Film Review: The Incredible Hulk (2008)
In 2008, Louis Leterrier released The Incredible Hulk, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, as the second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Starring Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burell, and William Hurt, the film grossed $263.4 million at the box office.
Five years after the accident creating the Hulk, Dr. Bruce Banner remains a fugitive from the United States government who wants to weaponize the process. His efforts to control his anger and find a cure are compromised when General Ross finds out where he is.
The redheaded stepchild of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Incredible Hulk is a passable film with few saving graces. Notably, it isn’t an origin film as the genesis of the Hulk is presented in the opening credits and the plot kicking off five years later. Still, it is a rather convoluted plot going in many different directions. Banner as a fugitive working to cure himself while on the run from government forces who decide to send in the Abomination as the only opponent who can match his strength would have made for a tighter film. Instead, audiences are given the government forcing him out of hiding, him going to New York to get the data, running into Betty, Ross infusing Blonsky with super serum, Banner meeting Dr. Sterns who turns Blonsky into Abomination, and the final showdown. There’s so much going on, resulting in a cluttered mess.
The characterization is all over the place, too. What is supposed to be the mark of Banner’s character is how he’s an intelligent scientist, yet is tortured by the green shadow following him around. His anguish over not having a normal life is his driving force to cure himself. However, this film does not properly bring forth that distinguishing characteristic. Instead, it attempts to spell out why Banner feels the way he does without properly showing it. At the same time though, Banner comes off as more mopey or annoyed during quiet moments, betraying the exposition given. It feels as if the film does not consider Banner’s plight worthy of anything more than minor annoyance rather than one of torment from the necessity of spending life in isolation for fear of hurting someone.
This goes into the acting as well, consisting of incredibly wooden performances by Norton and Tyler. This is most noticeable during the scene of the two of them speaking in Betty’s hallway as the two get ready for bed. Neither party seems to be invested in what they are saying, or doing, and the film suffers for it. The best acting comes from Nelson as Sterns. He is able to portray the manic scientist quite well, giving believability to his desires of taking Banner’s blood and creating a litany of cures.
Still, the film has good moments of action. The fight between the Hulk, the Special Forces operatives and the three local toughs in the factory at the beginning of the film is done particularly well. Darkness covers most of the factory and the Hulk is hardly seen in what little light is shining, taking care of the toughs before focusing his unstoppable rage on the operatives. It does well showing Hulk as a mysterious monster who can barely control himself but at the same time is unable to be stopped by conventional methods. Further, the fight at the climax between Hulk and Abomination is great. The former is actually outclassed by a stronger opponent who is able to grab a missile in midair, hit himself with it and take no damage. Here, Hulk has to utilize the intelligence he has in order to get the upper hand.
Reviews & Recognitions
bold indicates reception of award/recognition
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA – Saturn Awards
- Best Science Fiction Film
Alliance of Women Film Journalists – EDA Awards
- Special Mention Award – Remake That Shouldn’t Have Been Made
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards
- Top Box Office Films
Golden Schmoes Awards
- Most Underrated Movie of the Year
- Best Sci-Fi Movie of the Year
- Best Action Sequence of the Year (Final fight vs Abomination)
National Movie Awards, UK
- Best Superhero
- Best Performance – Male (Edward Norton)
Teen Choice Awards
- Choice Summer Movie: Action Sequence