The Incredible Hulk Review
Bruce Banner: I don’t want to control it. I want to get rid of it.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
With Ang Lee’s Hulk turning out to be quite the misguided experiment back in 2003, it would be difficult to do a reboot five years later considering the disappointment that film left Hulk fans with. Thankfully this movie turned out to be leagues better than the previous one in terms of character, performances, action, etc. All is not good news however. There still are some problems that keep it from fully getting out of the gate. With that being said, this film still has a great deal to offer.
Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is a scientist at Culver University in Virginia working along with his girlfriend Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) on a modified super soldier experiment made back in World War 2 regarding gamma radiation. The experiment fails and Bruce ends up transforming into the giant green monster known as the Hulk whenever he gets angry. As the Hulk he ends up destroying the lab and killing and injuring many people including Betty and her father General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt). This causes Banner to become a fugitive from the U.S. military and Ross who seek to turn the gamma radiation within Bruce into a weapon. Five years later Banner is hiding out in Brazil seeking a cure for his condition. However when the military tracks him down circumstances force Bruce to flee and return home. With the help of Betty and Dr. Samuel Sterns a.k.a Mr. Blue (Tim Blake Nelson) he goes on the run seeking to rid himself of the Hulk. Meanwhile a soldier named Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) upon learning of Bruce’s condition offers to be injected with a similar super soldier serum to enhance himself and defeat Banner. Overtime his skeleton starts to deform and his judgment starts to become impaired becoming a much different giant green monster in the process.
Perhaps the movie’s strongest point is its handling of the origin story. Rather than spend the first half or so of the movie on it, it’s established brilliantly through the opening credits. The backbone of it is essentially the same as the 2003 version but there are just enough alterations for it to be seen as a reboot. Even if you watched this movie having not seen the 2003 version you could get understand the origin story and the characters presented within the first couple of minutes. It’s a very unique and underrated method of establishing superhero origin stories.
The movie does however suffer from pacing issues. Most of it focuses on Ross and the military pursuing Bruce and Betty so its difficult to appreciate the other aspects of the movie to the fullest extent. Things like Bruce and Betty’s relationship, Bruce’s struggle with himself and the Hulk, his connection to Ross, and overall character development are established and shown well but not fully explored to the point that they can or should. And I get that they didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the original movie by spending too much time on talking about those issues and not much on the Hulk but based on how the movie showed these things they had potential.
The movie also while it does not spend the majority of time on them like the original, does show a few flashbacks. The first couple of times it was all right but after a while it gets annoying.
The action in this movie is well done. The first action sequence in the factory was well done. There’s an intense chase scene between Banner and the military leading up to Bruce transforming into the Hulk. And at first when the Hulk appears it’s in the shadows and it’s hard to see him. And when you do finally see him in all his glory during the fight at the university he does look awesome. The university fight is also well done building up towards the Hulk’s appearance and you see the Hulk doing some cool stuff against the military in this battle. The final battle in Harlem while not bad does leave something to be desired. On paper the idea for it is not a bad one but nothing about it completely stands out.
Edward Norton as Bruce Banner gives an entertaining performance. A lot of the struggle he goes through, his connections to other characters, etc. is done effectively through his expressions, which are very well shown. He doesn’t have that much memorable dialogue but when he talks you really believe in what he’s saying. His performance doesn’t just feel phoned in or uninteresting.
Liv Tyler as Betty Ross also turned in a good performance. She’s very kind and compassionate but also has a level of hard-headedness that her father has and you get an idea of the bond she shares with Bruce and their chemistry is believable.
William Hurt as Thunderbolt Ross was well done. While he didn’t bring the fury that the General had in the comics and even in the 2003 movie he did capture the obsession of capturing the Hulk to life. He’s doesn’t care about anything else but capturing the Hulk. As he puts it “as far as I’m concerned that man’s whole body is property of the U.S. army.”
Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky was an excellent villain at first. The movie showcases well his military soldier background and his power-hungry nature for the Hulk’s power. But once he becomes the giant monster towards the end he just looks and seems very run-of-the-mill. It’s not bad but when he transforms nothing about it is unique.
Tim Blake Nelson as Mr. Blue/Dr. Samuel Sterns despite him only appearing for a few minutes in the last third gives a lot of weight to his performance. His dialogue generates a lot of mystery and fascination to his character. His performance gives a lot of wonder as to whether he’s an evil mad scientist or whether he’s just eccentric. Towards the end he gets exposed to some of Banner’s blood and he begins to mutate into another monster but he never appears again in this movie or any other Marvel movie, which is a shame.
The CGI Hulk in this movie is ok. They got back the voice of the original Hulk back in the 1978 TV series Lou Ferrigno which was cool. He looks a lot more realistic and it does feel like the audience is in the moment with him. As stated before the build-up towards him in the first two action sequences is great and when you finally see him fully in the second one it is great. But from there on out he doesn’t look nearly as impressive and at times while it doesn't get too cartoony does look less realistic compared to the other moments in the film.
This movie is certainly better than the 2003 version but it’s not exactly “The Incredible Hulk.” Nothing about the movie is bad but a lot of the average factors really hold the movie back. It has a brilliant origin story and some good performances but everything else is merely passable. It’s devastating to know that we will probably never get a perfect Hulk movie but if this is the best thing we will have to one I can safely say that it will not make me angry.