Beyond Believability: The Incredible Hulk
Written by: Zak Penn & Edward Norton
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson
First, the revamp of the new Hulk franchise has some promising things going for it. A FEW. The Banner/Hulk back story is cleverly covered in the opening credits sparing the audience from a tired drama tinged rehash that weâ€™ve been through before. There also some clever cameos by Stan Lee, Lou Ferrigno and even the very dead Bill Bixby.
But the biggest problem that The Incredible Hulk must overcome however is not the military, gamma radiation or even his broken heart, but the amazingly shallow storyline he’s been stuck with.
Once again we are treated to a comic book film that demeans the intelligence of the audience by throwing together a story with such minimal character development that it drowns under an avalanche of big booms, CGI gimmickry and impotent drama.
[ad#longpost]The movie opens with Bruce Banner (Norton) on the lam in Brazil where he is working to control the beast within him. He must tread carefully because the relentless General Thaddeus Ross (Hurt) is leaving no stone unturned to find Banner. Ross is so driven to get Banner and use him as a weapon that he casts aside the feelings of his daughter Betty (Tyler) to do so.
Things get heavy when Gen. Ross calls in a super soldier named Emil Blonsky (Roth) to catch Banner. Blonsky (surprise) becomes so obsessed with getting Banner that he takes a super soldier serum (Captain America foreshadow anyone?) to give him that special edge. This of course leads to a dangerous mutant showdown wrapped around the love on the run back story of Bruce and Betty.
After hitting the ground running the film could have really taken the ball and run with it. Instead it meandered and de-evolved like the Hulk himself, wasting the terrific potential that Norton and Roth could have brought to the project.
Poor Tim Roth: he has fallen and can’t get up. Despite being cast as a sort of Eastern European Ramboesque super soldier he is stuck in a U.S. military uniform. To make it worse he mails it in and never loses his natural accent. Maybe it’s just me but I remember how great his access was in Little Odessa and was hoping for more. Sadly he mugs for the camera, goes Grr! a lot and falls further down that ladder of fame that kills careers. The script never really defines who he is and why he does what he does. His back story is nonexistent but really necessary here to understand who he is.
The really sad thing is that there was a great opportunity here for Roth to get it all back. If Roth had only played off his trademarked intensity to make something of the role. Things become just plain silly when the film becomes Cloverfield and makes a CGI Roth stomp around trashing half of Harlem, grunting all along the way.
Edward Norton plays Banner with an aura of tragedy that is not overdone. He also plays Banner as a clever man of science who is truly in awe and terror of what he can become. Norton is believable and watchable until he starts to become The Hulk. The mostly CGI transformation doesn’t come off well and Norton ends up looking like Barry Bonds. Plus after the first quarter of the movie Norton’s performance loses steam. You can tell a disastrous rewrite was in full effect. Once Norton’s Banner returns to the States he just runs out of gas and becomes disinterested.
The Not So Incredible Hulk was in trouble from day one. Technical problems aside, the film suffers from being released between two mammothly good looking comic book flicks, Iron Man and Dark Knight. It also is a film that even the most strident of comic book fans are brushing aside with a sense of malaise not seen since Daredevil. Simply put, Blankman was a better super hero film. The Incredibles was incredible. This is just heinous. Also, you know your film is in trouble when Robert Downey Jr.‘s Tony Stark cameo gets the highest pop of the entire film.
Two cups of coffee with a vodka chaser and a nap.