Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Incredible Hulk

Year: 2008
Director: Louis Letterier
Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson

Once upon a time, in 2003 to be exact, there was a film called Hulk and it starred Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly and it was directed by Ang Lee. It was unique, introspective and overdramatic. There were as many of those who liked it as those who hated it, and somehow it didn't quite fulfill the needs of the Hulk's fans.

And now we have The Incredible Hulk. Like Batman Begins was a reboot of the franchise almost killed by Joel Schumacher, this film is an attempt by Marvel and director Louis Letterier to give Hulk fans what Lee could not. Basically the Hulk's core story is the same. It's about Bruce Banner, a scientist who is exposed to dangerous gamma radiation and as a result, becomes a raging green monster when agitated. In this version, we begin with flashbacks of Banner destroying the lab where he worked after his transformation, and then fleeing the clutches of his employer, General Ross as he works tirelessly to find a cure.

He isolates himself from Ross by living in Brazil, working at a bottled drink factory and keeping a low profile. However, a mistake on Banner's part leads Ross and the US army to his location and he is forced to flee again. Through contacts with a mysterious Mr Blue, Banner learns that he has to return to his lab to find the information he needs to create a cure for his condition. He seeks help from his old flame Betty Ross, daughter of the general. But time is running out for him, as the general closes in on him. Banner has another threat, in the form of a British soldier named Emil Blonsky, who after witnessing Banner's transformation into the Hulk, asks the general to help him level the playing field.

The question on everyone's mind is, is this better than Ang Lee's film? The answer is yes, on many different levels. Lee was innovative in using a comicbook like visual to tell his story, and went further to establish Banner's psyche and the source behind his rage. All of that is good, but overdone. It also didn't help that there were scenes where the Hulk jumped as far as three miles and looked bright green. That was just stupid. In the end, it was more of an Ang Lee film than a Hulk film. Letterier on the other hand, goes straight to the point. He establishes his main protagonist, explores his need to find a cure and gives Banner a worthy villain to square off against. He successfully balances the drama with the action, never letting either one to outdo the other. And the action sequences are a sight to behold! When the Hulk appears, he truly goes berserk and cuts loose, and you'll love watching it all unfold. My favourite would be the Hulk versus the army on the university grounds, but you'll probably remember this film for the confrontation between Hulk and his nemesis, the Abomination at the end of the film.

I was initially skeptical when I heard that Edward Norton would play Bruce Banner, but hell, he is perfect for it. He may not look like a scientist, but he definitely looks like the way Banner is portrayed in the books, as an unassuming troubled man. Norton does a splendid job in bringing forth the weight of the responsibility Banner has to carry. Liv Tyler isn't too shabby playing Betty Ross, but she lacks chemistry with Norton. William Hurt and Tim Roth lend able support as General Ross and Blonsky respectively, having no trouble being the villains here.

For those of you who know the Hulk from the TV series back in the day, watch out for a couple of cameos from there, plus the obligatory cameo from Marvel creator Stan Lee, and the much talked about appearance from a well known Marvel hero at the end of the film. Clue: he had a film out earlier this year.

It's tons better than the other Hulk movie, and absolutely more memorable. Hulk Smash! (4/5)

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