Silent Archimedes

Movie Review: The Incredible Hulk

Posted by silentarchimedes on June 29, 2008

Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt
Director: Louis Leterrier

I finally got a chance to see The Incredible Hulk last night. I usually wait a week or two before seeing a blockbuster, only because I don’t like crowded theaters. They influence my movie experience, for better or worse. I never saw the Ang Lee version of this movie a few years ago, so I don’t have that to compare this one too. I’m also so-so on superhero and comic book movies because most of them sabotage the comic storylines for sake of special effects or blockbuster status. I think the Spider-man series, Fantastic Four series, and X-Men series have been overrated; especially the first two. However, there have been notable exceptions, such as the original Blade with Wesley Snipes, Superman Returns, Batman Begins, and Iron Man, especially the last two. All incorporate the comicky action and cinematography with beautiful storylines that capture the always-required inner conflict of super heroes. As for the 2008 Incredible Hulk, my interest piqued when I read that one of my favorite dramatic actors, Edward Norton, would not only be playing the Hulk but be heavily invested in the storyline with Marvel comics.

THE CAST REVIEW

Edward Norton is one of those actors that plays the part of conflicted characters very well. His roles as Derek Vinyard in American History X, Worm in Rounders and the narrator in Fight Club are quite memorable. It is unfortunate that he does not make more movies. The role of the Hulk appeared to be right up his alley, a character conflicted by his alter-ego; one so monstrous that he only wishes to destroy rather than control it. However, his performance was unbalanced. I prefer to blame that on the inconsistent character development rather than Norton. Cliched images of Banner half-naked in angst did not give Norton enough to work with.

Liv Tyler’s role in the Hulk, as my friend mentions, is exactly the same as her role in Armageddon. She plays a small role as the supportive and emotional love interest of the hero. She cries. She whispers sweet nothings. She gets in the way. Even her role as Arwen in the Lord of the Rings is similar. I’m unsure why she continues to take these simple one-dimensional roles.

I was surprised that Tim Roth played the arch-enemy in this movie. Although he usually plays bad guys, he didn’t seem believable as someone that wanted power at all costs. His scrawny build and sarcastic face made it hard to believe that he had so much military stature. To overcome that would’ve required more character development, which there was none. His trademark line in the movie, “Is that all you’ve got?!” is pathetic.

THE BAD

The assumption that everyone knows the story of the Hulk is incorrect. The only mention of how Bruce Banner became the Hulk is during the opening credits. This leads to many weaknesses in the movie. Without understanding how Banner got to where he is, it is hard to commiserate with his angst and the close romance with Elizabeth Ross. Batman Begins does this very well in introducing the agony of the character.

The lack of character development is also apparent. Bruce is already on the run when the movie begins and has a new life working in a factory in South America. He communicates with an unknown person via satellite but we have no idea how they met. Elizabeth and him have very strong emotions for each other throughout the movie, but we are just supposed to take this closeness for granted. The relationship between Elizabeth and the Army General was also inconsistently developed. Finally, the Emil (Roth) character’s thirst for power and hunger to fight Hulk appears psychotic, at best.

THE GOOD

The first scenes in this movie are unique. Having him in a poor, crowded village in South America shows the extent of his desire to remove himself from the source of angst. The cinematography and choice of locations, such as forests and waterfalls stick to the comic-book feel. The mass usage of US Army arsenal and its inability to stop him, even with their latest technologies, also stuck to the comic book genre.

The action in this movie is worth the price of admission. The action sequence is like a sine wave. Most action scenes occur when Bruce Banner is Hulk. The time between the Hulk episodes are filled with damage control and story development. The computer graphics is very believable (although still not at par with 1993’s Jurassic Park).

Norton does a good enough job to make this movie more than just an action movie. He just didn’t have enough to work with to really develop Bruce Banner enough.

THE VERDICT

The Incredible Hulk is definitely better than the 2003 Hulk. Although I never saw the 2003 version, it is apparent simply by looking at the CG and the actors involved. The action sequences in this movie are what make it stand out. The CG and the power of the monsters are believable. This movie attempts to be dramatic too and that’s where it comes up a bit short. The attempt is to be commended but inconsistent storylines and lack of character development leave the audience detached from the characters. It would’ve been interesting to see the two directors switch places, as Lee is more of a dramatic director than Transporter’s Leterrier. Lee working with Norton would have been interesting.

Overall, this is a good movie and a good start to a very popular comic book hero. Norton’s close involvement in this movie is a good sign as he is a perfectionist and will do what he thinks is necessary to improve its weaknesses, even it means complaining in public. Sequels are due for this movie as hints are strewn throughout. It will either be another Hulk only sequel or might comprise of Hulk as part of the Avengers superhero series. The comic book feel of this movie keeps it true to its roots.


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Rating: 7 out of 10 Hulk figurines

What did you think of The Incredible Hulk?
a) 1- the worst
b) 2-4
c) 5
d) 6
e) 7
f) 8
g) 9
h) 10 – the best
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