Edward Norton, Liv Tyler and William Hurt reload The Incredible Hulk franchise in front of the lens of action film director Louis Leterrier. This film represents a slice of sequel, retaining some continuity from the first Ang Lee-directed 2003 Hulk film, but mostly reboots the film series. Filmmakers quickly assimilate audiences into this installment by shortening the Hulk’s origin into a quick montage during the opening credits.
Norton, starring as Bruce Banner, and Tyler, as Betty Ross, have both adjusted over time. He globetrots the world in search of a cure while she teaches at Culver University. Filmmakers definitely boost the romantic elements between the two scientists. Banner’s inner torment and bad memories remain as his dual personality forces some significant adjustments in his life. Audiences see text updates on how many days he manages his anger “without incident”.
These adjustments add some surprising character development into the plot while filmmakers also build on the Hulk’s character with a touching scene in a cave and expanding fighting abilities. Banner‘s actions and activities revolved around finding a cure for that green monster twinkling in his eyes. “I don’t want control over it, I want to get rid of it,” Banner says.
Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother Where Art Thou, Minority Report) is perfectly cast as an eccentric researcher specializing in gamma technology. Besides Betty, he’s the only other character who gives Banner some hope during his quest.
Control is key as Banner never exploits his power while staying “off the radar” from General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, played by William Hurt. Ultimately, when Banner gets backed into a corner, literally, the Hulk comes roaring back in all his loud, destructive glory.
Enter Betty Ross and her father, General Ross, who looks like a moustached Paul Newman several years ago. In discussions with other characters, General Ross says Betty is “no longer a factor” while Betty says her father is “out of the picture.” Tyler gives a strong, intelligent performance as she holds her own with the talented acting of Norton and Hurt.
Banner and his unique situation bring them together again as they tackle some serious emotional issues out in the field throughout the fugitive/chase scenes. “I can’t help either of them,” says General Ross as he involves other law enforcement groups in the chase to capture Banner to harness his unique battle abilities.
Audiences may not realize it, but filmmakers also could be laying some groundwork for Marvel Studios’ future projects through characters like Stanley, played by Paul Soles, and Dr. Samson, played by Ty Burrell (National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Back to You television series).
Dr. Samson certainly understands the situation between Ross and his daughter through his time with her at the university.
“Now I know why she [Betty] doesn’t talk about you,” he says to General Ross.
“Where does she [Betty] get these guys?” Ross says to himself as he walks away.
The general’s obsessive agenda still involves harnessing special biological weapons. Ross doesn’t realize his “projects” offer a dangerous temptation for power-hungry men looking for “God-like” abilities.
Enter military journeyman Emil Blonsky, an older, more experienced soldier who craves battle so much, he refuses promotions. “If I had the body had 10 years ago with the knowledge I know now,” says Blonsky. Blonsky, played by Tim Roth, crosses paths with Banner on one of General Ross’s special missions, which changes him forever. Ross and Blonsky form a mutually beneficial partnership. “They want to arm you better. We want to make you better,” Ross tells his new protégé.
The plot, written by experienced superhero screenwriter Zak Penn and Norton focuses well on the core cast while honoring previous Hulk cast and crew, including Lou Ferrigno who provides the voice of the Hulk and plays a security guard.
Impressive direction from Louis Leterrier (Unleashed, Transporter 2) combine with prime special effects, mostly through motion capture technology, ramps up the action very well. Leterrier utilizes effective flashbacks, imaginative sequences and graphic matches. For example, when Banner freshens up in a hotel room scene, the shower head suddenly turns into a gun turret.
Filmmakers really create a personal experience filled with experiences that can make a strong emotional connection with male and female audiences. The fantastic, oops wrong superheroes…The incredible rooftop fight scene provides the pinnacle of the satisfying, fight filled action. An excellent music score from composer Craig Armstrong (Moulin Rouge!) enhances this high budget film.
Filmmakers follow the typical rule of showing a big set near the beginning then destroying it to stretch those budget dollars. It’s a wise tactic that Marvel Studios also used in their first film Iron Man. Marvel even borrows from their own material in a pizza delivery sequence echoing Spider-Man 2.
This action packed film not only entertains on a high level, but also exhibits admirable themes of responsibility. The Incredible Hulk also tells a cautionary tale about sharing vital information with other people. Additional references (pants jokes, etc.) and characters, especially Dr. Samson, recognizable to Hulk fans, will definitely enhance this exciting experience.
A key scene with Samuel Sterns and Blonsky and the extra ending scene shed further light into the Hulk’s future. Hopefully Sterns will get considerable screen time in future Hulk film installments, unlike Dr. Curt Connors, played by Dylan Walsh, who never became fully developed in the second and third “Spider-Man” films.
This approximately 112 minute film comes recommended (***) and rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images and brief suggestive content.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler