The Incredible Hulk

“You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry.”

All I ever write about is comic book movies. I don’t even read comic books. I was drummed out of the union for my positive stance on Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, so covering movies about CGI green dudes fighting exo-skeletors is my only stock-in-trade now.

Does anyone remember Ang Lee’s Hulk, the incoherent mess about radioactive dogs and (I think) electric jellyfish and the ravages that drugs can have on a career? I think that it may have been erased from the collective consciousness: Lee went on to make movies about shepherds with lousy work ethics and Chinese resistance groups; Eric Bana went on to fight for Israel in overlong movies about girls in red dresses; Jennifer Connelly protected diamonds from Tony Blair, was cuckolded by Kate Winslet, and somehow became more stunningly beautiful; Nick Nolte was eaten by a hog-goblin and has not been seen since.

The Incredible Hulk – it is not that movie! It can conceivably fit into the continuity, but it doesn’t have to. It’s basically a beautifully shot film with sketchy motivations from some of the characters and … well, sometimes it’s frankly Iron Man Lite. But that’s almost okay.

Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) has been hiding out in South America for five years. When Stan Lee drinks a bottle of guarana that has Banner’s blood in it, Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) is alerted, and the hunt for Banner is on! Unfortunately, the quasi-Commie UK loan agent Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) is the lead soldier, and his hunger for power is nothing short of ravenous. As the hunt continues across the US, Banner teams up with Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), so maybe he can beat his anger.

I just realised that summary failed to mention that Banner turns into the Hulk, a big green smashy thing, when he gets angry. That’s why you wouldn’t like him, see. I think that the limited readership of Batrock probably knew that, but I have to keep up standards, you know?

The thing about The Incredible Hulk is that it doesn’t have much of an easily marketable story, which is why the trailer tells you pretty much everything important that happens up until the start of the climactic battle. It’s why, when I saw the trailer, I thought that there couldn’t be much substance to the movie. Well, there is enough. It’s nice to look at Brazil and Guatemala, and Edward Norton is pretty good as Bruce Banner. The Hulk doesn’t actually look anything like him, but that’s perfectly acceptable because that part of the character wouldn’t work as an exaggerated Norton. William Hurt, while still recovering from the stigma of A History of Violence, is also okay as Ross, and there’s nothing to complain about with Liv Tyler, either.
Tim Blake Nelson’s role as “Comic Relief Scientist A” is frankly embarrassing when he finally makes it onto the screen, and Tim Roth’s Blonsky isn’t given much in the way of motivation at all.

Which is where the biggest problem with the film comes in: it is simply Iron Man Lite – a film which isn’t even two months old yet! I predicted long in advance that Edward Norton would (metaphorically) ask Tim Roth if he had solved the icing problem … and he did ask – although more in the fashion of ripping out Roth’s elbow and stabbing him with it than anything verbal. That’s not even to mention that the final scene is practically identical to the post-credits scene of Iron Man, with different actors. That’s not even executed as classily, as it seems a conscious decision was made to put the scene at the end of the movie (after a much more suitable “cut to credits” scene), rather than at the end of the credits. If they’d made this decision with Iron Man, the excitement I felt would have been replaced with frank disgust for the lousy editing decision.

Still, The Incredible Hulk is almost infinitely better than its predecessor. As comic book movies go, I would likely consider Iron Man essential, whereas this would rank somewhere along the lines of “you don’t have to see it, but it won’t angry up your blood”. Sometimes that’s all we can really ask for in a movie.

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