Review

The Incredible Hulk Review

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Jun 13, 2008 | 5:48am EDT

Chronicled before in countless comic books a ‘70s television series and of course Ang Lee’s critically lambasted 2003 big screen version  The Incredible Hulk remains one of Marvel’s treasured creations. The innate story revolves around scientist Dr. Bruce Banner whose cells are poisoned by gamma radiation and who frequently unleashes his inner monster--the mean green machine known as the Hulk. Thankfully this spruced-up version doesn’t waste a lot of time giving us the back story. Instead it launches right into the problems at hand. Banner (Edward Norton) now forced to be apart from the love of his life Dr. Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) and living on the edges of society is desperately looking for the antidote that will cure him of his unique rage. His immediate task however is avoiding the dogged pursuit of the U.S. military machine aiming--led by Betty’s father General Ross (William Hurt)--to exploit his unique powers. This quest has led them all to the outskirts of Brazil where Banner is on the loose. Ross employs the services of super-soldier Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) to do the deed a job that leads to Blonsky’s own re-invention as The Abomination--and setting up the ultimate battle of battles when both are back in America. Marvel Studios is on a roll when it comes to unique casting ideas this summer. First they re-ignited 40-something Robert Downey Jr.’s career in an inspired idea to make him Iron Man--and now travel the unlikely route of putting Edward Norton a fine actor not known for popcorn action fare in the Bruce Banner part. Norton brings an urgency wit and intelligence to the role that was sorely missing when Eric Bana took it on in Lee’s version. We really understand the anger raging within and Banner’s determined desire to get rid of it. Just as in classic movie monsters like King Kong there is great empathy for the monster that is unleashed in the form of the Hulk . Much of that is do to Norton’s smart take and dedication (he’s an uncredited co-writer) in creating this incarnation of Banner. He owns this role now. Whatever reported conflicts happened in production the final results are worth it. Tyler’s Betty Ross is nicely played and full of the appropriate passion while Tim Blake Nelson has some hilarious super-hyper moments as the scientist who may hold the key to Banner’s salvation.  Hurt is properly authoritative and evil as the General out for Banner’s power. And finally Roth scrappy and fierce as Norton’s main nemesis and his perfect match. Young French director Louis Leterrier (Transporter 2) proves the perfect choice to finally make Hulk work on screen. His fast-paced take-no-prisoners filmmaking style--mixed with his professed love of all things Hulk when he was growing up as a kid in Paris--have paid off handsomely. He clearly has a vision and moves this thing along like a freight train almost a non-stop chase in the same spirit that powered last summer’s supreme sequel The Bourne Ultimatum. Not shackled with Ang Lee’s problems in creating a credible monster Leterrier is the beneficiary of strong advances in CGI and the Hulk and Abomination are both state-of-the-art iconic visual effects. The ultimate “Godzilla vs Mothra”-style battle at the end is flawlessly pulled off and a marvel to watch (pun intended). Leterrier has achieved some of the best action sequences ever but not at a human cost which is really remarkable in a summer comic book blockbuster like this. At the center are recognizable people we can root for--and against--right up to the end of the breezy 104-minute running time when an unexpected cameo in the form of another comic book superstar makes a surprise appearance.

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