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July 2, 2008 > Movie Review: The Incredible Hulk

Movie Review: The Incredible Hulk

By Jeremy Inman

It's a good thing that Marvel Comics has finally started producing its own films. As the second film produced under the banner of Marvel Studios (Iron Man being the first), The Incredible Hulk proves that Marvel is better off not trusting other studios to handle their decades-old mainstays.

The first Hulk movie (Ang Lee's 2003 yawn-inducing, touchy feely blockbuster) was met with less-than-positive critical response and tepid fan approval - prompting Marvel to jump start the Incredible reboot - with a brand new cast and a story more akin to the 1970s TV series starring Bill Bixby.

In it, Edward Norton (who also rewrote large portions of the script) plays Dr. Bruce Banner, the Hulk's timid alter ego, who attempts to cure his "condition" following a recent anger-induced transformation into the Hulk resulting in serious injury of his love interest, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler). The problem is he's got to accomplish this while traveling the world on the run from Betty's father, General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt' Ross, who wants nothing more than to capture and control the Hulk. To aid him in his hunt for his white whale (considerably greener than Moby Dick), Ross enlists the aid of Special Forces leader Emil Blonsky. Blonsky, over the course of several elective and highly-experimental procedures, has become a beast to rival the ferocity and sheer raw power of the Hulk.

As a "reboot" of the franchise, the new Hulk is not a sequel to the first film, but it doesn't have to revisit any of the original story. Hulk filmmakers have the luxury of assuming their audience is familiar with the characters and basic idea. The film does a great job of implementing ideas, themes and even music from the 1970s TV series, combining them with a Hulk tale spun from decades of the best Hulk material in Marvel comics - most notably the work of Peter David, as well as the input of Norton. This being said, The Incredible Hulk bridges two generations of Hulk fans - those who grew up with the 70s Lou Ferrigno Hulk (who voices this film's Hulk) and those who either still read the comics or who saw Ang Lee's film and crossed their fingers for something better a second time around.

French director Leterrier who was previously at the helm of Transporter 2 took a few notes from Ang Lee's arguable failure by getting the action started soon and keeping it consistent. While Lee's Hulk had a few large action pieces spread across the film separated by large segments of superfluous exposition, Leterrier throws constant action sequences at his audience and handles his character development and exposition decisively - while the story's still moving. That way the audience gets more of what it wants (Hulk smash) and less weepy back story that doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

One criticism may be that none of the performances are quite as strong as Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in Iron Man, but the action is on a much larger scale in Incredible Hulk. The film moves at a better pace and builds to a more satisfying conclusion. Like Iron Man, Hulk has a number of hidden Easter eggs for fans of the comics - particularly a cameo scene with America's now-famous chrome-plated billionaire inventor, Tony Stark and very subtle reference to Captain America. The Incredible Hulk, like Iron Man before it, is another step toward Marvel building a well-established universe on film. With Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers on the way in the next couple of years, we can only hope that the trend toward better and better comic book movies further legitimizes a genre (particularly from Marvel) which has been marred by campy and superficial efforts.

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hr 54 mins.

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