The Incredible Hulk (2008)

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The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Post  BoG on Sun Feb 08, 2015 2:42 pm

This is the 2nd Hulk film of the 21st century, a reboot following the 2003 version, but also functioning as a sequel in some ways. It's a very early chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, coming right after the first one, Iron Man, in that same year, produced directly by Marvel Studios as part of a great cinematic plan and a method to do their super-heroes the right way.  It's more of a reboot than a sequel because this features a completely different cast from the 2003 effort. In this 2008 version, Edward Norton plays the fugitive Bruce Banner, on the run and hiding in some suburb of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  He works a menial job at a bottle factory and is in contact with some mysterious fellow genius on his computer in regards to finding a cure for his condition. As far as his 'condition,' he has managed to keep his other angry persona under wraps, but he is tracked down by the military forces of General Ross (William Hurt) and transforms once again.
As expected, Banner soon makes his way back to the States - but the locale changes drastically from the previous film, shifted from the sunny west coast brightness of California and Arizona to the dark grittiness of New York City. We are reintroduced to Banner's past love, Betty (Liv Tyler) and also her new beau, Dr. Samson (Ty Burrell); Samson was a big recurring character in the Hulk comics, also a recipient of Gamma radiation, but that doesn't happen here. Instead, the villain is Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), a frustrated yet low key military officer who begins to work with Ross in changing himself into an ultimate soldier via a special serum, basically another version of Captain America (this is one of the various connections between the Marvel films, the super soldier serum). But, this serum is flawed and Blonsky eventually transforms into a more grotesque version of the Hulk, a monster dubbed the Abomination. We also meet Banner's mystery connection, Dr. Sam Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson), who, in the comics, was the Hulk's other primary foe, the Leader. Sterns appears to begin changing into this villain towards the end of the film, but since there never was a sequel, nothing came of this.
Roth was a strange choice for the role of the villain Blonsky; he was cast for his acting chops but never comes across as a soldier - he just looks too slight. A big guy like Ray Stevenson would have probably been a better choice. As it is, Roth looks strange battling the Hulk as a super soldier, leaping about thanks to  the FX, a skinny, small man who supposedly is one of the best combatants on the planet. In fact, he looks a little like Steve Rogers before Rogers was transformed into a super-hero. Of course, after Blonsky transforms into a huge monster, all of that doesn't matter anymore. As the audience anticipates, there's a huge battle between the two behemoths in the middle of the city and it's suitably, er, marvelous in its action and destruction. But, it's strangely anti-climactic, as if they were saving a rematch for a sequel. Norton was good as he usually is and Tyler surprised me by being pretty good because she had been pretty awful in her sporadic film roles until that point. Hurt was slightly miscast - he's more of a professor, not a general.
Despite the fanfare of this big reboot - that this was the Hulk now done right - this did not do much better at the box office than the 2003 film; in fact, adjusted for inflation, this one was slightly worse. So, for whatever reason, the Hulk is just not a success story in big Marvel film-making that his peers are; Iron Man, that same year, did much better at the box office. I think there is just this limitation to the character - it's all about becoming angry and destroying things in fits of rage; it's not something to spellbind or fascinate a large audience. The visual of the Hulk was drastically changed from the 2003 version in an effort for more realism, but they went a bit too far the other way - he looks almost misshapen and overdone with all the detail of his over-wrought musculature. The Hulk next appeared in the Avengers film of 2012, and Banner was played by a different actor once again because Norton had disagreements with the studio. BoG's Score: 6.5 out of 10
Incredible Trivia: cameo by Stan Lee as the guy who opens his fridge and drinks from the wrong bottle - this is how Banner is tracked down in the 1st act; also, cameo by Robert Downey, Jr. in the end credits as Tony Stark, meeting with Hurt's General Ross in a bar - nothing ever came of Ross's involvement in future films such as The Avengers. We also see Bill Bixby at one point on a TV set, in one of his early TV roles.
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