|as another largely humourless attempt to bring the green giant to the big screen that's no more incredible than Ang Lee's earlier attempt
|Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Lou Ferrigno, Tim Blake Nelson, Tim Roth, Ty Burrell, William Hurt
|13th June 2008
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Scientist Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is living in a Brazilian slum, hiding out from the US army.
Since he was zapped by a gamma-ray beam as part of a military experiment, whenever he’s got angry, he’s turned into a huge green Hulk of a monster and gone on the rampage.
Now on the run, he’s working in a beer bottling plant by day and training himself to control his anger and yoga lessons by night.
His nemesis, General Ross (William Hurt), is scouring the world to find the fugitive, convinced that a drop of his blood will help him develop the perfect fighting machine – an invincible soldier.
When an accident at work reveals Banner’s location, he has to slip back into the US, team up with his true love Betty (Liv Tyler) – who just happens to be the General’s daughter – and find a scientist (Tim Blake Nelson) who’s convinced he can cure him.
All the while, the General’s top fighter – Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) – is on his trail, upping his own gamma-radiation levels as he goes, to try to match the Hulk’s power.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
After Ang Lee’s controversially pensive exploration of the character in Hulk, Marvel Studios are having another go, reintroducing “The Incredible” to the title and bringing back a few more familiar elements from the 1970s TV show.
Bill Bixby – now sadly deceased – is seen on a TV show that his modern-day counterpart, Ed Norton, is watching, while the original hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno, makes a cameo as a security guard – every bit as muscle-bound as he was, thirty years ago.
In the modern age, though, rather than get a big muscle-man to take on the title role, as Ang Lee did, French director Louis Leterrier goes for the CGI option again. At times, this leads to a bigger, badder beast – but at other times, it just seems too unreal and there are inconsistencies with size and even texture. Sometimes, he’s twice as tall as Betty – other times he’s nearer the size of a small building.
There are far too many Hollywood clichés scattered throughout the film – when the Hulk is taking on the full might of the American army, in broad daylight, on a university campus, only two students happen to see anything at all – and one of them is the editor of the student paper.
And without spoiling anything, the big finale – a fight that destroys as much of Manhattan as Cloverfield’s monster – ends in the most illogically convenient way.
Of course you have to suspend your disbelief for films like this, but even in Marvel’s world, it’s a bit of a stretch.
There’s little light in what’s a pretty dark story about a miserable man, desperate to shed his unwanted super power.
Apart from a few nods to the TV show and references to stretchy trousers, there’s very little humour in there at all.
Even the mad scientist (Tim Blake Nelson) and the uber-baddie – in the shape of a power-hungry Tim Roth – don’t inject the necessary scene-chewing dark comedy of many-a-movie-antagonist.
The story is basic and linear and there are few twists – so the success of the film hinges largely on its effects and any emotions they can generate.
And while Norton is a powerful actor, emotion isn’t his thing – and a lack of any back story for him makes it perhaps harder to care about him. The closest we get to the emotion the film-makers will have been after comes from a refrain of music from the TV show, which conjures up our own memories, rather than those of Bruce Banner.
And Liv Tyler does little more than whimper in the background.
The film’s just not as clever, exciting or fun as a super-hero movie should be. Batman does dark turmoil without sacrificing humour, character and plot – this franchise should learn a lesson from the caped crusader.
And you can be pretty sure the not-so-jolly-green-giant will be back – in a valiant, but not entirely successful attempt to draw the character in the Marvel world, a brief cameo by Robert Downey Jr will only confuse anyone who hasn’t seen Marvel’s most recent production.