100 Days of Superheroes- Day 71: Incredible Hulk (2008)
Norton is great but video game hulk...not so much.
“I don’t want to control it. I want to get rid of it.”
Less than a decade after the messy first film came out, the rights reverted back to Marvel and they decided to try their own hand at perhaps one of their better known properties. This time the film was to be more grounded, less cartoonish, and take advantage of the built in audience of the TV series. The result was the Incredible Hulk.
One of the benefits of this reboot was not taking it all the way back and redoing the origin. Instead the origin was simplified to the opening credit sequence and highly reminiscent of the TV version. Fast-forward and we find Bruce Banner hiding out in South America as he searches for a cure.
When he gets a message from codename “Mr. Blue”, Banner decides to pack up his bags and head back to the USA in the hopes that he will finally be rid of the destructive Hulk. Unfortunately the journey brings him back under the radar of General Thunderbolt Ross who hopes to use him to create new weapons. He recruits the help of enthusiastic Special Forces Emil Blonsky to help hunt Banner down.
The film is a step up from the 2003 version because it utilizes the most interesting aspect of the Hulk as a fugitive story rather than conventional superhero. Banner has to stay hidden and keep from being found or risk capture or worse (the Hulk tearing sh*t up). It gives a lot more tension to the film than just watching a giant green monster smash stuff (not that it isn’t fun).
In the lead role is Edward Norton, who is well known for playing characters with internal struggles. He was the perfect pick for a Bruce Banner because his skinny physical appearance combined with his withdrawn, quite personality makes for a great contrast to the Hulk’s, brutish force. Despite him having very little lines in the first half of the film, Norton managed to get the audience engaged in his character and performance. His only downside is in the comics Bruce Banner had a lot of repressed rage and you never really see that from Norton, making his very few emotional outbursts a little jarring.
As for his alter ego, Hulk, Lou Farrigno from the TV series reprises the role (in a way) as the voice for the giant green goliath. William Hurt also does a tremendous job as Thunderbolt Ross. Now I thought that Sam Elliot did a good job in the original film but Hurt gives less sympathy to the role as a more dislikable enemy, which is what the film needed.
As for his daughter Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), she gives a decent performance as well. Probably she was the weakest actor out of the lot, but she does her job well enough and the character is there for what she needs to do.
Of course Ross is not the only villain in the film. You also need to give room for a more physical foe for the Hulk to match brawn with. This is Emil Blonsky, portrayed by Tim Roth as a violent soldier who in fear of losing his prowess, slowly poisons and transforms himself into the monster known as The Abomination.
Honestly one huge positive thing I can say about the film is that until the Avengers came out, Incredible Hulk had the most fulfilling climax. A great 1 on 1 battle with destruction everywhere. This is the strong finish that many of the other Marvel studio films lacked.
Where the film unfortunately stubbles is in the area of computer generated imagery. The Hulk looks decent in the night but all the daytime scenes look almost like something ripped out of a video game. Even the CGI helicopter looks kind of cheap and unrealistic. When you consider when this was made and that it came out after Iron Man and Spider-Man (both using lots of CGI character models), you’d think they could have done better. You also never got a real sense of how ridiculously awesome some of the stuff the Hulk could do and the full extend of his strength. Sometimes he feels a little too reserved for an eleven foot rage monster.
Yet the complaints visually may hurt the film in the action department, the film still has a good plot, great actors, and the action is still fun even if not totally believable. But it's main saving grace is within the films fugitive storyline about a man on the run and at odds with himself. The Incredible Hulk is a good look at how a Hulk film can be done right and with a little better graphic effects artists could really be "incredible".
FINAL RATING: 8/10- (80%)
Previous DAY 70- Iron Man
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