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The Incredible Hulk (2008): **

Directed by Louis Leterrier

It was okay, I guess. Y'know, one thing that Louis Leterrier's The Incredible Hulk did was make me like Ang Lee's Hulk a little bit more. At least Ang Lee's Hulk had some depth to it. The Incredible Hulk is all surface gloss. But y'know what? I liked the way Hulk looked better, too. Just a warning: this entire review is pretty much gonna be comparing the two movies. You might want to read my old review of that movie before you continue.

Let's start with the casting: Liv Tyler, who seems to just look weirder and weirder the older she gets, is no Jennifer Connelly, who just seems to get more beautiful the older she gets. All that this version of Betty Ross does for most of the movie is look open-mouthed shocked at what is going on. Not much to work with, and Liv doesn't do much with it.

The worst of the bunch, though, has to be William Hurt as General Ross. This is one of the single worst movie performances I've seen in a theater in a long time. The character's nickname is "Thunderbolt," but Hurt just looks uncomfortable and weak and slightly embarrased the whole time he's on screen. He exudes absolutely no strength or vitality; he at times seems like he's on the verge of just mumbling and whimpering. He seems more like a meek intern than a strong-willed Army general. This is especially bad comparted to Sam Elliot's great, bombastic portrayal of the character in Ang Lee's version.

Edward Norton thankfully is rather good as Bruce Banner. He's accessible and sympathetic, and injects a good amount of exasperated humor into the role. Unfortunately he's not a very deep version of Bruce Banner; I can't imagine that this guy had the horrible childhood of the comics' Bruce or of Eric Bana's tortured, emotionally stunted Bruce. Eric Bana's performance may have been unaccessible and distant (by design), but at least he had a lot of depth to him.

Tim Roth's Emil Bronsky is probably the most interesting character,: an aging, just-over-the-hill soldier who sees the Hulk as the ultimate challange that he's no longer up to. But soldiering is the only thing that he knows how to do. He slowly becomes obsessed with the notion of being able to beat the Hulk, and eventually will go to more and more extreme lengths to be able to do so.

I thought it was strange that Bronsky's Abomination was rather articulate and had defined goals whereas Banner's Hulk is basically just a mindless, reactionary monster. Maybe 'cause Bronsky had some SuperSoldier Serum in his blood? But this is kind of a problem I had with both movies, in that they take the easy way out with Hulk and just portray him as a mindless monster. At least this Hulk gets to say two phrases during the course of the film. But when are they gonna portray the version of the Hulk that is a little intelligent and can actually be talked to? Well, maybe in the upcoming Avengers movie (especially if the final shot of Banner in this movie indicates that he might have gained control of the Hulk).

This Hulk movie treats the Hulk condition almost like a rash: you were accidentally exposed to some poison ivy, and you have to be very careful not to scratch it or else it'll itch like crazy and get all scabby. There are no underlying psychological reasons as to why the Hulk is the way he is. In Ang Lee's movie, the Hulk character is the living emobidment of the surpressed rage of Bruce's personality. This Hulk character is almost completley unrelated to the Bruce character except for their mutual compulsion to not let Betty get hurt. I'm not at all sure where this Hulk comes from or why he's like he is except that maybe he's overdosing on adrenaline? I dunno, but he wasn't a very interesting Hulk.

There are a couple of weird cameos by other comic book characters, including (an apparently pre-accident) Doc Sampson and (definitely pre-accident) Samuel Sterns, AKA "The Leader." The Stearns character injects a bunch of much-needed humor and energy into the proceedings, and was a lot of fun.

Ang Lee's Hulk movie was dreary, thoughtful, and meditative, looking deep into the psyche of someone who had the Hulk inside of him. This pissed a lot of people off who wanted a kick-ass action movie. This Hulk movie goes too far the other way and is all just sound and fury signifying nothing. But even with all its emphasis on action and its constantly-moving camera and quick pacing, it is still somehow joyless, and just not very much fun. Especially if you compare it to Iron Man, which exudes liquid joy from every frame of film.

I think one of the main problems of this Hulk is that the filmmakers all had the old television show in their hearts when they made it. Well, you know what? That old Hulk television show kinda sucked. Here's a little secret people my age don't like to hear: almost all of those action/adventure shows from the late 70's to the early 80's (the A-Team, Knight Rider, Airwolf, The Incredible Hulk, even the original Battlestar Galactica), are actually pretty crappy. Shhh... don't tell!

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