Friday, March 6, 2015

The Incredible Hulk Review

We are greatly anticipating The Avengers 2 coming up in a couple of months and I think I should go back and review some of the movies that have lead up to it. The Incredible Hulk (2008) was the second installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was meant to act as both a reboot and a sequel to Ang Lee's Hulk movie from a few years prior which itself wasn't involved with the whole Avengers cross over storyline movies. The Incredible Hulk not only helped get us psyched up for the eventual Avengers movie, it was also cram packed with references to the old TV series and comic books.
Picking up after the events of the Gamma Bomb experiment gone wrong, Dr. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) travels the globe looking for a cure. The Gamma radiation he was exposed to transforms him into a powerful, uncontrollable raging "Hulk" when angered. Banner strives to keep this primal alter ego under control, but as the target of an international man hunt lead by General "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt) it is difficult to contain. When Banner meets Dr. Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson) who believes he can cure Banner of his transformations, Banner travels to Culver University in Virginia to meet Sterns. This risks encountering Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) a past love interest of Banner's, whom he has avoided to keep her from the dangerous Hulk. In desperation, Ross calls in power-hungry soldier Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) to help capture Banner. Blonsky undertakes some transformations himself trying to keep up with the Hulk and slowly begins to change into a more bestial creature himself.
While Ang Lee's Hulk movie was alright, it ended up being too stylistically cerebral and artistic, vying for dramatic depth for a movie about a gigantic green rage monster; too much talking and not enough smashing. The Incredible Hulk doesn't really ignore that origins storyline, and starts off with Bruce already able to transform if he loses control of his emotions. The opening credits recap the back story with a prologue using the cast from this movie before it gets going. You don't really need to see the previous Hulk movie to get into this one.
The Incredible Hulk caters to fans of the 1970's and 80's TV series and comic books. Most notably, Lou Ferrigno has a cameo as a security guard. He's way more muscular than he ever was actually playing The Hulk in the TV show that made him famous. Ferrigno actually voiced the Hulk for the movie. One of the students who witnesses the fight at Culver University is named Jack McGee, which is the name of the tabloid reporter who attempts to track down the Hulk in the same TV series. Some of the theme music from the series was used in this movie. In one scene Betty buys Bruce some purple pants, a nod to the comics where the Hulk is almost always seen wearing purple pants. Paul Soles briefly appears as "Stanley," the pizza shop owner; he provided the voice of Bruce Banner in the 1960's Hulk animated series. The name of the character may also be a tribute to the Hulk's co-creator Stan Lee. You should also watch for Iron Man, Captain America, and S.H.I.E.L.D references.
Edward Norton made a fantastic Bruce Banner. Not only did he play the character amazingly well, he also offered rewrites of the script which were included in the final production. Norton is a Hulk fan and really wanted to do it justice for the fans and help tell a solid story. He and director Louis Leterrier both felt that just because they were making a superhero movie it doesn't mean it should exclusively appeal to thirteen-year-old boys. They see superheroes as the new Greek Gods and wanted give the story dramatic suitable dramatic action. Much to the chagrin of fans of The Incredible Hulk, Norton did not reprise the role for Banner in The Avengers. Leterrier's first choice for Banner had originally been Mark Ruffalo, and Ruffalo did take on the role for The Avengers and was signed on for future appearances. They are different takes on the same character, but both do a simply amazing job.
I just love what The Incredible Hulk does with color. Bruce wears a lot of blue and the Hulk is represented by green. Bruce's eyes turn green as he begins to transform into the Hulk, signifying which of the two personalities are dominant at the moment. In one scene Bruce and Betty are lying in different beds, troubled by their thoughts. Betty's head is surrounded by the color blue in this shot, suggesting that her thoughts are on Bruce. The shot switches to Bruce, who is surrounded by the color green, suggesting he is troubled by and thinking about the Hulk. The camera rarely holds still; there's no shaky cam (thank goodness) but the camera is in constant movement panning through sets alongside the action. This gives it a sense of urgency and motion which complements the manhunt chases which is, at the most basic level, what the movie is about.
I really liked The Incredible Hulk. It was well written, well acted, paid homage to many of its source materials and predecessors, and was just plain fun. I don't think it was the best of the first wave of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's movies, but it was very much enjoyable. There are a few particularly violent moments during fights between Hulk and Abomination that made me cringe; that might be a red flag for parents who intend to watch this with young kids. It still remains safely in the PG-13 realm. If you haven't seen this movie yet, I recommend it. I've already got a copy sitting safely on my shelf among other favorites.

There is currently not a plan for another solo Hulk movie, though he will be appearing in other Marvel movies. If Hulk were to get another solo movie, what storyline would you like to see made? There's some good potential for the Planet Hulk story line now that we've got space epics thanks to Thor and The Guardians of the Galaxy. I'd also like to see Hulk's nemesis, The Leader, make an appearance. Comment below and tell me what you think!

No comments:

Post a Comment