After 2003's The Hulk failed to impress audiences and critics alike, no one really expected to see another iteration of the green beast anytime soon. Flash forward five years, however, and Marvel is trying to reboot the franchise-that-never-was, this time with Ed Norton at center stage.
Gone is Ang Lee, Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Nick Nolte and any trace of the original picture that is the laughing stock of the Marvel-comic-turned-movie subgenre. Sure, Elektra was much worse, but people actually had expectations for The Hulk. Personally, I didn't hate the original, but considering that the only part of the movie I do remember is the ludicrously terrible ending, it's clear the first movie didn't quite hit the mark. Then again, I've never understood the appeal of the Hulk in general. A movie about a raging green monster with only minimal reasoning skills - and he's the hero - just seems silly to me, though that is perfect fodder for a mindless but entertaining summer action film.
And that is exactly what 2008's The Incredible Hulk is: a mindless but entertaining summer action film. It has plenty of action, a few explosions and just enough back story to piece it altogether. Beyond that, there is nothing particularly engaging or intelligent, but that's okay considering The Incredible Hulk is about a raging green monster with minimal reasoning skills.
Throwing Ed Norton into anything is an immediate upgrade, and knowing that the Oscar nominee, who is a fan of the comic, had his hands on various aspects of the production (except, much to his frustration, the final cut) immediately raised expectations. Then, the movie trailers started to appear, and those expectations waned as the movie appeared to have questionable special effects and a piss-poor screenplay.
Thankfully, the special effects are pretty decent and the screenplay also quite good, at least on a technical level - more on that later. The Hulk is, by definition, a challenge to any visual effects team, but the team has managed to make the best of the situation. There are a few stumbles, but overall I bought the visual effects.
Director Louis Leterrier, of Transporter fame, was brought in to deliver a more visceral experience than Lee's introspective version, and he does a pretty good job. The Incredible Hulk isn't nearly as ludicrous as Leterrier's other films, and is proof that the man is capable of making summer blockbusters. The movie looks good and is entertaining from beginning to end.
But how entertaining? The Incredible Hulk is not an amazing superhero movie by any stretch of the imagination. Especially compared to this year's Iron Man, which managed to be consistently funny, serious and exciting most of the time, regardless of what was happening on the screen, The Incredible Hulk is a bit bland. There are a few scenes where Zak Penn's screenplay evokes some laughs, but overall it takes itself way too seriously to no real result. There are some stretches where the movie just comes off as dull, though mainly there is just a lack of energy written into the dialogue. Tony Stark was constantly lighting up the screen, and Jon Favreau, behind the camera, made a world around him; here, Bruce Banner is mildly entertaining but not particularly engaging, and Leterrier doesn't get things rolling unless an action scene is at hand.
I liked The Incredible Hulk, but I'm not going to rave about it. It could have been better, though as is, it's good enough. The Hulk smashes, screams and punches his way to victory, and it's fun to see the green beast in action. Beyond that, I'll shrug my approval.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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