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A Successful Follow-Up Piece on Many Levels

  • Sep 30, 2009

Well, it certainly took me a while to get to this one and I think part of my reluctance stemmed from the 2003 film Hulk, which left me with mixed emotions.  The story was entirely too dry and drawn out for my tastes and what little screen time the title character received had more in common with video game graphics of the era then big-budget Hollywood feature films.  However, I did say mixed emotions on account of the fact that Eric Bana’s interpretation of the Bruce Banner character was pretty solid and as poorly animated as they were, a few of Hulk’s frenzies were the stuff of comic fan-boy dreams (traveling from town to town like a bouncing ball and tossing tanks as if they were a shot-put to mention a few).

Enter The Incredible Hulk where five years of hiatus brought with them a new director, new script, and even a new leading male to pick up the torch as everyone’s favorite “green machine”.  It should be noted that to a majority of industry insiders, this film is not considered a direct sequel to the 2003 Hulk, but calling it an entirely independent tale isn’t accurate either.  As such this work is what’s commonly classified as a “loose sequel” and for the most part, succeeds in nearly every area where the original came up short.

The film opens right where the former title left off with an apprehensive Banner trying to establish a new life for himself in South America after his last violent encounter with the military.  Working at a soda-bottling factory in Rocinha while searching for a cure for his condition, Banner is constantly at odds with his own biology as he practices calming techniques to control his heart rate with trained masters.

Perhaps the coolest developed link-up in recent action-film history occurs when a drop of Banner’s infected blood finds its way onto the glass of one of the soda bottles on the assembly line, ends up getting shipped to the States, finds its way into a Wisconsin resident’s fridge, poisons the poor thirsty fool (played by none other than Stan Lee himself), and results in the government getting the trace on the scientist/ monster at-large.

Without breaking down the plot too thoroughly (after all, why bother watching it if so), let’s just say that the military wants what fuels Banner, Banner just wants to rid himself of the condition, Elizabeth “Betty” Ross wants closure on her ex-boyfriend’s condition, and rogue soldier Emil Blonsky feels like if given the chance, he could better-control the powers bestowed upon Banner.

Where the 2003 film was a slightly misguided stab at drama, the 2008 picture is all action; bordering on the definition of a “popcorn flick”.  As such the pacing is much more swift and efficient throughout with perhaps the longest non-action segment occurs right in the opening where Banner’s attempt at a normal life in Brazil is established.  By the time Uncle Sam sends his goons down to retrieve the fugitive Banner, the viewer has passed the point of no return: hold on and enjoy the ride!

Directed by Frenchman Louis Leterrier and written by Zack Penn opposed to Ang Lee and James Schamus respectively, the production team is only a part of the switch-ups Marvel Studious/ Universal Pictures implemented between Hulk and The Incredible Hulk.  Edward Norton replaces Eric Bana as Bruce Banner; Liv Tyler plays Betty Ross instead of Jennifer Connelly; and William Hurt takes over for Sam Elliott as General Thaddeus Ross.  And what would a Hulk film be without paying homage to the living legend Lou Ferrigno?  Lou delivers with both a cameo appearance as well as having provided the few spoken lines the Hulk delivers.

Particularly noteworthy is the addition of a new villain intended to pose a more realistic threat to the Hulk than the military could possibly offer in the form of “The Abomination”.  The presentation of this enemy is a bit reminiscent of the Gray Hulk Marvel comic story thread (only on the opposite side of the coin) and upon completing some research, it turns out that screenwriter James Schamus was indeed planning a sequel around the time the 2003 film was released that would indeed feature the Gray Hulk story arc.  However as time went on (and a new crew was assembled to do the film), Silver Age villain Abomination was recruited to provide the antihero moments with an updated look that subconsciously pays homage to the “Baby” alien design of Alien Resurrection.

Perhaps my own crowning moment takes place at the conclusion of the film when Robert Downy Jr. appears as Tony Stark to assure a drunken General Ross that a new team of heroes was on the cusp of formation, of course hinting toward Marvel’s next major motion picture: The Avengers set to release in 2012.  Additionally, and also appreciated by fans who have followed the comic’s continuity, Samuel Sterns (played by Tim Blake Nelson) makes an appearance which sets up his eventual transformation from slightly mad scientist to green-skinned, large brained, massive skulled, super-intelligent villain, The Leader.

In all it’s easy to become thrilled with this project simply for the potential for future franchise efforts hinted toward throughout if not for the much-publicized improvements made over the 2003 picture.  And this coming from a reviewer who thought the 2003 film wasn’t all that bad to start with.  While the computer generated imaging has drawn criticism by some fans once again, the truth of the matter is that this incarnation of the Hulk is truly “larger than life” as the character need be portrayed.  For the most part, it works, especially in the battle between Hulk and Abomination throughout the cityscape that comes off as a clash of titanic proportion more at home in the mythology of the ancient Greeks than on the pages of a comic book.  And in the end that’s what makes for a solid comic to cinema translation as far as I’m concerned.

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October 21, 2010
I liked this one just as much as the first one, and I agree about the CGI Hulk.
October 22, 2010
Thanks FM_A, I agree, the first one got a bit of a bum rep. This one was good fun though. Here's hoping for a third!
October 02, 2009
Hulk likes this review! read JRider's review or HULK WILL SMASH!!! JRider is Hulk's friend...
October 01, 2009
I guess the Hulk's always been a hard character to dea with--especially in films, where they've even had 2 really great actors on the case in the last 2 outings. I'm presonally looking forward to the new IRON MAN because that should tell us a lot about how things are going to be going in the Marvel Film Universe in the years to c0me.
October 02, 2009
Karen is Hulk's friend too!!
October 02, 2009
I like Eric Bana. A lot. He looked so good in TROY. He should consider wearing his hair that way all the time.
October 02, 2009
Yeah I fully agree, it seems like Hulk is a tough character to get right- I found solid entertainment value in both incarnations and yet it seems each managed to offend fans for entirely different reasons. Eric Bana is good stuff! Troy is one of my all time top picks for Greek mythology/ action. Are you also partial to that hairdo atop Orlando Bloom's melon as well?
October 03, 2009
Not quite as prtial to Bloom in general so I can't say I even remember what he looked like. Pitt looked good. I remember that. I was wondering how they would handle the whole mythological elements with achilles supposedly having been killed by an arrow to his famous heel. They did make sort of a backhanded acknowledgement of that for those of us who knew our myths, but they never so much as made mention of the River Styx etc. You'd have thought that his enemies might have muttered about his alleged invulnerability or something.
October 03, 2009
Good point! It was kind of interesting how the film kept a solid lock on reality while simultaneously acknowledging the dozens of myths surrounding the events. Among them, Odysseus narrating the tale, the Trojan Horse, Achilles' perceived invulnerability (remember in the beginning the king has him slay a single warrior to avoid going to war), Prince Hector's heroism Helen of Troy's beauty and so on. I need to dig that one out of my collection and revisit it now :)
October 04, 2009
My daughter didn't like it much because she spent so much time in college with mythology, but she enjoted Pitt and Bana so it was a total waste for her. =)
More The Incredible Hulk (2008) reviews
review by . May 06, 2012
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review by . November 09, 2009
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review by . September 30, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Well, it certainly took me a while to get to this one and I think part of my reluctance stemmed from the 2003 film Hulk, which left me with mixed emotions. The story was entirely too dry and drawn out for my tastes and what little screen time the title character received had more in common with video game graphics of the era then big-budget Hollywood feature films. However, I did say mixed emotions on account of the fact that Eric Bana's interpretation of the Bruce Banner character was pretty solid …
review by . August 14, 2008
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review by . June 18, 2008
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Ranked #14
Jason Rider (AKA OneNeo on Amazon.com) is the author of the successful children's fantasy novel series The Uncommon Adventures of Tucker O'Doyle from Bellissima Publishing.      … more
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A more accessible and less heavy-handed movie than Ang Lee's 2003 Hulk Louis Leterrier'sThe Incredible Hulkis a purely popcorn love affair with Marvel's raging, green superhero, as well as the old television series starring Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner and Lou Ferrigno as the beast within him. Edward Norton takes up where Eric Bana left off in Lee's version, playing Bruce (that's the character's original name) Banner, a haunted scientist always on the move. Trying to eliminate the effects of a military experiment that turns him into the Hulk whenever his emotions get the better of him, Banner is hiding out in Brazil at the film's beginning. Working in a bottling plant and communicating via email with an unidentified professor who thinks he can help, Banner goes postal when General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross and a small army turn up to grab him. Intent on developing whatever causes Banner's metamorphoses into a weapon, Ross brings along a quietly der! anged soldier named Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), who wants Ross to turn him into a supersoldier who can take on the Hulk. The adventure spreads to the U.S., where Banner hooks up with his old lover (and Ross' daughter), Betty (Liv Tyler), and where the Hulk takes on several armed assaults, including one in a pretty unusual location: a college campus. The film's action is impressive, though the computer-generated creature is disappointingly cartoonish, and a second monster ...
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Director: Louis Leterrier
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: June 13, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Zak Penn
DVD Release Date: October 21, 2008
Runtime: 1hr 52min
Studio: Marvel, Universal Pictures, Valhalla Motion Pictures
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