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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 Marc Kandel

"Answering the question “What If the Hulk TV show had an actual budget?”"
4 stars

Director Louis Letterrier and actor Ed Norton, doubtlessly improving on a screenplay from Zak Penn (still on my shit list for X-Men: The Crap Bland) take Hulk “back to formula”. Disregard the disappointed half-handful of fans from the first attempt by Ang Lee (a sometimes beautiful piece of cinema that ponderously wallowed in its visual and emotional ideas to the detriment of the plot). Don’t like the old TV show? Fine. Your loss. The film takes the strengths of the show, marries it to some fine ideas from the comics and crafts something familiar yet highly enjoyable.

After a short n’ sweet re-introduction to big green, we’re off to the races. “Hulk” uses the tried and true blueprints of the Marvel Superhero movie: Our hero has a special ability but only at great cost. He attempts to take responsibility and utilize the power positively. His attempts are hampered by an antagonist that either wants power themselves or wants to use the hero’s powers for their own ends. The antagonist finds a way to power, recreating themselves as a stronger version of our hero, minus the responsibility. They fight.

This formula had petered out (literally) by Spider Man 3, a dismally unimaginative, blatantly stupid film that wasted all of its ideas and was painful to watch. Hulk, like Iron Man, turns this blueprint around through excellent use of strong talent carrying magnificent effects. Frankly my biggest anxiety now is awaiting the inevitable decline to a by-the-numbers production once the industry again becomes too reliant on the branding rather than the story.

There’s just so much to like here, and frankly I wasn’t even all that enthused to see a new Hulk film, being far more excited about Iron Man and The Dark Knight. What a great surprise this was; a chase film rippling with energy, excellent sci-fi concepts, more than a dollop of welcome, well-placed humor, and a Hulk that was tangible, emotive, and powerful. I believe this Hulk's anger and frustration- but I also believe in its innate goodness.

Ang Lee's creation was so wrapped up in brooding over and belaboring the consequences of suppressed rage, that we got far too few cathartic moments of Banner's Id giving vent to its fury, and then turning that fury into something positive as the comic managed to do. Shallow though it may seem at a glance, people who appreciate the Hulk appreciate the "revenge of the nerd" angle. That was always my favorite part of the show and the book- some thick necked bullies learning a painful lesson at the hands of someone seemingly weaker than them. Its Banner's core morality that always saves us from going over the edge.

My favorite scene isn’t even one of battle, it’s a moment of genius insight into what a reactive, instinctive, new being the Hulk is- he can’t tell the difference between a thunderstorm and the weapons of his enemies- so he fights the sky itself. By giving the Hulk an active stimulus, we learn far more about his personality than we do by him staring at a rock and the lichen growing on it for a whole minute. This beast is also smaller and far more vulnerable and grounded than his predecessor, giving us a character we can worry about, despite his immeasurable power.

Ed Norton injects some much needed personality to the foggy cipher that was Eric Bana, and we have a Bruce Banner we can care about again (complete with more than a few nods to Bill Bixby, a wondrous actor whom I can’t praise enough, and neither can the filmmakers apparently, which is fine by me). Norton plays a compassionate, haunted man always searching for an end to his torment; never able to grow roots as his curse is an ever-present threat to all around him, forcing him to maintain rigid discipline in the face of constant pursuit, aggression and loss. But it is by no means a maudlin or joyless performance, balanced by a great deal of wit and the ability to step back from the gravity of the situation with a well-placed joke or two… Or ten.

William Hurt finally turns in a performance I give a crap about (his tepid, caricatured wiseguy was the only part of History of Violence that dragged the film down for me). As Thunderbolt Ross, Hurt, despite playing a rigid military man, is more tersely emotive and energetic than I’ve seen him in at least a decade. Liv Tyler puts that soft voice of hers to better use then Jennifer Connelly was able to muster (and has a great Hulk-out scene herself) as beauty to Hulk’s beast (and doesn’t even need to do poor vaudeville to calm her Kong down). Tim Roth turns in a dangerous, obsessive Emil Blonsky whose character doesn’t get a lot of room to breathe, yet still gives us enough to work with so that we can understand his motivations. Tim Blake Nelson plays a spastic, brilliant Samuel Sterns, whom I won’t discuss at length as I don’t want to spoil anything- Marvel folks know who Sam Sterns is, and Nelson is excellent as a man that can’t see the forest for the trees… or can he?

Yes, you Marvel Zombies out there, bring a change of underwear- the staggering amount of easter eggs alone will insure you lay a pretty big one yourself. The way the Hulk’s very existence is tied into the Marvel Universe is so appropriate, that one of the fights practically telegraphs one of Marvel’s upcoming projects (one hint: a shield is involved).

The effects will no doubt have their detractors, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Hulk looks tremendous- I believe his rage, his hurt, his exhaustion after ceaseless fighting. I don’t like the choice of the Abomination’s physical appearance (somebody borrowed a page from Superman villain Doomsday rather than the squamous, terrifying beast from the comic), but in the end, it is what it is, a more powerful version of our hero, as we knew it had to be. No doubt parallels will be drawn between the Iron Man/Iron Monger-Hulk/Abomination battles, and I can understand frustration there, but what the fuck, you want another nuclear jellyfish? I saw two different battles going on – it’s in the execution. And whoever mixed the sound for this film needs some love come Oscar time: The Hulk’s roars of fury, his voice, the ear-splitting shockwave punches traded with his foe- these elements solidified the visuals well beyond my expectations.

“The Incredible Hulk” gives with the smashy-smashy, while providing the emotional heft necessary to make us care about all the sound and fury.

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originally posted: 06/15/08 01:04:55
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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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