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We’re sure to be in the minority, but Louis Leterrier’s new THE INCREDIBLE HULK reboot made us appreciate Ang Lee’s 2003 version more. The new HULK is a perfectly serviceable and entertaining superhero movie — Bruce Banner huddles in his ratty purple pants, an outcast from society, before morphing dramatically to a mediocre–CGI rampaging behemoth. The action moves along well, the characters aren’t too campy or too serious, Ed Norton and William Hurt holds their ends up, and Tim Roth and Liv Tyler don’t stink. No, there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s just a little TOO by the book.

By now Marvel movies have a formula that they stick to religiously. Sometimes, as with IRON MAN, it’s done really really well. Sometimes, as with THE INCREDIBLE HULK, it just hits all the beats as plastically as a big summer Usher hit. IRON MAN and HULK are pretty much the same movie, they even have identical “Lab montages” set to almost identical music and starring actors in almost identical wife-beaters.

As misguided as Ang Lee’s angst-filled father saga was, after seeing countless superhero movies rehashing the same formula, you have to give him credit for at least thinking and trying to reinvent something. It was, in the end, bolder and more daring than anything Leterrier’s Hulk could ever be.

Plus, Eric Bana is about 85,000 times hotter than Ed Norton. but that’s just us.

A few more spoiler notes in the jump.

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• The funniest thing about this movie is that fact that the opening flashback is to A MOVIE THAT NEVER EXISTED.

• Norton has declined to do press for the movie, backing up stories of script squabbles. Maybe it’s those squabbles that give this movie a very badly edited feeling — one scene goes from broad daylight to a torrential downpour with nary a clue to how, and there are several other very jumpy, abrupt cuts. One scene starts looking out like it was shot on a rooftop but turns out to be on the ground…that kind of thing.

• The script isn’t stupid but it isn’t all that either.

• The final Hulk/Abomination fight lasts just the right amount of time, and actually makes good climax to the film. But that doesn’t mean that the Hulk CGI looks good. Oh no. The Hulk looks like an Earl Norem painting brought to life in every frame, but clearly they didn’t have the budget to make it Gollum level. In the end, these cartoony CGI heroes are no more realistic than the guys in suits of ’50s SF movies.

• WHY, every time he’s in danger of hulking out, does Bruce Banner run to a place where lots of innocent people will be the MOST damaged? IE, the Brazillian factory where the owner was kind to him and his girlfriend works; a school library. Come on now, Bruce!

• The in jokes — Lou Ferrigno, the Lonely Man theme, Stan Lee, SHEILD, Dr. Reinhart — are all good fun. The ending, with Tony Stark/Robert Downey Jr. sets up future Avengers movie very well. Since Norton isn’t signed for any sequels maybe there is some hope that we will see the 85,000x hotter Bana back?

• The fact that this by the book, competent movie is rated at 79% on Rotten Tomatoes and the visionary, innovative Speed Racer got a 35% just makes us sad, sad, sad.

1 COMMENT

  1. Seeing it tonight, but a couple points:

    Of course, since EDWARD NORTON never does press for his projects…
    But actually has done press for this one. Jimmy Kimmel, that AOL thing….

    And isn’t this really just the second Marvel movie? They didn’t have any control over anything but this or IRON MAN.

  2. Just because something is innovative doesn’t mean it’s good. Some innovations simply fail. Coca Cola was extremely innovative and courageous to mess with their proven formula and release “New Coke.” Yet everyone can agree it was a resounding success.

    On the other hand, just because something is by the book doesn’t mean it’s not good. You used Iron Man as an example. Another would be pretty much everything written by Williams Shakespeare. It’s either a tragedy or a comedy and they all follow similar formulas. Yet you’d be hard pressed anything in his collection that isn’t good or great.

    This isn’t to devalue your review of The Hulk. This could very well be a case where “by the books” was not a great thing (good use of Usher songs as an example). I’m just countering the blanket statements you seem to be implying.

  3. Every time I hear the trailer on TV without seeing it I think it’s for Get Smart because Ed Norton sounds like Steve Carell. Then in my mind’s eye I see Michael Scott as The Lonely Man, frustrated that no one appreciates his fun managerial style. And so he hulks out and smashes up Dunder Mifflin.

  4. SPOILEROILEROILEROILER

    I thought Tim Blake Nelson’s character should have been kicked in the balls more. Stereotype-reinforcing, missing-the-point-of-the-character cretin.

    I did sort of like the cow-eyed Hulk by the end of things. The bit where he was standing with his hand on his hip in the rain was just demented. In the absolute best of the best cinemas, I’d bet that the Hulk’s roar would have really shit some people up.

    I never ever want to see Ed Norton “getting it on” again, though.

    I think that between this movie and Ang Lee’s movie, we’ve had more or less one perfect Hulk. I think that tying all these characters together – by tying the creation of the Hulk into a backdoor attempt to recreate Captain America, for example (ala the Ultimates) – pisses away some of the meat of the concept. By removing Banner’s complicity, if nothing else.

    I did like RDJ’s little swagger, at the end. I didn’t like William Hurt and his lousy Paul Newman impression, though. Tim Roth’s turn as Action Man was the damndest thing I’ve seen in some time, as well.

    So. Yes. I liked it (plus qualifier). Now. When are we going to get The Beak?

    //Oo/\
    PS – Punisher teaser is up at Superherohype. Um. Yeah.

  5. I felt very similarly about the film: it was definitely better than the Ang Lee film, but they played it too conservatively and didn’t really take any chances with the material. I feel that if it were 10 to 15 minutes longer–with several more character bits interspersed throughout–the film might have had more resonance for me.

    That said, in the end I mostly liked it for what it was: it’s ambitions were limited but what it did it mostly did well. The nods to the television show were nice (loved the use of the “Lonely Man Theme” about halfway through–seemed like a missed opportunity not to use it again at the end), and the action sequence on the college campus was pretty well done. But the action sequences as a whole would have had more impact if they were balanced with a few more slower scenes. I guess what I really wanted was a slightly more melancholy tone overall, much like the Bixby show had.

    One bit of advice for any sequels: show the Hulk in shadow more, especially his eyes. The CGI wasn’t bad (it was much better than the Ang Lee version), but it wasn’t King Kong, either. Lighting the character so that he’s more shadowed will distract the audience from noticing when the animation goes a little wobbly (as it does now and then in this film).

    On another note, anyone heard the new Walter Becker album? It’s pretty terrific.

  6. I’m sure I’ll see Incredible just as I did Ang-Lee-able: on DVD, months down the road. So, the only thing I can write about both movies is, if there are future sequels, I’m hoping they go with claymation.

    Prepared as I was by the vitriolic tenor of criticism directed against Ang Lee’s movie, I enjoyed it much more than I was expecting to. There were some fine stylistic choices lost in a, uh… lumbering behemoth of a story. It’s ironic that a movie so ponderous and subdued should suffer from a lack of self-reflection and restraint.
    Fun: Stanley Kubrick once said something like “a good movie should be made up of six memorable scenes and the stuff that connects them”; love it or hate it, I expect many viewers remember six scenes from Ang Lee’s movie (some just wish they didn’t).

  7. Put me in the camp of who folks who enjoyed the Ang Lee version. It was thoughtful and ambitious.

    With that said, I always take critcism of a movie based on originality with a grain of salt. It’s very hard to judge a movie by taking it out of the context of all the other movies you’ve ever seen. But one should try. We all know it’s the same song, but it may not be the same singer.

    I”m going to see this film tonight and am rooting for it to do really well for Marvel. A healthier Marvel means a healthier comic industry (a rising tide and all that.) If the film does well, they’ll take some chances with (hopefully) the next one for those who thought this was too conservative.

  8. Odd, most of the ladies I’ve talked to would reverse your Ed Norton / Eric Bana ratio. Although I liked him in Troy (perhaps I was the only one?), most people just aren’t that impressed with Bana.

  9. I LIKED the Ang Lee Hulk, but anybody who doesn’t think it was a failure, both creatively and commercially, is kidding themselves.

    It spent half its time fetishizing the comics and the other half of the time running as far away from them as it could.

    As such, for as much as the “fanboys” get blamed for killing that film at the box office, it’s actually the NON-comic book readers whom I’d wager were far less tolerant of it.

    Among those I know, I’m far more likely to find defenders of the Ang Lee Hulk among my fellow fanboys than I am among more “mainstream” moviegoers, because among most non-comic book readers that I know, their view of the Hulk is roughly akin to their view of Godzilla – he’s a big huge green fucking monster that tears up everything in his path, and if they’re going to watch a movie about him, it’s going to be because they want to see him do exactly that.

  10. I just got back from seeing it. It’s one part TV show hulk, and one part Marvel comics. I liked Eric Bana better as Bruce but I liked this “Hulk” better, it’s just needs the CGI taken up a notch. Nobody holds a candle to Jennifer Connely as Betty Ross, plus she’s hot, but that’s just me. The Ang Lee Hulk I thought looked too placid, and this one at least looked angry. This is pretty much a typical summer actioner. In retrospect I give more props to the Ang Lee version for at least trying something new, but it also had some missed opportunities.

  11. I’ll reserve judgment on Incredible until I’ve seen it, but you can add one more to the list of long-time Marvel fans who actually enjoyed Ang Lee’s Hulk.

    I understand why some folks — fanboys and otherwise — didn’t enjoy it, but I found Lee’s film cogent, inventive, and as believable as a movie about a guy who turns into a raging green monster could be. (Except for the Hulk Dogs.)

    Then again, the Hulk was never my favorite Marvel character to begin with. Maybe that’s why I was more open to a fresh look at the concept.

  12. I am looking forward to this new version of the Hulk, but I didn’t hate the Ang Lee version. I thought the Ang Lee movie looked great, and I really liked the use of different windows of action on the screen, which evoked the feel of panels from a comic book page — I thought that was genius for a comic book movie. I also thought the performances were good and the casting was great. The real problem with the Ang Lee movie was the story. A better written story would have made a world of difference.

    However, if I had to choose between Jennifer Connelly or Liv Tyler, I’d have to go with the Rocketeer’s girlfriend, even though she is not 85,000 times hotter than the Jersey Girl.

  13. I LOVE Ang Lee’s films (“The Ice Storm” was a masterpiece) with the singular exception of his abysmally misguided HULK.
    But as much as I prefer this new HULK, I do think it would have benefited from just a bit of that poetic Ang Lee touch.

  14. It seemed to me The Ice Storm sounded interesting before you saw it…the only thing that would make this sound interesting (to me at least) is if they got Jim Henson’s studio to do a really realistic, really frightening Dark Crystal-style Hulk muppet-suit-on-a-guy thing. I don’t play enough video games for these CGI’ed superhero constructs to pass as real for me…

  15. I saw the new Hulk and I agree with Heidi on all fronts, but one bone I thought she[‘d pick on for sure was the lack of beef on Tim Roth. As the so-called heavy / villain he needed to keep his shirt on. His caved-in chest, scrawny frame and diminutive height made him a joke of a “bad guy”.

  16. Several people have bagged on Tim Roth’s dreadful physique but I thought the point of that scene was to back up what he said about wanting to have the brains of today and the physical condition of yesterday…hence his motivation to turn into a giant green spiney abomination.

  17. Re Ang Lee’s Hulk: the fanboy in me found the comic panel technique that he used somewhat condescending, as if he couldn’t take it seriously as a movie and overcompensated emphasizing the “comic-bookiness” of it all. It also struck me as Lee focusing on the more superficial elements of comic storytelling, like the Batman TV show and similar movies throughout the 60s and 70s. It’s pure camp, and reminded me of non-comic fan friends of mine who who would linger on the ads as much as the story when they read a comic, because they didn’t know any better not to.

    Also, the story blew. Ang Lee spent 4/5ths of the movie painfully establishing that due to the unique circumstances of Bruce Banner (subject to prenatal AND later self-experimentation, exposed to gamma bomb radiation, etc), the genesis of the Hulk was like a perfect storm of events, only to undercut it by having Nick Nolte gain illogical powers at the end. Lee’s fixation on making it all seem believable only made it more implausible by calling attention to itself. The concept of the Hulk is simple: it’s Jeckyl/Hyde by way of Frankenstein. It shouldn’t be easy to screw that up.

    So count me in as someone who wants more of a “Hulk smash” movie experience. But given that this new version seems like a cross between the TV and the Ultimates Hulk, and that the budget doesn’t look big enough for what I expect from Hulk-sized devastation, I’ll wait for Netflix.

  18. The Beat said: “Several people have bagged on Tim Roth’s dreadful physique…”

    Yep. They should have had a more muscular actor. Lou Ferrigno, who played the bribed-by-pizza security guard, is 55. You can tell he was in perfect shape at one point. Roth obviously never was.

  19. This latest version of the Hulk was supposed to be a new starting point for the character in movies. As such, it is a failure. It does not properly explain how the Hulk became the Hulk.

    Hulk is a better movie than Iron Man, but most people will like Iron Man better.

  20. heidi, the movie is by the book if you know the comic character inside and out, yes…but saw it today with a healthy audience and they loved it. it will make money and it is serviceable at best. its a summer movie and does the job.

    most embarrassing stuff in the movie is the scene with tony stark towards the end. nothing like having him approach the general who is downing shots faster than he can breath, in a bar… about getting a guy he has no control over to join the avengers…whf? ….and the horrible job done melding tim roths head on another persons body. i was embarrassed.

  21. I wasn’t under the impression Stark was referring to the Hulk joining his team, but rather the team helping General Ross tackle the Hulk.

    One scene that’s still bugging me is the end of the campus battle, where we’re somehow supposed to know that the Hulk has escaped with Betty. The scene just cuts away with no indication of that happening. The obvious shot would have been one of Hulk’s trademark leaps, right up and out of those flames. I’m wondering why such an obvious opportunity was missed.

  22. I saw it last night, and my reaction is similar to Heidi’s. Feh.

    I liked Ang Lee’s version much better, thought this Hulk looked even more fake than the last, thought Norton was merely adequate, and LeTerrier’s staging, particularly of the dialogue scenes (symmetrical two-shot, anyone?), was pedestrian at best, and boring as fuck at worst.
    As Jimmy said, it will make money, but that doesn’t mean much. The Pirates of the Caribbean made money, but quality? Not so much.
    On to Dark Knight…

  23. I saw it Friday night in a big Union Square theater and the crowd ate it up with a spoon. The kids loved the shit out of it, and I heard a group squeal “IRON MAN!!!” when RD2 appeared at the end. Yes, the effects are a bit… squalid, and there isn’t a whole lot of character development, but it did what I think any movie about this character should, and that was SMASHY-SMASHY. I think Liv Tyler was kind of a non-entity, more of a plot device. As for Norton, well, he may not be quite so handsome as Bana, but he does look more the part of a nebbish like Banner, with a nearly constant look of subdued panic.

    I was waiting for another cameo by Samuel L. Jackson, visiting Tim Roth in lockdown at the end and calling him Ringo. Cheap, perhaps, but it would have been cute.

    The guys I saw it with wanted to bag on the Ang Lee version when it was all done, but I felt compelled to remind them that THE ADJECTIVELESS HULK was a good film, just not a great one for the character. This one is all about letting The Hulk flaunt his goods. I was surprised they never had him do his enormous leap, but they may have wished to avoid any comparison to the Lee version. All told, I felt I got my money’s worth; YMMV.

  24. Alan Coil:
    “Yep. They should have had a more muscular actor. Lou Ferrigno, who played the bribed-by-pizza security guard, is 55. You can tell he was in perfect shape at one point. Roth obviously never was.”
    —————————-

    That was my point. I couldn’t believe Roth even as a post / past his prime tough military guy. Especially with his Napoleonic height standing side-by-side to WIlliam Hurt …I actually felt sorry for the guy. But don’t get me wrong, the movie worked enough and overall, I liked it. There’s no point in picking on so many obvious holes in story and character. Marvel is building thier film library and this will do them well.

  25. I must’ve seen a different movie from the rest of you. I didn’t find it “by the book” at all. Frankly, I think you could accuse Lee’s version as being more routine in its execution, albeit in an arthouse-y way.

    The script is also a good deal more solid than IRON MAN, though IRON MAN is certainly funnier.

    It may make my list of ten best superhero movies if I ever make one.

  26. “Plus, Eric Bana is about 85,000 times hotter than Ed Norton. but that’s just us.”

    I kinda thought that was the whole point with casting for Banner. Making him a low-key nobody (like Norton) seems much closer to the source material that casting him as a “hottie”. It’s tougher to buy a wounded puppy act from a guy like Bana than Norton-channeling-Bixby.

  27. SPOILERS ABOUND! This is for people who’ve seen it!!!

    The Avengers were formed to deal with The Hulk, right? He was the first threat. Somehow, he was also at one of the early meetings, too, though, so I’m not sure I’m right about that. Anyway, I didn’t really think Stark was talking to Ross about getting the Hulk to join so much as helping with the team somehow.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed this HULK but I’m not too critical.

    I liked Ang Lee’s Hulk, too. I definitely liked Bana better (but I sort of just love Eric Bana and think he has this really great pained element to him that makes him a good Hector, Banner or tortured Israeli assassin).

    The scene there Blonsky fights the Hulk after his first dose of super soldier serum was money. I wish that would have gone on longer. It was like Spider-Man versus the Hulk. Great stuff. Tons of fun. Loved the big shields the Hulk made out of the weapons.

    THIS IS DEFINITELY A BETTER HULK (character)!!! The Hulk needs to talk some, so that was great. Thank GOD we got a “HULK SMASH!!!”. I also liked the fact that we got to see the softer side of the Hulk. The love triangle of Bruce – Hulk – Betty is really awesome. I loved the scene with Betty under the rocks. I also loved it when he saved her from the helicopter and gave Ross the dirt look after. The kiss before Bruce jumps out of the Helicopter was great, too. I thought those were some strong moments. Cliched, yes… but I felt them because I know the love between these characters and it was good stuff.

    In fact, as I think about it, I like Connelly better as Betty and Bana better as Bruce, but I might actually like Tyler-Norton better as Bruce-Betty. I think they were more believable together… and that scene where Tyler jumps on top of a transforming Bruce WAS HUGE!!! I don’t know if Connelly would have even been game. Anyway, Tyler did that awesomely and that moment gets a gold star for the director/scripter from me.

    I’m just going to say it: Liv Tyler is the first woman we’ve seen in a comic book movie who has the guts and verve of some of the great comic book ladies. I think most of the women that have been cast have that sort of quiet, shy quality. Tyler really was able to show some fire from time to time, and a comic book lady has to have some fire in her belly. Connelly didn’t really. Garner DEFINITELY never whowed it in Elektra or DD.

    Fanboy Geek-out: Very angry I didn’t pick up on who Samuel Sterns was. Yo, did anyone else notice that Betty was dating Doc. Samson??? WTF? Lame? A little.

    Very happy that this was not really another origin movie. I really liked the way they dealt with that. Gloss over it again real quick and then get into a classic Hulk story. that was very cool. I was really dreading going back through that whole process again. The Hulk is sort of like Superman… people have a rough idea how he works and where it came from. No need to rehash it.

    Anyway, I liked it. I’ll get the DVD, you betcha. I liked IRON MAN better, but this was good.