THE INCREDIBLE HULK Directed by Louis Leterrier, screenplay by Zak Penn, based on the Marvel Comics character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, with Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth and William Hurt. A Universal release. 112 minutes.
Opens Friday (June 13). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN
Hulk rage! Hulk smash! Hulk still looking for decent movie!
In case you haven’t been following the Web chats, The Incredible Hulk is Marvel’s second attempt to bring Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s big green rager to the screen. Results remain mixed.
The timeline is consistent with Ang Lee’s fascinating but entirely unsatisfying 2003 take on the character, but this isn’t a sequel to that film. If anything, it’s an extension of the 1970s television show, starting with a variation on its credit sequence and nodding repeatedly to its version of the Hulk mythology.This is all part of Marvel Studios’ attempt to reclaim the Hulk from Lee’s vaguely poetic treatment, which alienated fan boys and general audiences alike with its arty split screens, impressionistic fight sequences and borderline?nonsensical script. (Seriously, I was okay on the nanotechnology and the child experimentation, but Hulk dogs? Totally not cool.)
Director Louis Leterrier – a graduate of Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp Studios, having directed two Transporter films and the Jet Li punch-up Unleashed – ain’t having none of that. He’s all about the straight-up smashy-smashy, even if he doesn’t seem terribly concerned with spatial consistency or keeping the actors in the same frame as the digital effects.
And The Incredible Hulk has plenty of digital effects, though it’s interesting to note that the full-grown, all-digital Hulk remains about as convincing as he did five years ago. In shadow and night shots he’s pretty impressive, but put him out in the daylight and he looks like an overgrown action figure.
Worse, despite all the avowed loyalty to the Marvel concept this time around, they still haven’t figured out anything for the Hulk to do besides punch bad guys and throw tanks around like toys. He’s just a big green anger machine: he shows up, stuff gets broken, and then he somehow manages to disappear from view despite being 9 feet tall and covered in wreckage.
Bruce Banner is still kind of a dramatic dud. Yes, the role lets Edward Norton – who contributed substantially to the script, though he appears to have lost his screenplay credit in arbitration – reprise his intense Illusionist face as he stands very still and tries not to Hulk out. But the character doesn’t really get to do much besides flee from his military persecutors and moon over his lost love, Liv Tyler’s fluttery Betty Ross.
Norton does a great deal of capital-A Acting in these scenes, practically on a silent-movie scale. It’d work in a comic-book panel, but in live-action it’s kind of dopey.
Come to think of it, “kind of dopey” is how I’d classify most of The Incredible Hulk, with its flimsy villain (Tim Roth as an aging military operative who becomes the rampaging Abomination thanks to a combination of super-soldier serum and ill-advised gamma-blood infusions) and its noisy but empty action sequences.
Sure, it’s amusing to see various Toronto locations stand in for American colleges and a chunk of Harlem (put two blue mailboxes in front of Convocation Hall, and we’re magically in Virginia!), but when that’s the most entertaining thing about a comic-book movie, well, things aren’t looking too good for the fans.