Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Incredible Hulk (Review)
With a new cast, new director, new studio (Marvel Studios), new origin and new focus, "The Incredible Hulk" set out to re-launch the franchise for the Green Goliath. From the very beginning it's obvious that we're meant to forget that Ang Lee's film ever screened in theaters.
Through fragmented flashbacks in the opening titles, supported by exposition later in the film, the origin of Bruce Banner's "anger issue" is revamped. While it's still possible Bruce had a bad childhood, the film doesn't spend the amount of time examining Banner's brain that the first film did, and thankfully so. The angst in this film is based much more on his relationship with Betty Ross.
Character is given just enough attention to draw you into the story, but it seems clear that after Lee's film they wanted to spend more time on action.
And the action is pretty good. Nothing mind-blowing, but more fast and intense than the first film. The down side on the action, particularly late in the film, is that it involves lots of CGI. As cool as the Hulk looks, he doesn't often look like he's real. Detailed, yes. But something about CGI still gives itself away and this movie is no exception. I actually felt there were more moments in the first movie when the Hulk looked real. Usually (as in this film) when he's not moving. My theory is that studios need to develop more realistic motion capture or animation for CGI to really fool audiences.
Comic book fans will enjoy the numerous references to the Marvel Universe. One ally and one villain from the Hulk comics make significant appearances in this film, though not yet with their super powers. Although for at least one of them, the door is clearly opened for their super-powered involvement in the next Hulk flick. Perceptive fans may also notice a reference to Dr. Reinstein's super-soldier formula (responsible for creating Captain America).
The performances turned in were very good, though no award winners here. The script didn't demand much of them either. With moments of humanity that make the film worth investing in, much of the movie is a combination of chase scenes, slug-fests and mayhem in general. Definitely enjoyable for comic fans and folks in the mundane world as well. Still not as good as Iron man. But lots of fun.
Although superior to the Ang Lee film, I missed one thing from Lee's version. In this film, the Hulk had one uniform size. In Lee's version (and in the comics), the angrier Hulk gets, the larger and stronger he becomes. Small point, but it still would have been cool to keep here.
In terms of philosophical truth, this character and movie tap into the thing that makes so many superheroes resonate with fans. Bruce Banner is the misunderstood guy, loved by a woman who is the only one able to see past the strange monster on the outside. At one time or another, we all see value in ourselves that we wish others would notice, instead of picking out our faults and focusing on them. Secondly, Bruce has to deal with a monster inside of him. We've all got one of those. Pretending that we're naturally good, with defaulted tendencies toward good, will only result in us hurting the ones that we love. Giving in to serving ourselves is easy. Doing what's best for others is hard.
Bruce has to acknowledge the uncontrolled monster inside of himself. He doesn't simply say, "That's just the way I am." He's determined to tackle the beast within and control or destroy it. This is a great model for all of us as we examine ourselves and recognize the natural tendency toward evil that must not remain unchecked.
At the end of the day, this is an enjoyable film that is better than the first, though not by leaps and bounds. Still, most folks should see it and Marvel comic fans should buy the DVD when released.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images, and brief suggestive content