The (not-so) Incredible Hulk

Well, it was better than the first Hulk film in 2003, but that’s not saying much. Director Louis Leterrier’s re-boot is certainly closer to the comics version of the Green Goliath, but it is still lacking in key areas. The action has been ramped up, with lots of running, and some light humour, in the first few scenes. We find Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) working in a Brazilian bottling factory, trying to stay off the military’s radar as General Ross (William Hurt) becomes increasingly desperate in his attempts to reclaim the Hulk as a U.S weapon. Bruce can’t contain his inner beast for too long though, despite his love for Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) and his various breathing exercises. When the military first strike, Banner loses control and the Hulk makes his fearsome presence known. Throwing around people and machinery with reckless abandonment it becomes clear that Banner’s alter ego is a monster uncaged. This introduction is repeated throughout the film, becoming blander each time it does. We see Banner attempting a new cure, we see the military find him, we see a chase, we see a fight between them, we see Banner find solace in Betty’s arms. And on it goes.

Star Norton had a much publicised re-write on this film from Zak Penn’s original screenplay, but I would have been intrigued to see the initial script. With all of the main characters whispering throughout the entirety of the film, and many long pauses, it seems the film makers couldn’t decide what kind of film they were making. Too bad this is released after Iron Man. That film has spoiled us rotten. We now expect more from our superheroic screen adventures and this one lets us down. No real characterisation to speak of and the acting is surprisingly dull, but it all looks good of course.

However, the film is not a total waste. It gets some things right, mainly the final fight scene between Hulk and Emil Blonsky AKA The Abomination (Tim Roth) It really is an epic encounter torn straight from the comics page, and Blonsky’s motivation as an old warhorse eager for new glory days is a good one. Comics fans like myself will also be pleased with numerous Marvel references, such as the spy organisation, S.H.I.E.L.D, Hulk’s sonic hand clap, the super soldier programme (which gives birth to Captain America), the Mr Blue sub-plot and the Hulk’s classic catch cry, “Hulk Smash!” (uttered by TV Hulk Lou Ferrigno). And as a special treat they’ve given us a final scene to warm our hearts – a Tony Stark AKA Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) cameo to begin tieing all Marvel’s films together for the Avengers film coming our way in 2011. The way is left clear for a sequel and further cameos. Marvel Studios are obviously confident that they will be making films for some time to come, and I hope they do. If another Hulk film does come our way I’d suggest ditching the brainless brute Hulk version and delving in to the comics archives for a look at writer Peter David’s excellent work. For this franchise to thrive, it needs a smart Hulk, one that can communicate beyond grunts and one that can surprise movie goers who are looking for more than yet another action flick.