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!