"Where does she keep finding these guys?" –-General Ross
When I heard there was going to be another attempt at a Hulk movie, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. As much as I love the 70’s TV show, and Peter David’s run on the comic, the 2003 movie showed how hard it is to get the Jade Giant successfully on the silver screen. The movie had a great cast, but it was, let's say muddled.
Then I heard that Edward Norton (Fight Club) was playing Bruce Banner, and I got hopeful. He’s one of the best actors out there, and he picks quality projects. The next thing that made me look forward to it was Iron Man. Marvel Studios nailed that flick, and I figured if Hulk was only half as good, then Marvel would have another winner.
The Incredible Hulk isn’t as great as Iron Man, but it’s really damn close.
The flick starts with a montage retelling of Hulk’s origin, mingled with opening credits. It’s one of the best ways I’ve seen a superhero movie origin presented. We all know the basics, and this montage gets all the setup out of the way so the movie can get to the meat of the story. As for the origin, it’s a good blend of the 2003 movie and the '70s TV show.
When the actual flick gets going, Banner’s on the run as he searches for a cure to his big green anger management problem. General Ross (William “The Village” Hurt) sends in Emil Blonsky (Tim “Funny Games” Roth), a bad-ass with a hunger for power. Just the kind of guy you want to send after a rampaging monster.
There is a lot to love here. There are a metric ton of references and setups to the rest of the Marvel Universe, and to the 1970s TV show. But while the movie is heavily tied into the Marvel Universe, it’s still accessible to the non-comic reading crowd.
The frantic action finally matches what we’ve seen in the comics. The fights will get your adrenalin pumping.
Edward Norton delivers his usual powerful performance, really feeling Banner’s pathos. Roth is a master of creepy menace, and he makes Blonsky a villain to remember. While I miss Sam Elliot as Ross, Hurt does a great, understated job. Liv is a decent but unimpressive Betty. I really look forward to the return of Tim Blake Nelson’s Dr. Sterns after watching him here.
On the down side, the final big fight, while intense, is another big CGI monster vs another CGI monster at night. It’s very hard and frustrating to follow.
The main problem is while it’s nearly two hours long, it’s so full of setups and Easter eggs for the fans that when the credits roll, it feels like it was all a build-up for the next movie. The Incredible Hulk doesn’t feel incomplete, but it obviously, and heavily, lays the groundwork for the Marvel Movie Universe and leaves you wanting more, but not in the same way Iron Man did.
The Incredible Hulk is one hell of a fun movie, and well worth seeing on the big screen for the action, as well as Norton and Roth’s performances. It’s not Iron Man or Spider-Man 2 good, but it’s not that far behind them.