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The Incredible Hulk (2008)

  • Review: ** ½ (out of ****)
  • Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell, Christina Cabot, Peter Mensah, Lou Ferrigno, Paul Soles
  • Director: Louis Letterier
  • Screenplay: Zak Penn
  • Length: 114 min.
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi.

Hoping to quickly explain the members of The Avengers to audiences ahead of the 2011 scheduled roll out of the marvel movie about the superhero team, company executives have decided to release at least one film on each member, the second (after Iron Man) being that of The Incredible Hulk.

Comic fans will quickly remember the poorly received adaptation called Hulk five years ago and question why a new version was created so soon thereafter. Producers were not pleased with the original entry and wanted to give the new production company a chance to show it could make a better movie. Thus we have this Zak Penn version which disposes of the stylistic flourishes director Ang Lee put on the original film and focuses instead on traditional storytelling techniques, large numbers of visual effects sequences and employing a more familiar face to play the titular strong man.

A significant improvement over the original (Lee's only failure in my book), the new Incredible Hulk puts seasoned thespian Edward Norton into the role of Bruce Banner and returns the television series' original Hulk Lou Ferrigno to voice the purple-panted green behemoth.

Instead of re-telling the origin story provided in Lee's film, the new take decides to focus on Banner's exile in South America where he works as a mechanic on a bottling assembly line while communicating via secret satellite with a scientist who believes he can cure Banner if he obtains the right ingredient. When an assault team arrives to capture Banner after his blood inadvertently mixes with a bottle of soda and causes dire results in the U.S., Bruce goes back on the run trying to escape the grasp of his former military boss General Ross (William Hurt).

Along the way, he meets up with his ex-girlfriend Betty Ross (now played by Liv Tyler) and attempts to make his way to his scientist contact "Mr. Blue" (Tim Blake Nelson) all the while being hunted by Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), a career soldier who opts to take a bit of the super soldier serum Gen. Ross has been working on.

The amelioration of the original film is largely in the performances. Norton is far more sympathetic as Banner than was the more imposing Eric Bana. Norton's small frame, intelligence and unimposing nature counterbalances the Hulk's dominating and idiotic nature. It is clear the producers recognized the weaknesses of the first feature and corrected them for this version.

Other performance improvements include Tyler, who shows up the one-note performance of Jennifer Connelly (which is a tough task for the normally underwhelming Tyler); and Hurt ratchets back the overacting that made Nick Nolte so obnoxious in the original (although playing different characters, the respective fathers of Betty Ross and Bruce Banner have strong similarities).

The story is far too simplistic, relying mostly on a series of long, mostly unexceptional chase sequences strung together to make the film longer than it probably could have been. The Incredible Hulk doesn't work for the Marvel Studios the way Iron Man did. The topics discussed in the film feel far from relevant, failing to parallel real world conflicts. Additionally, the story relies more on explosions and events than it does on strong characterizations and firm plot development.

Still, the output is satisfying to a certain enough. It isn't the follow-up to Iron Man I would have expected, but it provides some promising developments that should fit into The Avengers film well.