Monday, June 16, 2008

The Incredible Hulk review

While definitely not as great as Iron Man, the other Marvel superhero film this summer, The Incredible Hulk is honestly entertaining in all the ways that matter most. It is satisfying because it readily gives the things I wanted to see most on screen, action and a little bit of heart. But it also disappointed somewhat with a shallow story and just not enough meat on its weighty bones.

Starting with the positive, and let me assure you the film is really pretty solid most of what I have to say is positive, the action scenes were great. The Hulk had a lot of fantastic fights, my favorite being on the lawn of a college campus with some kick ass sonic weapons, and a super soldier serum enhanced Tim Roth duking it out with old mean and green. The fights looked great, with solid choreography, and A LOT of collateral destruction. In fact the excessive destruction was a running element throughout the movie, even in the quieter hulk scenes. But with this kind of a film you can't really separate the action from the fx. After seeing the early commercials I was concerned, like a lot of people, about the CG work, especially in those fight scenes. The early looks at Abomination were startling, and extremely phony. While watching the movie though, I hardly noticed it. And I had zero problem looking past any flaws in CG, because most of it was really very good. No the Hulk does not look like someone 100% real, but I still managed to believe and invest in the character. And the action itself has a number of nice touches that push it into the realm of excellent. For example, there's a great sequence where the Hulk rips a police car in two and uses it like boxing gloves. Those are the moments that just made me smile, that's what I wanted out of my Hulk film. The action played very well, and despite a friend of mine feeling that the final fight was predictable, I think they did an admirable job creating what they did out of literally nothing.

As for the acting, well it was generally pretty decent. Ed Norton who rules the screen solidly for most of the film was fine, definitely not Eric Bana, but having seen them both in the role of Bruce Banner now, I'll have to say Norton did a better job capturing the intangibles of the character, I really felt the inner turmoil, and I liked how the plot had him seriously learning how to deal with his rage. The rest of the cast is a bit of a mix bag, with most giving alright performances on a sometimes weak script. Liv Tyler is shrill and definitely underwritten, but the rumored 70 minutes of additional scenes that director Louis Leterrier plans to include on the dvd should expand her role. And Tim Roth is great as the bad guy who eventually becomes The Abomination. He manages the balance of good soldier and psychotic killer with more weapons training than you'd be comfortable with very well. Once he becomes the monster, its a bit of a strain, but I still enjoyed him. Other smaller roles like William Hurt as General Ross were serviceable, but I have to say I loved Sam Elliot's portrayal of the character, so I was a bit biases against him. And of note Tim Blake Nelson, who played a scientist bent on 'helping' Banner was annoyingly over the top. And it looks like he's being set up as the future villain known as The Leader for a future film. Hopefully he'll be a bit more downplayed in any potential sequel. So like I said, kind of a mix bag.

The writing was really the only large flaw in the movie. And I don't know where or if its really even fair to blame. If this film was really honestly written with an intended 20 - 30 minutes of legitimate additional footage that could have been in the film, the movie would definitely have turned out totally different in pace and probably tone. I have to think that 70 minute comment is an exaggeration, especially as the reported first cut by Norton and Leterrier that the studio snipped (and started the bad press train of a month back), was only reportedly 20 minutes or so longer than the final theatrical version. But the point is that if Leterrier and Norton, who both worked as writers on the movie intended to make a 2 hour 15 minute movie and it got cut down to a 1 hour 50 minute movie, something of the story was probably snipped. I don't think it was all running chase scenes. And the studio isn't in the market of spending a ton of money on big fight sequences to cut them out. So what we probably lost was what would've given the film that extra push of heart that would've either made it great, or turned it into another Ang Lee nightmare.

But that's always been a problem with The Hulk, finding that balance between action and heart. in the comic it works because we have a lot of time for the emotional resonance to sink in, but on film everything has to move. How do you mix a serious and tragic love story with punching a Humvee to scrap metal? I think its really hard. The Incredible Hulk, has problems finding its balance and its on that level where this film never quite makes it. I give them respect for creating an very entertaining and watchable film, a film I want to succeed and want to see more of, on dvd, and in a sequel. But this wasn't their best.

The Incredible Hulk is worth seeing, I want you to see it in theaters so that it will do well, but I have to say honestly, as long as you have a nice HDtv, and a good set up at home, you should probably just wait for the dvd.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I also enjoyed the movie (although I enjoy a lot of movies I see for $6 at the AMC on Sunday morning). A couple nerdy things I wanted to get out. First is that it was interesting for me to be in a theater where there were whispers and laughs when Lou Ferrigno made his cameo, yet no one in the theater blinked an eye before that when the original Incredible Hulk theme song played as Banner was in Mexico. The other point was that Samuel Sterns is (and will be) the leader and I caught that from the first moment that they said Mr. Blue was Samuel Sterns. I actually hope that he is the main villain in the next film (but not in the Avengers). I agree with most of the review and defiantly like it better than the previous version, but I have to say that the casting was give and take. I have been gaining more respect for Liv Tyler since that awful performance in Armageddon, but Jennifer Connelly is still far better at Betty Ross than she was. Bana looked better, but Norton played it better, so it's a toss up, and William Hurt as General Ross I thought was excellent. The only better general I could have thought of was the Captain from Monk. Overall good from me, but now I just have to see Iron Man; hopefully it's still out next week.

Mike T