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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.76%
Worth A Look52.94%
Average: 14.12%
Pretty Bad: 9.41%
Total Crap: 11.76%

8 reviews, 37 user ratings

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Incredible Hulk, The (2008)
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by Erik Childress

"The Adjective Should Have Been On Ang Lee's Version"
2 stars

I wish I could say I was filled with a joyful giddiness upon leaving the new Incredible Hulk film for it delivered on non-stop action, a tight story and a psychological depth brought to it by Edward Norton. Alas, this was not the case. Although not about the joyful giddiness. Oh no, I still left with that feeling. But it was because I could now laugh in the faces of all those who came down hard upon Ang Lee’s version in 2003. For five years, his Hulk has been the butt of the comic book movie universe, thrust out into exile much like Bruce Banner himself for ignoring the origin story, inserting starfish technology and having the audacity to actually see the drama in his cursed duality. Louis “Unleashed” Leterrier’s 2008 “version” is twenty minutes shorter, features the same amount of hulk-outs and manages to deliver no more action than Lee’s version; the primary source of scorn to the comic crowd. Based on the reaction at a screening Monday night, dem fans seem none too pleased. Out of spite though they may still say it’s an improvement, proving that some people can be served crap and still spin it as pudding.

Right off the bat, all questions as to whether or not this was a sequel are answered as a completely new origin story is put into fast-forward during the opening credits. Well, not completely new. Instead of the father experimenting on his son, Bruce Banner (Edward Norton), is trying the gamma technology on himself in the manner that Bill Bixby did on the TV show. Same chair, same flashing red DANGER sign. No flat tire to cause the initial change, but you get the picture. Having nearly killed the love of his life, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) during the rampage her father, General “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) has made it his mission to hunt down the fugitive and, well, that seems to be the extent of his plan at first. Bruce has been hiding out in Brazil, communicating only by laptop to someone who may be able to help cure him.

General Ross brings in a big gun though named Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) once a far-fetched clue traces them to Banner’s whereabouts. Blonsky becomes intrigued by his adversary’s abilities so the General informs of the research the Army has been conducting in search of the super soldier. Seems this was part of Banner’s experiments (albeit without his knowledge) and Ross, already aware of the effects on a mild-mannered scientist, decides to give Emil a little taste. Now with T-1000-like speed and agility, Emil can take on the Hulk at his own game, even if their fighting weights aren’t quite matched. While Bruce escapes further capture, reunited with Betty, he seeks to track down Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson) who has succeeded in developing a temporary antidote for his alter-ego but might also have just the dose of medicine that Blonsky needs to go monster-y-monster.

The drive of this particular Incredible Hulk film is more akin to reading the daily logline than the constant pursuit tension of a Fugitive or Bourne film. When Marvel, Avi Arad and everyone associated with this project set out to insultingly jettison all memory of Ang Lee’s approach, did anyone believe that meant regressing it back to the small screen version? I’m all for paying homage to the show, included here by a clip of Bill Bixby getting smacked on Courtship of Eddie’s Father and giving Lou Ferrigno a few lines while Norton graciously gives him a “you da man.” There’s also a half-hearted reference to a young campus reporter named Jack McGee (which got zero reaction from the crowd), the four-note musical theme rears its sullen head and maybe even an unintended nod to Bixby’s final appearance in The Death of the Incredible Hulk. (He didn’t quite make it falling from that helicopter.) But if you can clock a feature film by its transformations (25-&-50) style and still wish that you could skip through the commercials in-between, precisely how far removed are you from what’s come before.

Not that anything around those commercial breaks are worth waiting for either. With three set pieces distributed liberally while a lesser version of Banner’s longing and angst string them together, I challenge anyone to make a convincing argument that the mayhem on display here is more exciting (or cooler) than what transpired in 2003. Fine, you didn’t like “mutant French poodles” and Leterrier’s opening chase (a half-hour in) through the neighborhoods of Brazil, pre-Hulk, isn’t bad. But shading the creature while he defends himself distracts us from the ensuing carnage. The final confrontation between Banner and Blonsky’s various incarnations (Try not to groan when Nelson’s scientist says the various mixtures in Blonsky’s blood would be “an abomination.”) is Transformers all over again with two giant CGI creations moving so bullet fast there’s no time to “wow” at one punch before the one who threw it is thrown himself across the white section of Harlem which the film takes gusto in destroying during the Cloverfield portion of the evening. The only semi-legitimate cool moment allowed to breathe in the climax we already saw Bruce Willis do to Yellow Bastard in Sin City. Sorry, not the balls thing. The film would need them first.

Most telling though is the campus faceoff between the Hulk and Thunderbolt’s army. This is to be the equivalent of the extended escape into the desert years ago, but its more a test of the immovable object theory. When Eric Bana’s Hulk emerged from being a lab rat, he ran like a jetstream, jumping himself to freedom while tanks and choppers tried to take him out. Edward Norton’s Hulk is a statue, planting himself on the campus grounds so everyone and their Army mothers can take a shot at him. Argue away that he stayed to “protect” Betty, but Leterrier frames the battle from a spectator’s vantage point and not through the motivation of our hero, draining the excitement and amplifying the noise to an anti-climax that carrier more emotional pull when I was nine watching Starman for the first time. Since everyone is starting over, then we’re being asked to do the same. There’s no carry over from Bruce & Betty’s relationship. This is brand new and there’s nothing to convincingly sell us on why these two characters care about each other. It isn’t helped that the only time Liv Tyler changes facial expressions is when she yells at a cab. The writing services none of the characters, doesn’t even attempt to tap into the obvious implications of the industrial military complex becoming it’s own uncontrollable monster, and despite all the ballyhoo over Edward Norton writing and rewriting most of the script, only Zak Penn gets final credit and will have to shoulder the blame for dumbing down one of the most interesting characters in all of Marvel’s cadre.

It was bad enough sitting through the five-episode stretch of Sex and the City a few weeks back, but if all I wanted was two episodes of The Incredible Hulk I could have busted out any of the four seasons of DVDs I have or sit through a marathon on the Sci-Fi channel. Even fans of Ang Lee’s Hulk (which I’m a proud card-carrying member) left with a bad taste in their mouths during its murky electricity-and-water finale, but there were so many positives to the way he told the story (origin be damned and all) that its consistent vitriol over the years with the onset of garbage like The Punisher and the Fantastic Four films is so small-minded and purile. The fact that no other comic book adaptation since has taken the panel-and-inserts approach that Lee so cleverly induced only furthers its originality and audactiy. As some final injection of irony, The Incredible Hulk offers up its coolest moment during the final scene, with a (not-so-secret) cameo with a final line of anticipatory bliss for comic and movie fans alike. It’s the only moment that illicited any applause at the screening, although it may have been because it offered another promise to the Hulk denouncers that a good Incredible Hulk film is on the way. Because this doesn’t even come close.

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originally posted: 06/13/08 14:00:00
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User Comments

3/25/18 morris campbell solid imho better than the 2003 version 4 stars
3/14/16 Charles Tatum Meh, but a good meh. 4 stars
5/05/15 Jack Just awful. Boring and idiotic at the same time. 1 stars
10/19/11 Magic Bland and uninteresting. The first of many Avengers lead-in movies. 3 stars
9/08/11 Ryan if you like this movie,then you have horrible taste,and you'r an idiot 1 stars
9/25/09 george webster Great fun! E. Norton was wonderful! 4 stars
9/24/09 Dr.Lao Enjoyable, but the numerous "in the know" references got eal annoying real fast 4 stars
7/02/09 Jonathan Birch I felt more emotionally attached to Stan Lee's CGI Hulk. He just felt more real. 3 stars
3/17/09 zenny good semi-mindless funzers 4 stars
3/10/09 KingNeutron Liked this one better than Ang Lees version but it could have been edited more. Lots of FF 4 stars
1/08/09 Shaun Wallner Intense Action! 4 stars
10/27/08 VMANIC1 The (Hulk Character) and the fight scenes still look too "cartoonish". 3 stars
10/18/08 AshleyRockO Well made comic book film. Better than the first. Less Story. More Hulk Smash! 5 stars
9/17/08 Oiman wasn't THAT bad, but not very entertaining. 3 stars
8/28/08 Cathy We liked it -- interesting to watch 4 stars
8/06/08 E K Zimmerman Still awkward on the screen, but pretty damn good. 4 stars
8/03/08 markgse I am so glad it's not like the first Hulk movie. This was a winner. 4 stars
7/29/08 Christ Only mentally retarded people will enjoy this piece of crap 1 stars
7/26/08 MCM A nice combo of the comic & the tv show. 4 stars
7/10/08 L. Slusarczyk A LOT better than the first one, but I still miss the TV show! 4 stars
7/08/08 mary m I wasn't sure I wanted to see this and I almost wish I had saved my money. 2 stars
7/06/08 Quigley A further reminder of why the Hulk is a lame character. 3 stars
7/05/08 mr.mike It was good. 4 stars
6/25/08 FJ Entertaining movie. The final fight scene ended too abruptly though. 4 stars
6/25/08 Paviv Delivers the fun/excitement/script that the last one missed. 5 stars
6/25/08 Ole Man Bourbon This was surprisingly entertaining. Better than most other hero movies. 4 stars
6/24/08 damalc NOT the best Marvel movie, about even with IM, step below SM2 4 stars
6/22/08 Dan Great adaptation, on par with Iron Man. I can't understand the criticism. 5 stars
6/21/08 steve awful and boring.stan lee's was better 2 stars
6/21/08 David V Way better than the first, Hulk's actually exciting this time. 4 stars
6/17/08 johnnybgoode Much better than the first Hulk. Better action / acting, and he isn't Shrek anymore 4 stars
6/14/08 Sam The movie was horrible and this critic is right about everything he says. 1 stars
6/14/08 jcjs33 fun 4 stars
6/14/08 action movie fan very good action good ideas could have been better developed 4 stars
6/14/08 Darkstar 100 times beter than the first one 4 stars
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  13-Jun-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 21-Oct-2008


  DVD: 21-Oct-2008

Directed by
  Louis Leterrier

Written by
  Edward Norton
  Zak Penn

  Edward Norton
  Liv Tyler
  Tim Roth
  William Hurt

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