Here’s something that I don’t often say in mixed company- I really liked Ang Lee’s much-hated The Hulk. Sure, the film had some real flaws: it was too slow, talky, and had a lousy, strangely Freudian climactic battle. At the same time, I also found it powerful, ambitious and directed with style and skill.
Yet, without question, this new incarnation, The Incredible Hulk, is what audiences wanted the first time. It never stops moving, is action-packed and genuinely feels like a comic book movie. The comparison to Lee’s version isn’t fair, as this is a completely different approach. The better comparison is to “Iron Man”and, for a while, the movie appears to be on that level.
The opening credits sequence fully sets up the story. Bruce Banner (an engaging Edward Norton) is on the run after a scientific experiment goes sour, rendering him a distant cousin of the Green Bean Giant every time he gets angry; his only friend is the woman he left behind (portrayed with warmth by Liv Tyler) and his biggest foe is her Dad (William Hurt), a wicked general who wants to use Banner’s powers as a military weapon.
Tim Roth makes the most of his one-note villain role, but much worse is Hurt, sporting hilarious fake eyebrows (he looks like an angry Vulcan) that are as ridiculous as his performance. The first hour, particularly the exciting and inventive portion set in Brazil, is great. The inevitable finale, on the other hand, is a seen-it-before monster mash, with pieces of “Spider-Man 3”, “Transformers”, and “Robocop 2” melded together.
The special effects are impressive, but they eventually take over the movie, and the overall impression is that the filmmakers wanted to reboot a franchise instead of craft a fully fleshed out story.
Still, the film is always compelling, well directed and has a needed sense of humor, but many of the characters are left stranded and the big finish is more silly than satisfying.
A major, much-discussed, last minute cameo appearance by a famous actor (in a well-known role) seems forced and does little for the movie, though comic book fans probably won’t mind. Much better is the surprise bit role by Lou Ferrigno of the original Hulk TV series. Just don’t make Ferrigno angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry. MTW