Fri, Jun 13, 2008 - Page 16 News List

[FILM REVIEW] This ‘Hulk’ doesn’t pull its punches

With less talk and more action than the 2003 Ang Lee version, ‘The Incredible Hulk’ sidesteps the psychological conflicts that could have made it more than just another monster flick

By Roger Ebert  /  ATLANTIC SYNDICATION

The Incredible Hulk has anger management issues.

PHOTO COURTESY OF UIP

The Incredible Hulk is no doubt an ideal version of the Hulk saga for those who found Ang Lee’s (李安) Hulk (2003) too talky or, dare I say, too thoughtful. But not for me. It sidesteps the intriguing aspects of Hulkdom and spends way too much time in, dare I say, noisy and mindless action sequences. By the time the Incredible Hulk had completed his hulk-on-hulk showdown with the Incredible Blonsky, I had been using my Timex with the illuminated dial way too often.

Consider the dilemma of creating a story about the Hulk, who is one of the lesser creatures in the Marvel Comics stable. You’re dealing with two different characters: mild-mannered scientist Dr Bruce Banner and the rampaging, destructive Hulk, who goes into frenzies of aggression whenever he’s annoyed, which is frequently, because the Army is usually unloading automatic weapons into him. There is even the interesting question of whether Dr Banner is really conscious inside the Hulk. In the Lee version, he was, more or less, and confessed to Betty Ross: “When it happens, when it comes over me, when I totally lose control ... I LIKE it.” In Louis Leterrier’s version, the best Banner can come up with is that being the Hulk is like a hyperthyroid acid trip, and all he can remember are fragments of moments.

It’s obvious that the real story is the tragedy that Bruce Banner faces because of the Hulk-inducing substance in his blood. If Banner never turned into the Hulk, nobody would ever make a movie about him. And if the Hulk were never Banner, he would be like Godzilla, who tears things up real good but is otherwise, dare I say, one-dimensional.

The Lee version was rather brilliant in the way it turned the Hulk story into matching sets of parent-child conflicts: Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) was appalled by her father the general (Sam Elliott), and Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) suffered at the hands of his father, a scientist who originally created the Hulk genes and passed them along to his child. (Nick Nolte had nice scenes as the elder Dr Banner.)

Film Notes

The Incredible hulk

DIRECTED BY: Louis Leterrie

STARRING: Edward Norton (Bruce Banner), Liv Tyler (Betty Ross), Tim Roth (Emil Blonsky), Tim Blake Nelson (Samuel Sterns), Ty Burrell (Dr Samson), William Hurt (General Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross), Christina Cabot (Major Kathleen ‘Kat’ Sparr), Peter Mensah (General Joe Greller), Lou Ferrigno (Voice of The Incredible Hulk/Security Guard)

RUNNING TIME: 114 MINUTES

TAIWAN RELEASE: TODAY


In the new version, Betty (Liv Tyler) still has big problems with her father the general (William Hurt); she’s appalled by his plans to harness the Hulk formula and create a race of super-soldiers. In both films, Banner (Ed Norton) and Ross are in love, but don’t act on it because the Hulk business complicates things way too much, although I admit there’s a clever moment in Hulk 2008 when Bruce interrupts his big chance to make love with Betty because when he gets too excited, he turns into the Hulk, and Betty is a brave girl but not that good of a sport.

Consider for a moment General Ross’ idea of turning out Hulk soldiers. They would be a drill sergeant’s worst nightmare. When they weren’t Hulks, why bother to train them? You’d only be using them in the fullness of their Hulkdom, and then how would you train them? Would you just drop thousands of Ed Nortons into enemy territory and count on them getting so excited by free-fall that they became Hulks? (This transformation actually happens to Banner in Hulk 2008, by the way.)

So. What’s to like in The Incredible Hulk? We have a sound performance by Ed Norton as a man who desperately does not want to become the Hulk, and goes to Brazil to study under a master of breath control in order to curb his anger. And we have Liv Tyler in full, trembling sympathy mode. Banner’s Brazilian sojourn begins with an astonishing shot: From an aerial viewpoint, we fly higher and higher above one of the hill cities of Rio, seeing hundreds, thousands, of tiny houses built on top of one another, all clawing for air. This is the City of God neighborhood, and as nearly as I could tell, we were looking at the real thing, not CGI. The director lets the shot run on longer than any reasonable requirement of the plot; my bet is, he was as astonished as I was, and let it run because it was so damned amazing.

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