When was the last time Edward Norton looked like he was having any fun? While he is no doubt one of this generation’s greatest actors, he just seems less and less inclined to give into having fun while filming a character, so while it was a bit of a shock to find out that he had signed up for the follow up to the arty Ang Lee Hulk entry, it was of no surprise that there was some rumblings in the editing room of the final cut, with Norton, who also took on the role of co-writer, worried that his version of the story was being warped by the producers to make a more audience-satisfying version.
And so on the back of all this negativity comes Louis Leterrier The Incredible Hulk. The sequel/remake/redux lines have been blurred with this movie, so Leterrier, who got this job off the back of The Transporter and its dodgy sequel, does something vaguely extraordinary and retells all of Lee’s original story over the opening credits, so we have Norton as Banner hiding in Brazil, trying to find the cure to his big green Hyde-side, with his long suffering love Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) still a teacher in the U.S., but no longer talking to her father General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt), who wants Banner so he can turn him into a weapon for the army.
So, the main question here; Is it better than Hulk? Well, that depends. Its definitely more of a crowd pleaser, with more lowest common denominator moments of “Hulk, Smash” than the original, but its brain also set in neutral, with a barely there plot line to pin to the explosive set pieces. And while the action is fantastic, and the special effects range from above average to top notch, there is still something that takes us out of the moment, and that is the fact that you’re watching a big green monster exploderize things.
Norton and Leterrier seem all too aware of this, and do something that the original forgot to do; make it funny. While its not a comedy, there is a constant string of comedy monents that help elevate the mood slightly, especially with Norton so adamant about bringing Banner’s loneliness to the front. And Norton is fine for the role of Banner, who is supposed to be moody and lonely and serious all the time, and Tyler and Hurt are fine if slightly wasted in their roles, while Roth is excellent as the feral Blonsky, the Russian/English/American soldier willing to do anything to capture and beat the big green meanie.
Which is where the film’s prime downfall is. For all the talk of the epic 26 minute finale, there’s only so long you can watch two obviously CGI-beings beat seven shades of emerald out of each other before it gets kinda….. boring. Earlier on in the movie there is a fantastic Bourne-esque foot chase through the Brazilian shanty towns which gets the heart pumping, and the first outing of Hulk, being chased in shadows and steam, is fantastic. But when Norton and Roth stop going head to head, and allow Hulk and Abomination go at it instead, it loses alot of momentum.
That being said, fan boys will lap this up, with about a million different references to the Marvel universe, from Tony Stark to Nick Fury to some not-so-subtle setups to the possible next entry’s main villian, not to mention cameo’s from everyone you’d hoped to see. So, all in all, its fun and the 110 minutes will fly by, but its no Iron Man. Hopefully this summer’s other Bruce can really knock one out of the park.
Six Out Of Ten.