Ang Lee’s 2003 adaptation of popular Marvel comic the Incredible Hulk was touted to be it’s summers big super hero hit. Instead the reportedly staid and somber approach resulted in limited success. While it has it’s fans it’s a movie that few appear to have enjoyed as much as other recent Marvel fare (such as X-Men, Iron Man, and Spider-Man). So when it was announced that the franchise would continue (albeit via a “reboot” that ignores the earlier films existence) with Edward Norton picking up the lead role in place of Eric Bana there was surprise and curiosity about what could be done to turn it into a success.
And perhaps against the odds I can report that the film is a success. It’s box office take was not significantly higher than Hulk’s in 2003 but given the low expectations it must be considered a good take. Critical response, while not ecstatic, was at least reasonably positive (66% on Rotten Tomatoes).
The story is largely familiar, an experiment goes wrong leaving Bruce Banner exposed to gamma radiation. This results in Banner becoming the Hulk when overly stimulated (anger, stress, excitement can all lead to Banner losing control). Following the experiment the US army has attempted to capture Banner and use his new found abilities to develop “super soldiers”. Banner has fled the army and is living in near poverty in Brazil at the opening of the movie. There he has found relative calm. Calm which will, of course, be shortly disturbed.
The Incredible Hulk has an unlikely but accomplished leading man in Edward Norton. When we first see Banner he appears a haunted man. Defeated but determined. Throughout the course of the film Norton does a great job of allowing us to see Banners conflict over the Hulk and his feelings over it’s power. He makes Banner a believable and rounded character. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the Hulk. This CG creation is never believable in the slightest and presents the movies biggest weakness. The first scene featuring the transformation and Hulks first fight is the best as director Leterrier follows the Jaws strategy of limiting our view of the creature. Instead the Hulk is hidden in shadow. Once shot sees the huge Hulk silhouette briefly illuminated by a flash-bang grenade. It is inventive and atmospheric. Which is more than can be said of the films final climatic fight, instead the climax involves an extended fight between two CG creations neither of which look particularly realistic leading to passable entertainment but with a lack of excitement and engagement. Luckily the movie rebounds with it closing scenes enlivening proceedings well and leaving me interested in another installment.
I caught up with the Incredible Hulk on Blu Ray. The disc offers an excellent demonstration of the formats qualities with great picture and imersive sound. There is a great quantity of special features on the disc including a director commentary and numerous deleted scenes (one, an alternate opening, supposedly features a Captain America Easter egg).