by Jon Quixote Norton Smash Word of Mouth For Movie! In a scene from the upcoming sequel, Hulk stares down the Mole Man.
Like most reviews of The Incredible Hulk you will read, I will start mine off by paraphrasing Gore Vidal. Vidal noted that writers who try to be great instead of good usually are neither. To many moviegoers, comic fans, and Marvel Studios executives, Ang Lee's vilified Hulk, with its kinetic comic-book visuals and focus on dissecting Banner's mental state, illustrates this principal.
In theatres today, The Incredible Hulk takes the lessons of the last movie to heart, and has only the modest ambition of making an entertaining movie with lots of collateral damage. Banner is chased until he turns into the Hulk, at which point he smashes. Repeat twice. Add romantic subplot. The end.
It delivers as promised. The chase scenes are fast-paced. The fight scenes are heavy on the smashing, and chock-full of both creative pounding and iconic imagery. The quieter moments are nicely quiet, which is probably the biggest one-up this one has on the 2003 version (that and the fact that the climax is comprehensible).
Edward Norton has reportedly refused to do publicity for the movie after the studio rejected his preferred cut. Apparently, he's a big fan of the comic and thought it would be truer to form if the scenes with Betty were out-and-out pornography. While I appreciate his fidelity, I don't know if there's a cut out there that would make me really happy with this movie.
My big issue is that the Hulk doesn't really feel like the Hulk in the comics. I don't think this is a case of fanboy whining about how it's not like I read it when I was 10 (or, in my case, two weeks ago). I don't really care about fidelity to the source. I care that Hulk is largely devoid of personality and charm. Sure he roars when he smashes, and he looks soulful when he's alone with Betty, and he's way more heroic and cautious in his destruction than anybody gives him credit for. But that's about it for The Movie Hulk. You might remember him from King Kong. And I don't really care about him too much.
For example, the villain's (paper-thin) backstory is that he's an action-junkie who wants to get stronger so he can keep fighting. He changes and goes on a rampage because, well, he can. So when he fights the Hulk, it's a battle between the cocky Abomination and a mute-Hulk who simply wants to stop the bad guy. But, really, wouldn't it be more interesting if we got a hero who was a little pissed that somebody thought he was stronger and smarter than Hulk? One who screams "Hulk is strongest one there is" when turning the tables on his foe. I think so. I think the movie Hulk is a pretty good character, but missing some of his essence, some of his soul.
That soullessness is evident throughout the flick. Thunderbolt is simply a gung-ho douchebag, though William Hurt has as much fun with him as possible. Tim Roth is probably miscast as the ultimate warrior, Emil Blonsky (why is the one movie where he's supposed to be an action hero the first movie where I realized just how freakin' tiny Tim Roth actually is. Did they get him from K'ai?). Tim Blake Nelson's Samuel Sterns is pretty awesome, but by making him an unscrupulous scientist instead of a dummy-turned-genius, again I think they're missing a minor but significant element of the character.
I think when the Marvel movies have been great - like Iron Man or X2 - they've kept things simple, but also connected with the things that make the characters great (which is mostly their personalities). Here, they had the right swing, but I think they only got a piece of the ball.
But I'm dwelling on the negative (bad dork with a blogger account, bad!). This is a good action movie and a good comic book movie. We wanted to see Hulk smash. We wanted to see Bruce run. We wanted a script completely devoid of discussion about nanites. And that's what we got. It's action-packed, with a good sense of humor, a strong sense of emotion, a few comic book easter eggs, and cameos by Stan The Man, Lou Ferrigno, and even Bill Bixby. It's just not great.
Of course, it doesn't have to be great. It just has to be entertaining. It is.
And provided they make Edward Norton happy again ($$$), there will be no need to reboot a second time. I'm looking forward to the next entry in the franchise. Especially because there's nothing stopping them from having a little more fun with the character of The Hulk next time. And that might be incredible.
Norton Smash Word of Mouth For Movie!
In a scene from the upcoming sequel, Hulk stares down the Mole Man.