You have to hand it to the comic book genre for producing the same story over and over until they get it “right.” That would be “right” according to the fans. Ang Lee’s 2003 telling of the Hulk wasn’t praised all that much, and rightly so. Fans wanted carnage and voluminous property destruction; instead they got a plodding bore. Now along comes The Incredible Hulk, a more concise and action-packed experience. This is as “right” as the Hulk is going to get.
Adapted from the Marvel comic of the same name, The Incredible Hulk follows the plight of Bruce Banner (Norton), a scientist who becomes involved in a lab accident that leaves him exposed to copious amounts of gamma radiation. The result: When he gets angry and his pulse reaches 200, he transforms into a giant green creature with godlike strength. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. military is heavily interested in his abilities. Bruce has spent most of his life since searching for a cure to his condition and hiding out in South America, but he is called into action when a rival beast, Abomination, takes form.
Director Louis Leterrier and writers Zak Penn and Edward Norton clearly learned from Lee’s mistakes in the 2003 incarnation. After all, this is a story about a man who can transform into an indestructible beast, so how seriously can you take it? Leterrier lets the story materialize just enough before unleashing what the audience signed up for in the first place: mass destruction and a whole lot of opportunities to cheer for the Hulk as he takes out a corrupt military and takes on Abomination. The effects are passable, but it works to the film’s advantage in that it operates like a B-movie. The final showdown is amongst the best of the lot in this genre, and fans should finally be at peace.
Edward Norton is an interesting casting decision as Banner, but he brings the character more personality than Eric Bana did in the 2003 adaptation. Norton has always been a superb actor, and here he brings pitch perfect humor and a character you can really care about. I wish I could say the same for Liv Tyler, who spends most of the film looking like most of us did after viewing the 2003 version of this story. As Betty Ross she is given very little to do other than to beg for the military to leave the Hulk alone. But honestly, he’s the Hulk! Their bullets mean nothing! We do get some quality scenery chewing from Tim Roth and William Hurt, though.
The Incredible Hulk was tailor-made for the summer crowd, and most should be pleased with this rendition. It’s loud and in-your-face, and it does maintain the same “we know this is crazy; just go with it” tone that made Iron Man so much fun. As if the film wasn’t entertaining enough, Marvel fans will be in for a serious treat with the film’s closing sequence. A second viewing will be necessary for me as I could barely hear the dialogue over all the cheering.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 114 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images, and brief suggestive content.
Theatrical Release: June 13, 2008
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Written by: Zak Penn & Edward Norton. Based upon the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby.
Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell, William Hurt