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Mania Grade: B+

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  • Movie: The Incredible Hulk
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell
  • Written By: Zak Penn, Edward Norton
  • Directed By: Louis Leterrier
  • Distributor: Universal Pictures


The Hulk Reloaded has better results.

By Scott Mantz     June 13, 2008

Banner (Norton) is getting a bit angry here in THE INCREDIBLE HULK(2008).
© Universal Pictures/Marvel Studios

Now, that's more like it.

Five years after Ang Lee's brooding, psychological take on the Hulk turned off moviegoers and faded fast from the box office after a huge $62 million opening weekend, Marvel Studios went back to the drawing board for a complete reboot of the iconic hero that was first created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in 1962. Turns out that trying again was a bold risk that paid off, since the resulting film, while not quite incredible, is still very entertaining.

Where the 2003 version featured bland performances, phony-looking special effects and a ponderous story that took itself way too seriously, The Incredible Hulk -- the second film to be released under the new Marvel Studios banner (after Iron Man) -- gets it right by being what the first movie should have been like all along. With a lean running time of 1 hour and 52 minutes, it's fast-paced, action-packed, a lot more heroic and a ton of fun.

The basic premise is the same, just as it should be. Dr. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is desperate to find a cure to the gamma radiation that poisoned his body after a freak accident, causing him to transform into a raging, not-so-jolly green giant whenever he gets really, really angry. His condition forces him to live as a fugitive in order to stay one step ahead of his nemesis, General “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt), who will stop at nothing to track him down.

But Ross has a motive: to tap into Banner's indestructible power in an effort to create a formidable new weapon. Helping Ross is Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), a fearless Super Soldier whose lust for power eventually transforms him into the deadly Abomination. Banner's only hope lies with Dr. “Betty” Ross (Liv Tyler), the General's estranged daughter who must help him find a balance between living a peaceful life as Bruce Banner and a heroic one as the big guy.

There's no question that The Incredible Hulk is a major improvement over its predecessor, but there are times when it feels a bit derivative of other movies. After limiting the Hulk's origins to the hyper-kinetic opening credits, the story cuts to Rio de Janeiro, where Banner tries to evade Ross's forces by jumping across the rooftops like Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum. And later, the beauty-and-the-beast style relationship that develops between Betty Ross and the Hulk is not unlike the bond that develops between Ann Darrow and King Kong.

But director Louis Leterrier (the Transporter movies) and screenwriter Zak Penn (X2: X-Men United) keep the movie fun by toying with the character's mythology, particularly the one found in the TV series that starred Bill Bixby. The TV theme song is clearly audible during Craig Armstrong's musical score, and Lou Ferrigno, who played the Hulk on TV, adds a nice touch on two fronts: not only does he have a funny cameo, but he also provides the Hulk's voice.

There was a lot of criticism that the special effects in the 2003 version looked too fake, and while the Hulk's physical features are a lot more defined this time around, he still looks like a computer-generated character. But the end result is still a marvel to behold, especially when the Hulk starts throwing cars around like they were yesterday's news. And the climactic battle scene with the Abomination will keep you on the edge of your seat, even if it does feel comparatively similar to the urban-set finales of Transformers and Iron Man.

But where Iron Man proved its mettle with enormous crossover appeal, it's highly unlikely that The Incredible Hulk will share the same fate. It still fits the bill as action-packed entertainment, but the characters are underdeveloped, and the romantic relationship between Edward Norton and Liv Tyler feels more stiff than natural. But William Hurt and Tim Roth seem to be having fun playing the bad guys, and keep an eye out for a fun cameo near the end that further sets into motion an Avengers movie sometime in the year 2011.

Truth be told, I actually liked Ang Lee's take on the Hulk. It wasn't a great movie by any means, but I still admired Lee for trying something different from the norm. The Incredible Hulk may be more routine as far as superhero movies go, but at least it's a return to form in all the right ways, and it will hopefully win back jaded moviegoers who were turned off by its predecessor.

And if they give it that chance, I'm sure they will agree that that's more like it.


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ponyboy76 6/12/2008 2:45:44 AM
Wait, didn't you guys give Iron Man a B? You're giving HULK a B but saying that this movie doesn't have the same appeal as Iron Man. I don`t get it. At least we don't have to wait until after the credits for the Tony Stark cameo. I`ll be checking this out on Sunday after The Happening.
Wiseguy 6/12/2008 5:46:19 AM
Different reviewers, different points of view, different grades.<BR /> Anyway I'm there tonight at midnight.<BR /> Too bad the Captain America scene was cut according to Louis. Haven't seen it yet and I'm already looking forward to the dvd and the 70 min. that were edited out. Damn I'm pumped.... <BR /> Also, people need to get over the cgi IMO. It looks as good as the tech allows right now. A giant green man is not going to look exactly real to everyone. It isn't the same as when robots or furred animals are done in cgi.
manjisan 6/12/2008 6:22:52 AM
I enjoyed Ang Lee's take, not a great film, but a risky one that didn't pay off at the BO. Looking forward to seeing this just to see the damned sonic clap that was missing from the first one. And I'm not going to front, the TV series was cheesy yet awesome.
ponyboy76 6/12/2008 6:42:55 AM
Okay, well that sucks! They cut the Cap scene out because before it Banner goes to the arctic circle to kill himself and apparently, it was too dark for kids to watch. After that scene, he meets up with Captain America. I wonder if its actually Cap or is it just Steve Rogers before the super soldier serum? Or is the reason he doesn't off himself is he ends up finding Steve Rogers` frozen body somewhere up in the Circle? Anyway, 70 minutes is a lot of time to cut out of a movie, but I guess its good we`ll get it on the Dvd. So, Hulk was a 3 hr flick? Damn!
almostunbiased 6/12/2008 6:57:18 AM
Scott, you make no sense. You say this is better than Ang's which had "bland performances, phony-looking special effects", and this one is better, but then you say this new one's "characters are underdeveloped" and "he still looks like a computer-generated character." So this movie isn't better is it? I liked the first movie. It wasn't great, but it was ok, so now what does this review tell me? Nothing, I guess. Hell, you say "That's more like it", but will that mean it's more mindless action crap, unlike a movie that took itself "seriously." I was excited about this movie and all you've done, is make it sound like it will be worse than the last, which you admit you liked after tearing it a new one. Good thing I don't listen to critics.
Wiseguy 6/12/2008 7:04:56 AM
pony, it has to be Cap frozen IMO, that's the only way it would mnake sense in the larger scope of Marvel. I read another person say that the Hulk gets attacked by shark or a killer whale up there and maybe that fight (perhaps too violent) and with him contemplating suicide would take the film to a place they're trying to avoid, too morose and too close to Lee's somber feel, I think.
almostunbiased 6/12/2008 7:23:24 AM
I'd be up for something with heavy emotion and 3 hours long, but I know that's not going to make money like this chiseled version will. Still I'm hoping for the full DVD too. Plus I'd love to see Cap frozen or otherwise. I guess we'll have to settle for Stark.
fft5305 6/12/2008 7:30:31 AM
I want the Leterrier/Norton Cut. The one that they disagreed with Marvel over. From what I've read, the Cap cameo is just the Super Soldier Serum during the scene when Blonsky is injected. That's what I figured it would be. Sounds like they actually filmed something in the Arctic scene too. Can't wait for the DVD to see that. I agree that people need to get over the CGI. No matter how realistic the Hulk looks, he's still going to be the Hulk. There's only so much realism people will perceive in a 9-ft tall, 1,500-lb green man.
Krasch 6/12/2008 7:44:46 AM
Is it me, or does anyone else see a passing resemblance between Bixby and Norton, especially when he's strapped in that chair?
joeybaloney 6/12/2008 8:00:32 AM
The alleged Cap scene cut is probably a sly reference to Namor tossing Cap’s frozen ass into the ocean after seeing it being worshiped by some Eskimos. Banner probably heads North, hulks out and ends up tossing the ice coffin into the ocean for Shield to eventually pick up, instead of the Sub-Mariner doing it. If that was the case it sure would have been a cool little easter egg scene for us fanboys. Too bad. Let’s hope we get the full treatment on DVD. Definite and purposeful resemblance there Krash. Norton has come out a few times and said this owes more to the TV series then the Ang Lee flick. When asked if there is any homage to Bill Bixby in this he’s said the whole film is an homage to him. Gonna try and get me some midnight tickets tonight myself WISE. Wish me luck!
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