Saturday, July 19, 2008
Movie Review: The Hulk 7/10
In a year awash with superhero movies, it is likely that the second cinematic attempt at bringing Marvel Comics' Incredible Hulk to the screen will be the least well remembered, despite a pre-final-credit-roll tie-in to Robert Downey Jr.'s highly successful portrayal of Iron Man. Which is too bad, since The Incredible Hulk is a far better movie than its Ang Lee channeling Freud predecessor. While I liked Eric Bana as Bruce Banner (hell, their last names even sound the same) and I enjoy watching Jennifer Connelly in the worst of films (okay, I enjoy watching Jennifer Connelly period), 2003's Hulk was all angst and no fun. Or to put it another way, too much Ang Lee and not enough Stan Lee. As I am wont to do with comic book movies, I'll be using my comic book movie criteria, but loosely throughout instead of item by item.
Louis Leterrier's direction, coupled with Zak Penn's screenplay, and an all-star cast turning in great performances makes for a great film. But it's the way in which the film stays true to its source material which really makes The Incredible Hulk as an excellent comic book film, something the first attempt never properly achieved. And when I say source material, I mean both the comic book, as well as the popular 70's television show.
First of all, Hulk Smashes. This is key. If the Hulk doesn't smash, it's just a big green dude who is somewhat tremulous. The Hulk must smash. And in a CGI filmmaking world, the Hulk can smash like he's never smashed before. The mayhem in this film gives Godzilla a run for his money. And Hulk doesn't just smash buildings, cars, or other inanimate objects. He also smashes people. He even says "Hulk Smash!" And it works.
Second, the movie nods its head to both the comic-book and the television series on many occasions, the most successfully with Lou Ferrigno's presence, both seen and heard. Seen as a security guard who can be bribed with pizza, and also as the Hulk's voice, which works really well. There's also a moment where the haunting piano music from the television series is employed in a scene where Banner is destitute in a South American city. There are others, and the comic book references abound, which is a fanboy plus. In addition, as was evidenced in Jackson's immersive Lord of the Rings sets and prop-work, those invisible layers of mythology add to a film, even if it isn't seen onscreen.
Third, Ed Norton is great as Banner. I read a few reviews that stated his performance was flat, to which I must reply, "he's playing a guy who needs to keep his heart rate down. How else would you play such a character, but flat?" If Bana's Banner had been given similar heart-rate rules, he'd have turned into the Hulk every 20 seconds. On that note, the film follows my "superheroes don't shag everything that comes their way" rule, but for very different reasons than say, Iron Man.
Fourth, Hulk smashes. That's really all I want to see when I go to a movie about the big green superhero with anger management issues. I want to see something get smashed. And I wasn't disappointed.