In 2003, a much anticipated comic book film hit theatres with a huge SMASH! It’s just a shame that after everyone got to view it, that SMASH turned into a very low knock on a door. Hulk thrilled me when the trailers first aired and I watched as Eric Bana didn’t want to get angry because the evil green guy inside of him was going to bust out and tear some sh*t up. Early shots of the CGI Hulk looked awesome and it just appeared as if things were going to just be insane with this film. Then it came out and even though the story veered from the comic book, the film itself didn’t. There were comic book panels and weird transitional effects and it was just a complete disaster. Could a sequel save the franchise in any way? Sure it could…by replacing Bana with Edward Norton.
Bruce Banner (Norton) is a man that is brilliant, sincere, kind, and just about everything that a normal person should be. The only problem is that Banner is about as far from normal as humanly possible. Banner is currently in Brazil hiding out from the United States government and trying to keep his “inner demons” at bay. He is also trying to find some type of cure for the gamma radiation poisoning that turns him into a monstrous green creature that destroys just about everything in his path. General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt), though, is not going to let banner sit idly by and work on his experiments. Ross is determined to find Banner and use his Hulk alter-ego as a weapon. His dream is to dissect Banner and figure out what makes him the way he is so that an army of super soldiers can be created.
Ross enlists the help of Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) who is looked at as a sort of bounty hunter. He is a relentless soldier that will stop at nothing to finish any mission he starts even if it means getting in a fight with someone or something much larger then him. Making use of his Hulk persona; Banner escapes back to the Unites States and runs into his love, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler). She strives to help him find a cure and to also stay with him because she does love him no matter what is inside of him. Blonsky though is still focuses on finishing his mission and convinces General Ross to administer gamma radiation into him so that he can be successful in bringing down Banner. Ross agrees and Blonsky transforms into the giant creature known as Abomination and is in for a showdown with the incredible Hulk.
What a difference five years, a new director, new writer, and new leading star make, eh? It’s not the best film in the world, nor is it the best comic book flick ever, but it is leaps and bounds better then that mess Ang Lee delivered years ago. Let us start with the story itself. For some reason it just seems well put together and flows rather seamlessly compared to Hulk where it jumped all over the place and made no sense from time to time. I like that this film didn’t ignore the original, but tried to still be its own entity. The Incredible Hulk is set a few years after the first film, but still incorporates all the original characters involved in the conflict while adding Emil Blonsky/Abomination played by the incredibly cool Tim Roth. It’s just more enjoyable form start to finish and is actually something I considered watching again immediately after while Hulk has been rotting in my DVD collection never being watched but the day it was released.
The advancements in writing and directing go hand in hand with Louis Leterrier taking over for Lee and Zak Penn writing circles around the script that numerous people had a hand in back in ’03. Don’t get me wrong, I like Bana and have enjoyed his work in a few other films, but he’s not a good fit for Bruce Banner/Hulk. It’s not entirely his fault though because he wasn’t given much to work with. Hell, even Liv Tyler looks decent in this film so you know that Leterrier was doing something right. She also has better lines to deliver here that aren’t nearly as boring as what poor Jennifer Connelly got stuck with. The Incredible Hulk is entertaining, kept my attention, and managed to have me not entirely despise watching Tyler’s acting.
One of the biggest problems this film, and franchise, faces is that no one can get the Hulk creature looking realistic enough. He’s always going to come off looking like a green-screen mess of muscle that just doesn’t appear to really be there. I’m not sure which version looks better, this one or Bana’s, but neither makes me look at it and think of it as an incredible sight to behold. You figure with the technology available today that they could do something to fix him up a little, but since they’ve tried twice now and managed to do a bang-up failure both times; then maybe they’re more then alright with what they’ve got. Besides that, The Incredible Hulk is an enjoyable way to spend a couple hours and not nearly bad enough to make you want to SMASH your television set.
The film is shown in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and it looks really good if you’re going for production value here and not necessarily the CGI aspect of it all. Colors look good and the darker scenes aren’t a problem to view.
The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and let me just tell you that it gets really, really, loud at times. All dialogue can be heard clearly and at a good volume, but man there are moments when combinations of the music and sound effects are just blow-your-eardrums-out loud.
Alternate Opening – A very different opening sequence that is kind of interesting, but rather underwhelming as well.
The Making Of The Incredible Hulk – Action films always have the most fun “making of” featurettes because of some of the really cool stuff they get to do. This film makes it even cooler because they have to do a lot of big scenes without even having the main character (Hulk) there for them. An interesting note is that director Louis Leterrier is a huge Hulk fan but originally turned down the offer to direct when it was thought to have been a sequel. When he found out it would be its own stand-alone film, then he was all for it. This thirty-minute feature goes behind the scenes with both cast and crew for scenes, CGI, script work, and tons more. Really good watch.
Becoming The Hulk – Anything and everything that could go into making/becoming the Hulk is talked about here and I do mean everything even down to his haircut. Comparisons to the television style, Ang Lee’s version, and even various comic book incarnations of Hulk went into the thought process of making this new one. I liked listening to the height comparisons they used to come up with the final nine to ten foot version in The Incredible Hulk. Edward Norton also seemed to have a big part in how the Hulk came to life because if he couldn’t be the creature at all then he would have lost interest in playing the part. This feature runs nine minutes and twenty-four seconds.
Becoming The Abomination – Now it’s time to check out all that goes into Abomination. Making Abomination went a long way into figuring out more of how Hulk would be created. The reason for that is because Hulk is a dominating figure that towers over all and is afraid of nothing, but now here comes a figure bigger then him and one that can cause pain in Hulk. Watching the motion capture technology used for both characters is really cool because they wanted to make sure that both giant creatures had differences. This is another good feature and it runs ten minutes and sixteen seconds.
Anatomy Of A Hulk Out – This feature can be played as three separate parts or all together for a total of twenty-seven minutes and fifty seconds.. It shows three particular “hulk out” moments and they are in the bottling plant, on campus, and in Harlem. A lot of detail and information is given here on how the audience sometimes looks forward to Banner hulking out while at other times they are hoping he is able to keep it in. That right there shows that Leterrier gave a damn about his characters in the film more so then just special effects. All three parts are equally good and so much went into each one making sure the “hulk outs” were perfect for their surroundings and time of occurrence.
From Comic Book To Screen – This may be one of the shortest special features at six and a half minutes, but it is quite possibly my favorite. Comic book panels are shown with speech bubbles as a small amount of animation goes on and music plays in the background. A scene is played out between hulk and Betty Ross. That is all this feature is, but it’s awesome.
Audio Commentary – Director Louis Leterrier and actor Tim Roth sit together for commentary and they sound like they really are having fun while discussing the film. Leterrier gives a lot of behind the scenes information as to shots and things he took from the comics, television show, and from other inspirations. Roth talks a lot about the moments in the film that he’s involved in but then asks Leterrier questions about the other parts that he’s not in. Good back and forth banter makes this an enjoyable commentary to listen to.
One cool thing is during the credits at the very beginning, both Roth and Leterrier point out the large amount of Marvel references in the computer notes and papers that flash by on screen. One name in particular I saw myself was that of Nick Fury.
Deleted Scenes – A whopping seventeen deleted scenes are shown here. Some of them show a little extra information, but nothing that would change the course of the film itself. The best one though is one where Bruce delivers pizzas to some college kids. Funny stuff.
Digital Copy – An additional disc that allows you to put a copy of the film on your desktop or laptop.
Trailers – Beethoven’s Big Break, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Iron Man, and Marvel Animation
RRRRAAWWWWRRRR…or something. The Incredible Hulk did a lot in advancing the quality of the franchise although it may not have saved it just yet. I’ve seen Edward Norton in plenty of different roles from lawyer to detective to a con artist to a white supremacist, and yet I never would have expected to see him jump into the shoes of the massive Hulk. He did a good job and I hope there are at least two or three more films that allow him to really build the character up a bit more and let him develop in much the same way Tobey Maguire has done with Spider-Man. A very good job was done with the special features on this DVD as well with a lot of behind the scenes stuff and a pretty nice audio commentary. It was just amazing seeing all the work that went into the two creatures (Hulk and Abomination) that wasn’t just CGI but acting ability as well, and that’s displayed beautifully in the featurettes. All of them combined make for a full afternoon and evening worth of entertainment from a DVD set that will leave you a bit confused after all is said and done. It’s almost like you’ll sit there and be mad at yourself for enjoying a film that is included in the same breath as such an awful film to come before it. Still, it’s always fun to sit back and watch some of your comic book heroes come to life and perform much better then their counterparts. Now if we get another film and the grey Hulk makes an appearance or even possibly She-Hulk? Then you can expect me to get all kinds of excited and DANNY SMASH!!!
My God I’ve got to stop that.
Universal Studios presents The Incredible Hulk. Directed by: Louis Leterrier. Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell, Lou Ferrigno (voice). Written by: Zak Penn. Running time: 113 minutes on 3 discs. Rating: PG-13. Released on DVD: October 21, 2008. Available at Amazon.