The Plot: After a freak accident in his laboratory, Dr. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) has been changed. Whenever he becomes too angry or excited, he loses control over his body and transforms into a large, green monster known as the Hulk. On the run from the United States government who want to use the Hulk as a weapon, Bruce continually attempts to find a way to cure himself of his burden. General Ross (Willaim Hurt) may have gone too far, however, when he hired a mercenary named Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) to track down Banner. In the end, Blonsky may be more of a threat than the Hulk ever was.
The Review: Ever since I first saw director Ang Lee's take on the Hulk back in 2003 I've been a fan of that film. Sure it had it's problems, but I've enjoyed repeated viewings of it over the years since it's release. On the other hand, the majority of the movie-going community has vocally felt otherwise concerning Lee's film, which is why this time around Louis Leterrier, a director known for his high-intensity action films, was chosen to helm the green goliath's second feature film romp. A shorter running time, more eye candy, and less character development were the main ingredients used in Marvel's attempt to give audiences a tastier treat than Lee delivered five years prior. The question is: did they achieve their desired result?
In my opinion, not really.
To set the record straight right off the bat, I liked The Incredible Hulk. I thought that it was an enjoyable movie with a lot of good things going for it. Leterrier, Norton, and company improved upon a few of the flaws from Ang Lee's film, but simultaneously delivered a few of their own. First, lets look at the characters. Ever since Edward Norton was announced to be playing Bruce Banner in this film I was behind the choice one hundred percent, and after seeing the film I still feel this way. Norton wasn't a tough sell for me because in general he's one of my favorite actors, but beyond my devotion to him as a fan, I really think he took to this role well. He's meek enough to be believable as a scientist, but there's also enough going on behind his eyes to convince the audience that there's more to him than his non-threatening exterior. One of my few complaints about Lee's 2003 film was that genEric Bana (aka Eric Bland-a) seemed a bit too one dimensional and stiff. He never really convinced me that he was right to play the man who became a giant green powerhouse, which is not at all true in Norton's case.
As far as actresses are concerned, I'm a pretty big fan of Liv Tyler, but she didn't do much to impress me in The Incredible Hulk. I blame this fact moreso on the script she was working from than on her own lack of ability, though. In Lee's Hulk the character of Betty Ross (played then by Jennifer Connelly) was given a lot more to do than just be Banner's emotional crutch, which is why I was a bigger fan of her character in that film than in this one. Similarly, I felt that William Hurt's immense acting talent was fairly well wasted in Leterrier's Incredible Hulk. While General Thunderbolt Ross has never been a villain who the Hulk could literally fight one on one, he's Bruce Banner's true nemesis. As such, I wish that we would have gotten more from his character than just popping up onscreen to look like a dick every now and then. Honestly, Sam Elliot's portrayal of Ross in Ang Lee's movie never really got much of a chance to shine either, leading me to wonder why such an important character in the world of the Hulk is so frequently short-changed. Finally, we come to the true villain of The Incredible Hulk: Emil Blonsky aka the Abomination. Tim Roth was (not surprisingly) one of the best parts of this film. The transformation his character goes through during the movie (no pun intended) is rather extreme and the way his arc is told is often rushed to allow more focus on Banner, but Roth's sheer acting ability manages to make the viewer forget that what they're watching is so preposterous and sometimes poorly executed by the filmmakers. Simply put, he stole every scene he was in.
In the case of the live action Transformers movie from last year, I've heard some people say that they were disinterested in the action sequences because it's hard to invest your emotions in a bunch of huge CG characters beating the hell out of each other. I can agree with that sentiment, but in The Incredible Hulk this thought never crossed my mind. I cared enough about the Hulk and his adversary that I was with them the whole way even though their duel was a rather incredible sight to behold. Also, the CG and cinematography were clear and concise enough that I had no problem following the action. I even delighted to some of the more silly moments of action including a moment which I will only refer to as the "Hulk clap". My favorite action sequence of the movie though, has got to be the scene in which Blonsky, Ross, and a large group of soldiers confront Banner on a college campus. For one thing, it took place during the day so it made everything that much easier to take in in the unobscured broad daylight. I also really enjoyed the brief showdown with Blonsky and the "sound wave cannons" employed by the army in this sequence which I felt worked really well to evoke the phrase "comic book movie".
It's not all grins and admiration when it comes to my opinions on The Incredible Hulk, though. A specific part of the movie that sticks out in my mind as one of those moments when I sat in the movie asking myself "what the hell is going on here?!" came immediately following my aforementioned favorite action scene of the film. The Hulk has just protected Betty from a large explosion and is engulfed in flames. As I stated earlier, this scene took place clearly in broad daylight. However, immediately following the explosion that puts Betty in danger, it suddenly starts raining for no apparent reason. Well, that's not entirely true. The apparent reason is that the filmmakers wanted to get rid of those flames as quickly as possible and rather than coming up with a better solution for their problem they just opted to take control of the heavens and use them to their advantage. One of my pickier qualms with the movie is a scene in New York City involving a taxi cab and it's over the top driver. I assume that this scene was supposed to be funny, but the humor was lost on me. I much preferred humorous moments such as when Bruce and Betty are about to "do the deed" in a seedy hotel room. However picky my complaints about The Incredible Hulk may seem thus far, my biggest problem with the film was that it was in fact missing what I liked so much about Ang Lee's version: the character. The Incredible Hulk was meant as somewhat of a mindless action-packed romp with which the general movie-goer could wash the dramatic, plot-driven 2003 Hulk film taste out of their mouths. While it may have succeeded in doing just that, as a fan of Ang Lee's film, this one just felt like a step down to me.
The Verdict: The fight scenes are exciting and easy to follow, the CG is top-notch, and the story is easy to follow. The plot may be a bit too simple and rushed, and some of the characters could use a serious shot of character development, but The Incredible Hulk is a decent action movie. So long as what you're interested in is indeed an "action movie", Louis Leterrier's take on Marvel Comics' classic Jekyll and Hyde character shouldn't disappoint.