A comic book panel-type series of flashbacks with quick cuts under the opening title sequenbce begins THE INCREDIBLE HULK, recapping the background of how scientist Bruce Banner transformed into the green HULK when he was accidentally exposed to gamma radiation in his lab and hospitalized his girlfriend Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) by accident. Thankfully the audience wasn't subjected to yet another retelling of the origin myth of how the Hulk became the green gamma guy that we've all seen before, most recently in Ang Lee's HULK (2003) starring Eric Bana in the title role. Ang Lee must be turning green with envy as the characters and creatures in this outing come alive with pathos, humor, and some of the greatest fight choreography this side of the digital divide.
Once we are catapulted into the story things move swiftly along and you will find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat while rooting for the Green dude. Betty's dad, the evil General Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross - played with authority and looking like a double for Dale Dye by an awesome looking William Hurt - is hot on the Hulk's trail; he wants to use Banner as a super-warrior and has plans to create a super army of super gamma warriors from serums produced from the Hulk's blood.
If you remember your comic book character details, Banner turns into the mindless warrior the HULK whenever his heart rate and anger gets above a certain level, in this HULK Banner wears a wristwatch that reads his heart rate in an effort to control his angry emotions. As the story begins, Banner is on the run from the General and living in the densely packed favela of Rio de Janeiro where he is studying Brazilian martial arts and meditative breathing techniques in a vain effort to control his emotions so he won't turn into the HULK as easily.Â
In Brazil Banner finds work at a soft drink factory repairing equipment for the grateful owner of the business. After Banner gets a cut on his finger a drop of his blood lands in a soft drink bottled for shipment to the US. The soda is eventually consumed by an ill-fated customer (the brilliant forward-thinking Stan Lee, who has a habit of cameo-ing in all of the Marvel Comics films) and the General immediately picks up the story and traces the soda back to the factory where Banner is working. Ross hires in a team of top mercenary warriors, chief among them being a Russian-born British Special Ops warrior nearing the end of his career, Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) to lead the team.
We are given some incredible aerial views of the Rio favelas; it's quite a sight to see and the chase scene through the endless narrow winding alleyways of the favela that ensues eventually brings out the big green dude in Banner. Some might call this scene parkour-like (as seen in the opening scenes of 2006's CASINO ROYALE), but it is not, It is simply a great chase scene on foot that sets the audience up for more of the same.
The rest of the film would not take place if Banner does not escape, so, of course, this being a film with sequels dancing in the heads of all involved, he does. As Banner continues to desperately search for a cure for his gamma radiation poisoning he contacts the mysterious Mr. Blue for help in solving the gamma problem. This leads him back to the US where he must face off again and again with the General, who won't stop chasing him until he is able to recreate the HULK's abilities.
After his first confrontation with the HULK, the aging 38-year-old Blonsky (who looks a good 10-15 years older) asks the General to give him some of the same recuperative and strength powers of the HULK and so he is injected with the first of a series of injections made from the gamma infected blood serum. If you know the HULK tales well enough, you will recognize Blonsky as the future Abomination, and film-goers will be treated to one of the greatest CGI street fights between the two gamma behemoths.
Australian Director Louis Leterrier began his film career just ten years ago as a PA; he was catapulted into A-list territory after he directed Transporter 2 (2005) and was only credited as Artistic Director for The Transporter (2002), prior to that he has little experience outside of being a PA on one or two films and a Second AD (one step up from the on-set PA) on one other film.Â In THE INCREDIBLE HULK, Leterrier's direction is uneven; he excels the chase and fight scenes and the great panoramic scenes of the favelas. The editing fares no better, at times being so choppy as to bring you out of the experience. Similiarly, the script too needed a firmer hand, the dialog is a bit warmed over, especially whenever Liv Tyler is reciting it.
Leterrier's work with the actors seems non-existent; casting the excellent Edward Norton as Bruce Banner was a stroke of brilliance. According to rumors from the set, Norton rewrote scenes every day and he spent hours discussing character development with Liv Tyler. It's too bad Tyler was apparently absent while these discussions ensued; while she is lovely to behold and still very Elvish, she badly needed a strong director to help her work on her performance. It's too bad that Leterrier seemed more interested in his SpFx then in directing his cast. He excells at scenes from the on-the-ground warriors' POV which give the audience a real gaming soldier'sÂ 360 turn-around view of the action. Â Especially fun are the scenes with Hurt, Roth, and Norton, all great actors working at the top of their game.Â Also look out for TV's Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, who makes a quick camo appearance as a security guard, and still looks amazing.
Early in the film, if you're a quick read, you will see a sign advertising Stark Industries; this sets up a surprise appearance at the end of the film - which I won't spoil for you - that will excite you for future films that will surely feature an entire cast of Marvel comic book heroes starring the super hero team of Avengers.
The uneven direction and spotty editingÂ still can't keep a good story and great actors down and in spite of its faults, THE INCREDIBLE HULK is a fun summer E-Ticket ride that's well worth your movie bucks.Â Â
Digital Dogs rating: A, an E-Ticket ride.Â
MPAA rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images and brief suggestive content.Â Â
Running Times:Â 114 MinutesÂ
Producers Avi Arad, Kevin Feige, Gale Ann Hurd, Director Louis Leterrier, Screenplay Zak Penn, DP Peter Menzies Jr, Editor Rick Shaine, John Wright, Music Craig Armstrong, Actors Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell, William Hurt, Christine Cabot, Lou FerrignoÂ
Â© 2008 by Digital Dogs
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