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THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008) **1/2 Movie Review by COOP

Posted on June 13th, 2008
Posted on June 13th, 2008

Too soon. That was the general consensus when a new “Hulk” movie was announced to release only five years after Ang Lee’s now-reviled bomb. I don’t remember hating Ang Lee’s film that much. It showed flashes of brilliance, but imagine the powers that be, only five years later saying, “We’ve done it again, started all over, and now it’s better than ever!”

I agree with the consensus. Too soon.

I understand what Marvel aspires to do. With high interest in lucrative comic book films and “Iron Man” starting off the season with a bang, they want to create several, individual hero movies so they can combine them into a team “Avengers” film within the next few years. The Avengers (in this version) include: Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Ant Man (not kidding!), Agent Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a few others. Mark my words, if Marvel Comics Films has its way, all these characters will have their individual films in the theaters within the next few years. “Iron Man” worked. One of the greatest superhero films ever in my book.

“The Incredible Hulk” didn’t come close. Dr. Bruce Banner/Hulk (Ed Norton) hides out in the slums of Brazil, doing manual labor and conversing with someone online named “Mr. Blue” about curing his monster issue. General Ross (William Hurt) and his ambitious point man, Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) find Banner and chase him back to the U.S. where he reunites with the general’s daughter, Betty. Betty’s no help at all. She unwittingly leads her father and Blonsky to Banner… with Hulk-like results. Humiliated, Blonsky overdoses on “super soldier serum,” spiked with a dose of Hulk blood… with Hulk-like results. Blonsky becomes “The Abomination” and Banner must face his inner demon to defeat Blonsky before one or both of them destroy New York City.

The entire movie was miscast. Control freak and star, Ed Norton, tried to get this film lengthened by thirty minutes. When he didn’t get his way, he pouted and refused to promote the release. Whatever his reasons, he was a dull and wooden Bruce Banner. So was William Hurt as General Ross. So was Tim Roth as Blonsky. So was Liv Tyler as Betty… and so on. Although it’s nice to see Tim Roth working, none of the cast were memorable or good in any way.

The new Hulk design impressed me. He looked stronger, meaner and had more skin texture than Ang Lee’s version. Although this Hulk looked more like he does in the comics, his adversary the Abomination did not. Where were the pointy ears? That’s nitpicking, but fans will see a lot more references to the comic in this version. Yes, you get to hear him say, “Hulk smash!” That part had the crowd cheering.

There were other Marvel comic book references in the film. A logo for the secret agency, S.H.I.E.L.D. makes an appearance. The Captain America’s “Super Soldier Serum” shows up briefly to give Blonsky his first taste of power. I was told Captain America himself would make a brief appearance, but I must’ve blinked. The big superhero cameo comes during the last scene, inspiring claps and cheers from the audience as the final credits rolled. There are also references to the old “Hulk” TV show with Lou Ferrigno (the original Hulk) making a live cameo and the late Bill Bixby making an appearance through a television set. There are even hints of the TV show’s sad theme music sprinkled into the music of the film.

Two future adversaries of the Hulk make appearances as well. The hyperactive Tim Blake Nelson plays Samuel Sterns, a mad scientists who helps try to cure Banner. He will emerge as the giant-brained villain, “The Leader” in future Hulk films. The unimpressive Ty Burrell shows up briefly as Betty’s new boyfriend, the psychiatrist, Dr. Samson. This character will also return as the heroic, green-haired, gamma ray-powered “Doc Samson” who uses both brains and brawn to battle and outwit the Hulk. Samson is a favorite of mine and it’s a shame they didn’t cast someone more memorable for the part.

While this film boasts massive improvements over Lee’s version, I didn’t feel it was necessarily a better film. Hulk’s battle with the U.S. Army in the Nevada desert from the 2003 “Hulk” proved to be one of the best superhero battles I’ve ever seen on camera. This new film didn’t have a scene that beat the scope or awe of that fight. This one felt lower budget with mostly B-list stars going through the motions.

Expect Ed Norton’s longer version when it comes out on DVD and Blu Ray. I can’t imagine it being much better than this, but I hope it’s an improvement. Despite my reservations with “The Incredible Hulk,” I’m still excited to see Marvel take control of its properties and make high quality films that will please both fans and the general public. Let’s hope the next couple of Marvel films will be enough of a success to warrant an “Avengers” team movie in the next few years.

Rating: 2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

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