Remember Ang Lee’s angst-ridden art house take on 2003’s The Hulk? Well, Marvel Comics would prefer you didn’t. Just put it all out of your mind. Forget about Bruce Banner’s abusive childhood, his contemplative moods and his battle with mutated dogs. Marvel is rebooting the film series with this summer’s The Incredible Hulk. As with the mega-successful Iron Man, Marvel has taken control of the project, yanking it away from the often idiotic movie studios and producing it in-house. It makes sense. Who’s more protective of Marvel Comics superheroes than Marvel Comics?
Ditching the high-minded helming of Ang Lee, this second Hulk outing aims right for the common man, recruiting Frenchy Louis Leterrier (director of the smash-and-grab sequel, Transporter 2). It’s as good a sign as any that the action will be beefed up for this round. The secret weapon, though, is actor Edward Norton, who takes over the lead role from Aussie Eric Bana. Not only is Norton a great actor, he also had his hand in nearly every aspect of this film, even co-writing the script (along with X2: X-Men United writer Zak Penn) under a pseudonym.
“You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”: Edward Norton goes green in the bashingly enjoyable The Incredible Hulk.
The Incredible Hulk isn’t exactly a ground-up reimagining (a la Batman Begins). It’s a direct sequel that assumes (as more of these films probably should) that people already know our hero’s “origin story.” As soon as the credits end, we’re off and running. The story here combines elements of the original comic book as well as the popular TV series of the ’70s. Our scientist hero is on the run, hitchhiking around the country under various assumed names, trying to find a cure for his acute monsterism.
This time around, the U.S. Government, led by General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt, replacing Sam Elliott), is trying to get its hands on the Hulk. It seems that certain forces want to exploit the angry green goliath for his weaponized potential. Imagine dropping thousands of ’roid-raging green soldiers on Iraq. It’s enough to make Dick Cheney crack a smile.
|Trailer for The Incredible Hulk.|
Hoping to avoid dissection, Bruce has fled the country, but it isn’t long before a team of crack commandos hunts him down and gives chase (in a thrilling rooftop showdown). The commandos fail, but their leader (Tim Roth) is given another chance. Emil Blonsky (transformed from an evil Russian mercenary in the comics to a U.S. Special Forces commando here) volunteers to be injected with some experimental “super soldier” serum (yes, the very stuff that will serve as the basis of the Captain America movie a couple years from now). That doesn’t work out quite the way everyone planned, however, and Blonsky mutates into the hideous creature known as The Abomination.
Eventually, with The Abomination trashing huge chunks of New York City real estate, everybody turns their eyes to poor Bruce Banner, who’s now called upon to employ his massive alter ego for good and bring down The Abomination in an epic, CGI-filled climax.
The script, although arguably “dumbed down” from the first film, is rather well thought-out. It casts The Hulk in just the right light—not a villain, not quite a hero, but more a force of nature that can occasionally be harnessed for good. It’s a formula that’s worked for Godzilla for 50-odd years, and it suits The Hulk quite well.
The bottom line is that audiences for a Hulk movie don’t want to see Oedipal drama, they wanna see Hulk smash! This film is smart enough to give the people what they want.