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Incredible Hulk, The

dir: Louis Leterrier
[img_assist|nid=107|title=The male id on the rag|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=470|height=256]
Hope. People hope for a lot of things. Some people hope they’ll have enough money to feed themselves and their families tomorrow, after of course they’ve bought their daily requirement of drugs. Others hope for the election of a leader with the audacity to claim that everything instantly will get better everywhere once he gets elected.

Others hope for a way to forget the Freudian nightmare that was Ang Lee’s Hulk. Well, Marvel and French action director Louis Leterrier, previously celebrated for making the entertaining but utterly brainless Transporter movies with Jason Statham, hope that you’ll be able to replace all memories of the previous instalment with the current one.

The Incredible Hulk jettisons absolutely everything from the earlier film: It’s like it never happened. All new actors, all new origin, and absolutely none of the psychomalogical Oedipal rage crap that dragged down audience enjoyment levels in the past. And it is far more of a generic comic-book adaptation than anyone could have ever dreamed or imagined.

Or maybe we’re supposed to pretend that other Hulk never existed. Don’t mention the war.

I’ll admit that I’m one of the few people who thought that the other Hulk was an amazing film, one that completely transcended its comic-book genre origins to become something complex and meaningful. Many other people thought it sucked dog’s balls, and looking back on it, I can see that perhaps Eric Bana was miscast, and that the introductory sequence acquainting us with the characters of Betty Ross and Bruce Banner was flat, awkward and dragged around like a corpse chained behind a pickup truck..

But, in its favour, it had a complicated story, inspired editing, a great musical score (which was Danny Elfman ripping off Bernard Hermann, by his own admission) tremendous visuals and some action sequences that went beyond the usual mindless slam-bam crap that permeates your standard comic-book adaptation.

It also posited a bunch of reasons for a person possessing the kind of rage that could turn him into a towering green monster, capable of causing great destruction against his own will.

None of that is carried over to this new redo, in the way that Batman Begins had absolutely no relation to any of the Batman flicks helmed by Tim Burton or Joel Shumacher. Great as they were. Especially that one with George Clooney. Nipples!

About the only thing they carry over is a scene of excruciating flat awkwardness where Betty is asking Bruce if he’s got everything he needs in order to sleep comfortably on her couch, and tells him that the least she can do is walk him to the train station in the morning. It is a scene so terrible, and so obviously overdubbed, that you wonder why it was harder to stage than any of the other scenes where titanic monsters are taking on gunships or smashing up tanks. Is it that fucking hard to get two humans to talk to each other?

Ed Norton plays Bruce Banner this time around, and he does a reasonable job. This isn’t something that stretches his acting muscles much, because most of the dramatic work is done by computer generated special effects. And what wonderful CGI it is. Worth every Euro.

He brings that nerdy, nasal quality to the character that’s kind of necessary for the juxtaposition betwixt Banner and Hulk to be so dramatic, but, since he’s already played the role before, I was hoping for even more of a distance across the spectrum.

As for his previous Hulk role, what did you think I meant? Fight Club, what else? Tell me that Tyler Durden isn’t a similar primal manifestation of the male id rendered naked and bellowing, and I’ll call you an unimaginative dullard to your face.

Banner has been hiding out from the US military, led by General Ross (in a strange casting choice, William Hurt assays the role, looking most of the time like a pervert who’s afraid someone’s going to find out what he’s got on the hard drive of his home computer), in Brazil. In between working shifts at an energy drink factory (!), he is investigating ways to control his anger so that he doesn’t have any attacks of the screaming green monster, as well as looking for a scientific cure for his monsterism.

There are some amazing shots of the slum in which he’s hiding out, though, at a guess, I’d say that Norton never came within 1000 kilometres of the place. The entire hillside, from the air, looks like little more than tens of thousands of crates poorly piled on top of each and kept together with spit, tissue paper and hate.

When Ross sends a team of elite special forces types to capture, not kill, Banner, they are led by Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), who is very eager for conflict. This was my giveaway that they were never in such a place, because an elite squad of special forces types, or, more importantly, actors playing such and a film crew wouldn’t have lasted five minutes in a real Brazilian favela (slum), where the average life expectancy and average criminal age is around 12.

Roth, playing the character with the usual sneering vileness he is renowned for, makes Blonsky seem like a clear Type A personality. When his quarry, chased through the Brazilian slums, transforms into his monstrous alter-ego, instead of being afraid, Blonksy is impressed, and desires to become something similarly monstrous.

The only story dynamic thus becomes: protagonist Banner wants to stop becoming the monstrous Hulk permanently, antagonist Blonsky wants to become a monster permanently because it would be cool.

Banner returns to the States, searching for data on the experiment gone wrong that created him, which accidentally brings him back within range of both General Thunderbolt Ross and his beautiful overbite-sporting daughter Betty (Liv Tyler). Cue to more scenes of conflict between father and daughter, Betty and Bruce, Hulk and military, and director and audience, as director clearly says to audience, “Isn’t this what you great unwashed wanted?”

Action, action and more action. Not too much of that boring credible dialogue stuff. And I have to say, the action is handled pretty well. It’s just that intervening scenes, as in, the filler between the action scenes, seems like it was a chore for the director to direct, the actors to act, and the editor to edit in the editing room.

The Hulk looks pretty impressive, but then I thought the Hulk looked okay in the first film as well. Of course it’s obviously CGI, but so was the Kong in King Kong and the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. The point is to make me believe that the character, computer generated or not, is a character. And I did that, on the most part, up until the all-out slugfest ending.

There’s a certain amateurish quality overall to the flick, for my money, which comes from over-attention to the action, and little overall attention to putting the flick together properly. The best example of this arises during Banner’s attempt to escape from the military types in the favela. At first the soldiers attack in the middle of the night where Banner is sleeping. During the chase I will swear to you on a stack of Korans and Hulk comics from the 90s written by Peter David, the setting changes multiple times from day to night. Why? Well, I’m not sure.

Later on, as Banner makes his way from Brazil to the States, he walks from Brazil through Guatemala, through Mexico, taking him 17 days (we are told by an onscreen graphic). At the same time, scenes where General Ross and Blonsky chat about the Hulk and about the possibility of turning Blonsky into something similar using a super soldier serum occur. For 17 days? Now, I’m not the shiniest or sharpest knife in the drawer, but is there a dumber way to indicate “At the same time…”?

It just struck me as clumsy. As for the ending, well, I can’t pretend that I understood the ending of the other Hulk film (even now, after multiple viewings), but watching the Hulk and the creature we guess is called Abomination duke it out on New York streets didn’t really do that much for me either, and mostly because I couldn’t understand what really happened here either, but for completely different reasons.

They are very different beasts, these two films. This also has more humour, pointing to some inside jokes (like the emphasis on stretchy purple pants for the protagonist), and a (relatively) inspired gag where Banner is trying to explain in Portuguese why some dumb thugs shouldn’t make him hungry. They don’t really complement each other, they don’t sit comfortably side-by-side, but they do co-exist, and as such shouldn’t really be compared.

Gee, you’d think writing a line like that would make me go back and revise the entire review just to, you know, take out the constant comparisons and avoid the one that’s about to follow. One was a stand-alone, nearly $200 million dollar arthouse flick based on a comic book character tormented by repression, childhood trauma and terrible parenting. The other is a flick where a guy transforms into a green steroid freak and smashes shit up, with nothing stopping the array of sequels that will inevitably come out of his Hulk SMASHing endeavours.

Maybe I’m care more next time. As it stands, I put this just above the last Spider-Man movie, and substantially below the recent Iron Man film (which, ironically, leads to my referring to the Robert Downey Jnr cameo we get in this Hulk flick).

With such convoluted scoring, perhaps it would just be easier if I said, “Eh, it’s all right.”

6 times out of ten seeing Lou Ferrigno again, who still looks pretty buff, was a sweet moment out of 10

“The subway is probably quickest.”
- “ Me in a metal tube with hundreds of people in the most aggressive city in the world?”
“Right. Let's get a cab.” – The Incredible Hulk