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Film Review: 'The Incredible Hulk' (2008) - The "Good" Hulk That Was Bad Too

My superpower is making witty comments about movies. I still haven't been recruited by the X-Men...

The Hulk's character and story are better embedded into a joint hero film... the solo movies just can't get it right.

The Hulk's character and story are better embedded into a joint hero film... the solo movies just can't get it right.

The "Better" Hulk Movie?

I'm making an effort to watch and review all the Marvel movies that have come out since 2008, when the first Iron Man movie came out, kicking off the "Marvel Cinematic Universe" craze. But the Avenger with possibly the worst solo movies (in this century anyway) is undoubtedly the Hulk. I mean, I went into this one thinking it was supposed to be the better Hulk version out of two. And yeah... I'm not seeing it! For some reason, the Hulk as a character is better explored in The Avengers and Thor: Ragnarok.

I don't know, movie, I also have trouble trying to figure you out.

I don't know, movie, I also have trouble trying to figure you out.

Plot Rundown

We meet our guy in Brazil where he's hiding out. Through newspaper headline exposition (newspapers were old, even in 2008) and flashbacks, we see his story about how he was turned into a monstrous killing machine, due to a scientific experiment at a college. Bruce talks to this guy by the alias of "Mr. Blue," asking about a possible cure for his condition. So this means that the most important part of the Hulk's origin story - you know, his origin, is told only through blurry, erratic flashbacks.

Bad guys come and chase Bruce, he's able to escape by Hulking out - he wakes up in Guatemala, where he hitches a ride with a stereotype going to Mexico, where he angsts for a while, before reaching his hometown in Virginia, where he stalks his ex-girlfriend and inquires an old man about her availability for mating.

Oh, and she's mostly connected to the plot through her father, besides the connection of being the protagonist's Designated Love Interest. She kind of looks like Anastasia Steele from the 50 Shades movies, except even more passive, even more "deer staring at headlights" -ish, and with an even jerkier boyfriend, her love for whom is even more baffling. She's everything you hate about female characters in movies.

They go to New York to meet Mr. Blue. Obviously, it's not a great idea to get the Hulk, who has bad guys chasing him, involved in one of the most densely populated areas in the entire country, when they could have arranged to meet in like, Utah. But this movie is silly, so they go to New York City. He ate a flash drive earlier that had important data, but he's able to puke/poop it out (it's unclear which), and the dude is able to help him find a cure. But the bad guys make their own bad guy version of the Hulk, so of course, Bruce has to become the Hulk to save the day. Oh and by "save the day" obviously that means wrecking the most populous U.S. city. And at one point, bashing the bad guy with two halves of a crumpled police car, that presumably started off with a police officer inside it? The movie's final battle drags on tediously, even though you know what's going to happen - the distressed damsel isn't going to die and the villain isn't going to live.

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This movie was a mess. It has no thematic character whatsoever.

This movie was a mess. It has no thematic character whatsoever.

The Review

This movie was a mess. It has no thematic character whatsoever, there's no real effort to talk about what the Hulk, as a concept, represents. The fight scenes look silly and like a video game. The villain's monstrous form looks bad. And I hope you like shaky cam!

The third world in this movie exists as a backdrop for the white main character's 'suffering in exile' arc. Also, I felt the need to point out that there actually are white Brazilians, but this movie has a very specific, single-minded view of what every country south of the border is. Also, he hits on a random Brazilian girl, who he never sees again. Because you have to have him end up with an American girl? Who he has been separated from for... however long? (The movie is so bad at exposition that I have no idea how long he was even in Brazil.)

And even by wet blanket, damsel in distress superhero girlfriend standards, this movie's love interest sucks. Her overacting, and gormless, surprised face made me laugh more than it made me feel any sympathy. The romance in this movie was as dead-eyed and cold as an old fish. It also comes out of nowhere - he shows up in Virginia after being missing and presumed dead for years. He runs away from her instead of explaining anything when he returns. He talks about her rather than to her, and watches her rather than faces her. Then, inexplicably, she runs away from her established beau, dropping him like old lettuce that's been sitting in her fridge for a week, and ends up with him.

Another major flaw is that it's really confusing in this movie about who the "bad guys" are and what they want. They seem to exist just so Bruce will have someone to fight. I wasn't really sure if S.H.I.E.L.D. was supposed to be the "bad guys" or what because what they do and why is so poorly explained. The villain was silly and made no sense at all, and they even have him shooting a dog to establish him as the bad guy. I didn't think they would pull such a cheap, half-assed move, but they did. Because why have subtle characterization or a nuanced villain? Too hard to write one, apparently.

Another flaw is that Hulk's power is very inconsistent and poorly explained. He has a wristwatch that shows him his heart rate (or something, it's not really explained, they just show us some numbers). When it's too high, he will Hulk out, which is why he refrains from having sex. But in an earlier scene, he was being chased across a slum and got in a fistfight in Brazil. Why didn't he Hulk then? My heart rate is probably higher if I'm being chased by bad guys than during sex? And I thought that anger was what was supposed to make the Hulk - the Hulk? But then he also implies that it can be caused by sex? Was he just trying to make an excuse for why he didn't want to? Did they have to have a paper-thin reason to avoid an R rating?

Why should audiences be any nicer to this one than to the Ang Lee Hulk movie? Both are bad. Or one being abysmal doesn't make the other good. This movie is a pile of flaws, with no redeeming qualities or entertainment value to make up for them. I would have walked out of this movie in the theater and asked for a refund, which is something I'd almost never do.

© 2019 Naomi Starlight

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