw bouncing occurring! I admit that the bouncing was whilst climbing buildings and leaping across rooftops (as the Hulk) but the fact is we were promised no bouncing and bouncing we actually received.
In truth I am nitpicking. I went to the cinema with certain expectations and they were met. This Marvel film was nowhere as good as Iron man (which I admit am worried about its upcoming sequel) but it didn’t need to be. Should you go and see it? The fact is: chances are you’ll know whether you want to see the Incredible Hulk or not and go or not go accordingly. This review therefore is completely meaningless and I am ranting away to my lonesome for the fifth time this week. For those who are actually interested in the score of this film then I will ramble no more and give it a:
3.4 out of 10. Good; but nothing that you could not predict! Here’s hoping the sequel (for there is surely to be one) pushes the boundaries further.