The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk 2008
I feel like I first have to justify my viewing order for preparing for the Avengers. Out of all of the tie-in movies the only one I have yet to see is Iron Man 2. But when I decided to rewatch all of the Avengers movies leading up to the Avengers itself I knew I wanted to start with Hulk because I remembered it tying into the Incredible Hulk, and I like to watch movie sequels back to back. And to end the series, I had most recently watched Captain America this year so I wanted to put that at the end, especially because with the ending it feels like it leads directly into The Avengers. So instead of using one of the other methods to order the movies, I decided to go with this order: Hulk and The Incredible Hulk, then Iron Man and Iron Man 2 so I can watch those sequels back-to-back as well, then Thor, and finally Captain America’s audio commentary. I used to love watching audio commentaries but it’s been a while since I’ve put aside the time to watch the commentary instead of or in addition to the actual movie. It won’t get a full review but it will get a brief mention in a blog post.
The first thing I noticed when this movie started is that it was much more of a reboot than I had remembered. The only tie in to Hulk is that Bruce Banner starts out the movie as a refugee hiding out in South America. The opening credits sequence goes over the origin story again and it’s nothing like what happened in Hulk. It did accomplish what it needed to do and set up the basic origin for those who weren’t familiar with the Hulk. Well technically I can’t say how good of a job it did since I already knew what was going on and didn’t need it to be explained. The second thing I noticed and appreciated was how quickly the movie really got started. There was a brief setup showing Bruce Banner in South America – I forget the exact country, Brazil maybe? It doesn’t really matter though as it soon gets to the action with a great and frantic chase sequence. And there is the first appearance of the Hulk in around the fifteen minute mark or so, or about three times sooner than the other movie. Once again the technique is used where the Hulk mostly stays in the shadows and you see the consequences of his actions rather than his actions themselves, but it shows enough and doesn’t hold off on the tease more than it needs to.
There were a lot of changes between Hulk and The Incredible Hulk and not all of them were for the better. The only cast members to return from Hulk were cameo roles by Stan Lee and Lou Ferrigno. Since I watched the movies so close together I have to compare not just the actors, but the characters themselves. Edward Norton as Bruce Banner was excellent, he really conveyed the sense of being hunted constantly and someone who was tired. Tired of running from those chasing him and tired of running from what is inside him. Liv Tyler as Betty Ross was a bit of a disappointment, I loved Jennifer Connelly so much that it was harder to accept a new actress, and she felt way too young. The one thing that I thought was great was the strained chemistry between her and Bruce. They really nailed it when they were two people who used to love each other but know they can’t be together. Unfortunately I didn’t feel the sparks when they actually did get together. And her father General Ross was now played by William Hurt. This general is a much different character than Sam Elliott’s general. In Ang Lee’s movie, General Ross had distinct motivations that were understandable, relate-able, and very human. Here General Ross has become much more of a comic book villain, only caring about his career and harnessing the Hulk’s power for his own ends.
But aside from the replaced cast, there’s also a new villain played by Tim Roth. He has a forgettable name and ends up becoming the Abomination. He’s a career soldier who prefers remaining in the front lines rather than being promoted to a command position, and when he is given the chance to be young again and then some he leaps at it. And once he has a taste for power he becomes like an addict, craving more until it consumes him, ultimately turning him into an abomination of his former self. I liked him as a villain much more than General Ross and wish it was something he did on his own rather than something perpetrated by Ross. In the end he boiled down to a rather one note villain that was just looking for a fight, a spectacular fight that may have been but I would have liked to have seen more motivation out of him.
I think what I liked most out of this movie were the self referential touches of humor peppered throughout. Even though the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno Incredible Hulk was before my time and I don’t recall ever seeing an episode, I am still familiar with it enough that I recognized a lot of little nods to that show and I really appreciated them. From the close up of Norton’s face with the glowing green eyes that were so reminiscent of the original show it was just perfect, to the famous line goofed up in Spanish (or was it Portuguese?), to the reference to the purple pants, to the use of the iconic theme music. It was great seeing all of them.
The difference between the CGI Hulks in the previous movie and this movie were quite noticeable, the last Hulk was quite good but was very smooth. This Hulk had much more detail in his face and especially the ripples in his muscles. My only disappointment was that there was a slight resemblance to Eric Bana in the facial features even though it was only a slight resemblance. In this movie there is almost no resemblance between Edward Norton and his Hulk, they feel a lot more disparate. Another problem I had with this movie was that there were a lot more instances of comic book physics, I don’t remember all of them but the one that does leap to my mind is when Banner falls from the helicopter which isn’t flying all that high and yet he creates a chasm in the pavement when he hits when he is only partially transformed into the Hulk and wouldn’t have the mass needed to create such destruction. What would have been great is if they had taken some of the visual flairs and fleshed out characters of Ang Lee’s movie and put them into the action sequences of this movie and it would have become a perfect Hulk movie. Instead they are two incomplete halves, but this movie does have the tastiest bits in it. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.