By Clint Morris
If the first “Hulk” (directed by Ang Lee and released in 2003) is the ex-girlfriend, then the newest take on the comic classic, “The Incredible Hulk”, is the wife.
You know what I’m talking about – You were never completely happy with the ex-girlfriend (it goes without saying, she’s the ex-girlfriend) – though at times she did satisfy – and in the back of your mind, knew there had to be something better out there. When you did find what you were looking for, your put a ring on her finger. The wife is someone you want to spend as much time with as possible; someone that you can appreciate, adore and love. With her, you’re content. She is it.
Ang Lee’s feature version of the classic Marvel Hulk comics, starring Eric Bana as the computer generated trunk, was occasionally satisfying but mostly disappointing – and like that former flame, you knew something didn’t click the longer you spent with her. You’ll find contentment with “The Incredible Hulk”, a wholly-satisfying couple of hours that’ll enchant you from it’s first frame.
Though somewhat of a sequel – they don’t spend too much time explaining how nerdy scientist Bruce Banner becomes The Hulk besides a quick over-credits sequence – to the Ang Lee film, there’s less links here than a Variety article. For all intents and purposes, this Hulk is a different breed of film. Everyone involved seems to have taken a “They’ve done this before? Hmmm, news to me!” approach when tackling this one.
Lee’s film with a psychological drama that spent much more time inside the head of the hero, rather than the super heroic feats that come with being the legendary mutant. This new film is interested in what makes Bruce Banner tick – and turn angry – too, but not nearly as interested as it is in simply serving up the kind of wall-to-wall action sequences and blockbuster battles we’ve become accustomed to expect with superhero movies. In short, this is the Hulk we’ve been waiting for – the one they should’ve done first time around. It’s a visual feast for the eyes and an absolute smashing good time from start to end.
The film begins in Brazil, where former scientist turned fugitive Bruce Banner (Edward Norton, who also helped write the script – though Zak Penn got sole credit) is working in a factory by day, searching for a cure to his Jekyll & Hyde-like situation by night (if he gets too angry, or worked up, he turns into a monstrous green monster). When the military, led by long-time adversary (and the father of his old girlfriend, Betty Ross, played by Liv Tyler) General Ross (William Hurt), and gung-ho sidekick Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), track Banner down, he’s forced to flee. Again.
Ultimately, Banner is forced back to the states where he’ll reunite with old flame Betty, track down the mysterious scientist (Tim Blake Nelson) whose been helping him develop a cure for his condition, and last but not least, take on Blonsky (whose since transformed into a Hulk like creature himself).
What I think might have helped “Iron Man” and now “Hulk” is the fact that they’ve cast two of today’s best actors in the lead roles – no offense to those that have worn tights before, but Ben Affleck (Daredevil), Nicolas Cage (Ghost Rider), Jennifer Garner (Elektra), Jessica Alba (Sue Storm in “The Fantastic Four”), and Brandon Routh (“Superman Returns”) just aren’t in the same league – most of those guys are set dressing – as Norton and Robert Downey Jr (who played Iron Man), the two guys add much more meat to their suffering superheroes and give anything but one-note performances.
As Bruce Banner, Norton is insanely good – you feel for him, you root for him, you care for him. Just one look on the man’s sorrowed face and you’re with him. Just as Downey Jr made “Iron Man”, Norton may make “Hulk” (his co-stars, including William Hurt, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth and Tim Blake Nelson are also good, though it’s original Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, in what’s only a 1-minute cameo, that may leave more of a lasting impression than all of them).
Kudos too to director Louis Letterier (“Transporter 2”), whose action-film skills really come in handy here. He’s concocted his action scenes with flair and thought – never serving up anything resembling padding. But Letterier also deserves praise for injection a lot of heart and human drama into his film – something his earlier efforts have sorely lacked.
It’s been a great year for Marvel. The studio’s first feature, “Iron Man”, not only turned out brilliantly (another reminder that a â€˜team-up’ film is on the way, Iron Man himself, played by Robert Downey Jr, makes a cameo appearance in the film) but it’s made more money than a lone hooker at a Gangster’s convention. And The Hulk is just as sublime – and will no doubt make just as much mint.
If it’s not the best Superhero film since “Batman Begins”, it’s still an early contender for one of the Best Pics of the Year. This Hulk is Incredible!
A few goodies on here, kicking off with a commentary by director Louis Letterier and Tim Roth. An interesting and insightful chat they have – you just wish they’d let rip with a few â€˜Eddie’ stories.
In addition there are a slew of deleted scenes, an alternate opening (see if you can spot Captain America – betcha can’t!), a making-of, and several featurettes for those interested in the technical aspects of the film (I personally can do without them).
No, it isn’t as exhaustive a DVD Package as fellow Marvel superhero film “Iron Man” but then it didn’t make half as much money as the latter either. Still, the interesting commentary and quite cool alternate opening sequence more than makes up for the thinness of the supplementary materials package.