Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Incredible HULK

By Reymundo Salao

Based on the extremely popular Marvel comic book character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, INCREDIBLE HULK is about Bruce Banner, who is a scientist on the run after he has found out that the result of a freak accident during a scientific experiment causes him to transform into a monstrous Incredible Hulk. Banner is desperately scours Brazil looking for a cure so that he can get back to the life he lived and the woman he loves, but his quest is not easily achieved when the military is on his tail seeking to acquire his powers in order to be used as a weapon.

This movie is a reboot/restart of the Hulk franchise, so although some might think this to be a sequel (because Banner is already on the run as a fugitive in the beginning of the movie, just like in the end of the first Hulk movie), this movie follows an alternate origin story (which is a bit more faithful to the TV series), skipping the tedious details of the origin, and minimizing it into a quick flashback intro. This nostalgic sequence is intentionally made to reflect the 80's Hulk TV series, with its familiar scenes which mirror the series, in fact, the whole movie seems to be injected with an early 80’s feel to it.

The action was terrific. A little bit too over-stylized at times, but nevertheless exhilarating. But when the action simmers down, that is when the film drags a lot. Even though Leterrier has proven his worth when it comes to drama with his previous work "Unleashed", it seems that Incredible Hulk fails to bring that same degree of emotion. Sure there’s plenty of action, but in between them is a storytelling that makes you too tired to follow, and too generic to be impressed with.

I am all cheers for Edward Norton's accurate portrayal of Bruce Banner. He is so perfect for the role. In fact, way back in 2003 when the first Hulk movie was still in production, my friend and I were discussing who would be the perfect actor to play Bruce Banner, and we agreed that Edward Norton seemed to be the only one worthy of playing the man cursed by the Hulk sickness. In comparison, Eric Bana also did a great performance in the previous movie, but he does not have the right look for Bruce Banner, who was supposed to be skinny and wimpy to create the dramatic contrast with his monstrously massive alter-ego. Norton was the right person for the job; the looks and the acting ability. The only minor problem was the cheesy lines he had to deliver.

Liv Tyler (as Betty Ross) was just terrible for the role. Pure plastic. Her performance was forgettably one-dimensional and lacks spice. William Hurt (as Gen. Ross).was good, but also forgettable. Both did not surpass the magnificent performance of 2003's Hulk cast of Jennifer Connelly and Sam Elliott (both playing the same roles as Tyler and Hurt). Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky, who becomes the Abomination, made a really good performance, but knowing Roth’s talent, he could have done better and could have given more to the role. Regardless of the movie’s unimpressive supporting cast, the movie does manage to tickle the fancy of Hulk/& comics geeks (like me) with the appearance of the Leader (played by Tim Blake Nelson), Doc Samson (Ty Burrell), and the brief appearance of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man), but don’t expect him to put on his Iron suit on this movie.

A Bruce Banner that focuses on controlling the beast within him, and overcoming the loneliness that comes with his curse. Zak Penn's storyline for Hulk would’ve been really good, but it is filled with plotholes like the craters of the sports complex road. And the pacing was also terrible. Moments such as when Bruce jumps out of the helicopter risking the possibility that he would die, or the intentions of Emil Blonsky to become a monster himself, or even the unclear reason why Ross is after Bruce, all were scenes either with bad pacing, or suffered such weak build-up.

Personally, I have nothing against the 2003 Ang Lee-directed HULK movie, but I was also very much excited for this new Incredible HULK movie because it entailed so many promises of improvement; there is its director Louis Leterrier, who is one action director who really understands action, having directed action gems The Transporter and Unleashed (aka Danny the Dog). And then there is Edward Norton, playing the new Bruce Banner, who is perfect for the role. If the intention was to improve on the supposed shortcomings of the first movie, then they have failed to do so. Maybe it was because my expectations were too high, or maybe because I was one of those who, in fact, loved the first movie. It may not have beaten the first movie, in my opinion. But at least, in this one Hulk does what Hulk does best: Hulk Smash!

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