14 Jun 2008

Screen Time: THE INCREDIBLE HULK

Review by Matt C


THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt
Director: Louis Leterrier
Runtime: 114 mins
Certificate: 12A
Release Date: 12 June 2008

Until the last couple of weeks before its release, things weren't looking too rosy for the second big screen outing of the Grumpy Green Giant. Questions of whether it was too soon to reboot the franchise, rumours of a falling out between Ed Norton and Marvel , and bad fan reaction to the CGI Hulk in the trailers all pointed towards a potential disaster which, following the blockbusting success of Iron Man, was not the result the newly formed Marvel Studios were looking for.

Then something happened. People started to see the movie. And they seemed to be responding positively. Could Louis Leterrier have succeeded where Ang Lee failed and made a crowd-pleasing Hulk movie?

To be fair to Lee, his Hulk wasn't the creative disaster some people like to remember it as: it was far too cerebral for a big summer movie, it's ending was barely comprehensible, but it did have much to recommend it, not least the comic book style editing and framing, along with an exhilarating extended chase through the desert to San Franscisco. It didn’t really connect with a mainstream audience though, so you can kind of understand Marvel's eagerness to start things again from scratch fairly rapidly: alongside Spider-Man, Hulk has long been the company's most recognisable character, from his popularity in the comics through to the fondly remembered TV series. Why wait years to have another crack at him, especially now Marvel has grabbed the rights back for the property and can tie him into their wider film strategy.

And, you know what? It was the right thing to do. Much as I admire Lee's version, this is a superior attempt in many respects. Yeah, it lacks any real depth and is rather simplistic, but where it truly succeeds is in its unstoppable momentum. Once this sucker gets moving it barely lets up for a minute, laying on the thrills thick and fast. I've never seen anything by Leterrier before but on this evidence he certainly knows how to construct an inventive and entertaining action sequence, and there are plenty of exhilarating moments of "Hulk Smash!" destruction. Acting is solid across the board: Norton makes a great Banner, always on the run, always looking for that elusive cure; Tyler provides the warmth and a believable romantic spark, but is less convincing as a scientist; Roth is thoroughly enjoyable as the over-the-hill squaddie who'll take enormous risks to acquire power; and Hurt is ruthless and determined as Thunderbolt Ross, although not quite as effective as Sam Elliott was in the role. The computer-generated Hulk, who initially looked like he would cause a problem, turns out to be fairly impressive for the most part, and does a consistent job of making you forget he's a fancy special effect.

If I was to spotlight a major gripe it would be the feeling that there is a longer, better cut of the film out there, the one that supposedly caused the disagreement between Norton and Marvel – a quick viewing of the trailer highlights several scenes absent from the theatrical version. No doubt a Director’s Cut will find its way to DVD at some point in the future.

So, while The Incredible Hulk doesn’t reach the same levels of brilliance as Iron Man, it does slot straight into the same universe with ease, and geeks will have a field day with references to the likes of SHEILD, Stark Industries, and the WWII super-soldier project. One of the most thrilling things about this movie is spotting the signposts that point to where Marvel Studios is heading next with Thor, Captain America and Avengers on their production slate. It may not quite be as "incredible" as the title suggests, but it’s a damn fine - and damn fun - superhero action movie. 8/10

1 comment:

Matt T said...

A thoroughly enjoyable, throwaway action flick from Marvel that was about as different from the original as is humanly possible. There were a few niggly bits, but so much of Hulk smashing the smaller negative points didn't have time to fester and ruin the experience. It would be interesting to see what non-comic fans thought, as the sheer amount of nods to the four-colour version was incredible (pun intended!).