Friday, 20 June 2008

The Incredible Hulk


Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Screenplay: Zak Penn
Starring: Edward Norton, Live Tyler, Tim Roth & William Hurt

Incredible indeed. This sort of sequel/reboot to Ang Lee’s 2003 poorly received Hulk restarts and reignites the Hulk franchise. Lee’s version was a so-so adaptation of the big green angry one, more concerned with pseudo cod philosophy and father/son relationships gone awry, than the superhero smash em up we were all hoping it would be. There was, eventually, some fine smash em up but we had to wade through a lot of poe faced seriousness to get to it. It’s not a bad film, in parts very enjoyable but Leterrier’s and Norton’s new version is so much the better, bigger beast.

The film gets right into the thick of the action, the credits sequence filling in the Hulk origin recap where scientist Bruce Banner is zapped with gamma rays causing him to turn big and green when angry. Cut to some time later and Banner (Norton) is on the run, hiding out in Brazil looking for a cure to his unusual predicament. General “Thunderbolt” Ross (Hurt), who was also present at the experiment, is determined to track Banner down and use his super alter ego as a new military weapon. Along for the hunt is Emil Blonsky (Roth) who has ideas of getting a hold of the Banner super/gamma serum so he can turn himself into a like wise super soldier/beast. Hunted from all angles, Banner turns to Betty Ross (Tyler) his former love and fellow scientist for help before Thunderbolt, Blonsky and even the Hulk destroy him.

High on action, drama and great acting, The Incredible Hulk is everything a comic book movie should be. After the success of the Spiderman films and the recent Iron Man, Marvel continue their success, this time giving proceedings a grittier edge than normal. Director Leterrier (Unleashed, The Transporter 2) was obviously the right choice to direct, as his mean, lean action and gritty visuals give us the best screen interpretation of the Hulk yet. Managing just the right balance between comic book, drama and spectacle, Leterrier creates a breathless ride that expertly paces the action and Hulk outs with the characters and story. All the principals, especially Norton and Hurt, are on fine form imbuing their comic book character with human depth and real emotion. Roth seems to be having ball as the nasty Blonsky and it’s good to see edgier actors like him and Norton cutting it up in a big budget movie. Taking its cue from the old Hulk TV series starring Bill Bixby, Zak Penn’s, with a little help from Norton, script benefits from the man on the run scenario. While trying to outrun his pursuers, Banner is always looking for a cure and the globe trotting gives a more international flavour to the film, from the ghettos of Brazil to the mean streets of New York.

Letterier obviously knows his action chops and stages some huge set pieces where the Hulk really does get to smash. The CGI is practically flawless and despite naysayers, works really well here. The final bout between the Hulk and Abomination (Blonsky’s transformation after taking too much of the gamma serum) is fist pounding adrenaline, the two creatures convincingly knocking the crap out of one another and New York city. However, the best bit is the chase in the first half of the film across the rooftops of Brazil before Banner finally transforms into the Hulk and inflicts some pain on the commando unit chasing him. Letterier shoots and cuts the action with flair, a human element always present when the CGI threatens to take over.

Hardcore comic fan boys will no doubt pick it to shreds, as no adaptation can ever be satisfactory, and “proper” critics will just dismiss it as another dumb summer movie. I know this gets brought up a lot but it’s sad that people just can’t enjoy movies anymore, especially summer movies, without over criticising or deconstructing them. The Incredible Hulk is a great summer movie, a great comic book movie, a great action movie and, well, just a great movie.

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