Written by Films

The Incredible Hulk

Back in 2003 one of my favourite directors, Ang Lee, gave us Hulk, a film that I never saw. It’s not that I don’t like superhero films – I’ve probably seen most of them. But I’d heard so much negative press about it that I just couldn’t bring myself to see it.
Anyway, it didn’t do especially well at the box office, but now we’ve got a “reboot” of the series with The Incredible Hulk. From the opening sequence, which in many ways mirrors the old TV series’ intro, you realise that we’re not going to get a slow build up to the hows and whys of Bruce Banner getting experimenting on himself with gamma radiation. All the backstory you need is basically covered during this opening sequence.
We then see Banner (Edward Norton) in a Brazilian slum trying to live in secret. He still loves Liv Tyler’s Betty Ross, but he’s trying to blend in with the locals working in a soft drink bottling plant. Unfortunately some of his blood gets into a drink, and when an old American gentleman (no less than Stan Lee in a customary cameo) falls ill, that gives William Hurt’s General Ross all the information he needs to chase after Banner. His crack team of commandos are led by Tim Roth’s Emil Blonsky, who for some reason is Russian but was educated in the UK – hence his no attempt at a Russian accent. There were a few titters in the audience when Blonsky announces that he’s 39 (Roth’s 47).
And so the chase is on, with Banner returning to the US where he’s still trying to find the serum that will reverse his changes. We get a massive battle on the green lawns of an Ivy League university, and it all leads to a rather inevitable showdown.
Overall, it’s all quite good fun, but more so than with most recent superhero films, you simply feel at times that you’re watching an animated cartoon. I mean you are watching animation – CGI animation. But it always feels like that another really reaches reality. Now obviously when you’re a ten foot tall green muscled green thing, you’re never going to look real, but actually I was really disappointed with the CGI, and it doesn’t feel as real as Gollum or even King Kong – two other CGI characters who we’ve felt empathy for. There’s one scene between Ross and the Hulk which feels like a direct lift from Kong as Ross calms the beast it some sheltered rocky outcrop.
Add to that the fact that helicopter gunships are also routinely CGI without ever feeling real, and some poor and unrealistic green-screen work, and you feel that for all the reported rough edges of the previous Hulk film, not a great deal’s been learnt.
There are some nice cameos. As well as the aforementioned Lee, there’s a scene where Banner is flicking TV channels, and briefly the original Banner, Bill Bixby, is seen. And there’s Lou Ferrigno, the original TV Hulk, getting a couple of lines as a security guard (IMDB tells me that he got a similar cameo in the previous Hulk film).
There are also two very clunky product placement deals. We all know that the operating systems in films are never usually Windows or OS X – they’re some clever different OS that usually involves not using the mouse, but using the keyboard quite a lot (perhaps because the users know keyboard shortcuts really well?). Anyway in this film at one point somebody logs into a system to find some data, but first we see Norton 360 protecting this non-Windows/non-Mac computer. Clunky. Then later Ross takes a photo of Banner using her Panasonic Lumix camera. There’s no real reason for it. She just does. Later we see the camera battery go flat and her picture disappear in another scene that makes no sense since who leaves their cameras in playback mode? And anyway, even if your battery is flat, it’s not as though you lose the picture.
The opening for the sequel is so wide that you could drive a truck through it. But there is one nice little scene right at the very end that sits alone from the main film. It works alongside a very similar scene at the end of Iron Man – although it’s interesting that they didn’t put it post-credits this time around. Anyway, the idea that two of the summer’s superhero films are somehow linked and might be involved in an ongoing story is interesting, but I’ll say no more (even though there’ll be spoiler ahoy all over the net, and if you were brought up on Marvel comics, you might have a good idea).
Overall, a disappointing film. Not bad, but by no means good. Iron Man was much better.