Okay, there's a monster in this movie that literally has the ability of having exposed compound fractures. His spine is on the outside . The term "pulverize" is actually enacted very literally in this movie. There's a sexy scene and a whole bunch of destruction and gunplay. I don't have a problem with "PG-13" as a rating, but it covers so much. Like, so much. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Louis Leterrier
I liked this one when it came out. I really did. I don't hate it like a lot of people do, but I really dug it at the time. I'm also a fan of the Ang Lee Hulk, so I may just be a masochist. I also really like Edward Norton. Like, I never want to meet him. I'm actually afraid of Edward Norton. I imagine that he hates me, despite never having met me or having heard of me. I swear, his character from Birdman is Edward Norton in my head. He scares me. I'm a very non-confrontational human being. I don't like conflict. I don't want to meet Edward Norton. I hear that's all Edward Norton was on this movie: a point of conflict. But now I have to question what side that Norton was on. Is he the reason that this movie is non-stop action or was he shooting for a more nuanced film about the rage that is inside all of us and how the Hulk is just an allegory for abuse? Regardless, the movie didn't quite work out to be the movie that most people wanted and there's a couple of reasons for it.
Because I'm me, I still kind of enjoyed this movie. There are times that I just want to see the Hulk blow some crap up. I also like the idea that a guy has to spend the majority of an action movie trying to keep his heart rate down or else he's going to end up murdering everyone. That's a nifty idea and I've always liked the Hulk in concept because of that. If the movie does one thing really right, it gets the concept of Hulk right. He is a guy who hates what he becomes when he gets angry, so he has to keep working to keep his rage monster out of control. But in contrast to the Ang Lee Hulk, which really played up the allegory without the payoff of great violence, this movie takes it the other way. This movie loves the rage monster in large doses. My wife was working on her notes and said she didn't mind having a movie in the background that she could just listen to. Because of this, she pointed out that this movie barely has any dialogue. (Part of that is not the movie's fault. She's listening to a movie that is initially set in Brazil.) Remember, I started this movie immediately after finishing Iron Man. Iron Man had great dialogue. There's barely anything here. It's a lot of running. There's a lot of 'splosions. That's the movie. I give Marvel and Letterier props for just montaging the whole origin story because the last movie takes, like, an hour and ten or something to get through an origin story. Yes, there were changes done (to match the TV show...theme song and all), but without an origin story, lots of The Incredible Hulk doesn't have legs. It's trying to establish that there is this rich universe of characters to explore with the Hulk, but there really isn't. Not in context of what they are looking at. I read Hulk comics for a long time. I even enjoy Hulk comics to some extent. But I also know that Hulk comics don't keep me focused too much. Every scenario that the Hulk experiences is a grudge match. There's not a lot of cleverness. Banner has to solve those kinds of problems and no one really cares if Banner solves anything. In my review for Thor: Ragnarok, I actually claimed that the inverse problem actually exists. Hulk is on the screen for so long, that Banner becomes the star of the show. The problem is that with The Incredible Hulk, you get so eventually bored with Edward Norton that you can't wait for Hulk, who is just going to punch the problem to death.
Edward Norton is fine, I suppose. I have a feeling that the Norton cut of the movie exists somewhere that makes his character far more compelling. But he's also across from Liv Tyler. I don't know why I thought Liv Tyler was okay in movies. I associate her with her breathy performance in Lord of the Rings. Anyone in Lord of the Rings can do no harm. But that might not be true. She's breathy in everything. Betty Ross is a really weak link in this movie. It is odd how important Betty used to be to the Hulk mythology. Between the films and the comics, Betty is such an afterthought right now. It's weird that Thunderbolt Ross actually has a little more meat to his character than Betty does now. So we have this solid actor like Edward Norton looking like he's disdainful to act across from Liv Tyler. William Hurt as Thunderbolt Ross barely has any lines or scenes with Norton. Then there is Tim Roth, whom I normally love. This character is just a bit too much. I'm going to do a general wag the finger at the special effects department in a second, but Tim Roth looks rough when they CG his muscles. He's kind of gag inducing. Also, his character is remarkably thin. Considering how nuanced Bruce Banner is supposed to be when dealing with emotion, the other characters really wear their goals on their sleeves. Ross wants Banner as a weapon. Blonsky wants to be a weapon. The only character that I really love in this movie is Tim Blake Nelson's Samuel Sterns. He's supposed to be the Leader, guys. They set this movie up to be a franchise. They teased all of this stuff in the movie that was supposed to come back into play and we never saw it again. I keep saying that the MCU doesn't really have a failure under its belt, but it might just be that it never really paid off these big teases because the movie is trying wrestle the Hulk rights out from Universal (pun kind of intended). But I love the Mr. Blue / Mr. Green stuff. I love that the Leader is supposed to be a contrast to the hero as opposed to the Abomination, which is just a dark mirror of the hero. Abomination is necessary, but boring. The Leader would be awesome. I don't want to revisit this movie, but I would like to pick this movie apart for the scraps that would work in the future films.
I said that I would do it. The CG in this movie does not hold up. I didn't believe it when I saw this movie with Pat and Molly. Pat was gagging from how bad the CG was and I didn't believe him. I said it was fine. He told me that it would look bad a year or two out and he was right. Considering how much I love the model for the Avengers Hulk, I have to agree with him. It is hard making a character look real that is fundamentally impossible. We have no frame of reference for a real looking Hulk outside of Lou Ferrigno (by the bye, the sheer amount of nods was cute, but distracting). I didn't think it was possible to find a way to make it work and this model does not work whatsoever. He looks criminally digital in almost every scene. Part of it is that the movie wanted Hulk to look gritty and that's a poor decision. Letterier is playing up the "rage monster" element and that's probably a poor choice. Instead of letting the character deliver his message through his actions, of which there are plenty, he is always covered with dirt, gritting his teeth, and yelling. He's an action hero and has action hero poses. What the Avengers added to Hulk was that he was kind of a dumb animal sometimes. He has a big dopey look on his face and his destruction is what made him gritty. Yes, the Hulk is allowed to be dirty, but he doesn't always have to be contrasted by explosions or fire. He can just be. Most of this is probably a technological thing. It was 2008. But there were also artistic choices and I really disagree with those. There's nothign fun in those designs. There's nothing that takes the Hulk and makes him relatable. He's this animal handsome thing and I don't like that. Make him kind of a dope that smashes things. It works so well. I'm not surprised that the movie didn't go that direction, but it definitely matches the tone of the rest of the film. It shot for cool. It should have shot for fun.
I still didn't hate this movie. There's a lot here that works better than people give it credit for. But the movie isn't really very good. It is watchable, but it also has the problem of having so much action that the movie is actively boring to watch by the end. During the big showdown at the end, I was nodding off. Considering what was going on in that scene, I should have been riveted. But I had seen Hulk blow stuff up by this point. I didn't need to watch two digital messes continue to blow stuff up. There is a reason that the Hulk only seems to work in other people's movies and it's because there is a tipping point that can easily be reached with that character. The Incredible Hulk might be the movie that crossed that line long ago.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.