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 The Incredible Hulk
 Critic's Rating
   [B]
 Date Posted
   21st June, 2008
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Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth
Director: Louis Leterrier

Incredible Hulk gets three things down pat. Firstly, there is no origin here because none is needed. Despite the film not actually being a direct sequel but a retcon or a requel as it is referred to in comic book circles, it is in fact a re-attempt at a familiar storyline, mostly of Ang Lee's massive, ponderous failure. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the mood of the film, particularly the first half with Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) on the run physically from the military and figuratively from the monster within him is just spot on. There is actually very little of the Hulk that we see initially, and only 3 complete sequences I can think of where we see him in full form. Much more attention is paid to the drama that takes place with the threat of knowing that Banner could turn into the green beast if pushed too far, with the assistance of a countdown box appearing from time to time letting viewers know "Days since incident". Like a superhero Bourne, Banner remains on the run and the film is therefore one long chase sequence. The third element that the film does great justice to is building on the relationship between Banner and Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), who, just like she did in the comics as well, is estranged from her father General Ross (William Hurt) and at Banner's side while he remains in motion.

My big, and in retrospect, only major complain with the film remains its over-reliance on CGI effects for the big action scenes. Because the hulk is a character of pure fantasy/fiction but derived from a work of comic book artistry, seeing a motion picture with such a character in a non-human form is both distracting and probably a little incredulous. The last act itself, while remaining pulsating in its action sequences - the Hulk and Abomination together level a few city blocks in Harlem - are never really engaging because we know we're seeing such obvious animation. This is not to say the Hulk CGI is bad - it is very good, in parts, as proven by the segment with Hulk in rain or where we hardly see him at a bottling factory, hidden under a shroud of vapour, fumes and dark shadows. Because time and the benefit of learning from mistakes made in the past are on the side of director Leterrier and company, the Hulk we see this time isn't just a big pile of green playdough, but someone more identifiable and familiar to long-time readers, but that may never be an adequate compensation for what we are able to convincingly accept. Special effects can sell viewers metal (Iron Man) but probably not flesh and bone.

If I am not completely happy with this relaunch, I am at least relieved that it is done mostly right. Norton is more believable as Bruce Banner than poker faced Eric Bana ever was, and as a credited co-writer, sprinkles the film with nostalgia and nods (a testament to the good writing is how well the otherwise obligatory, yet pointless, Stan Lee cameo is this time). Marvel Studios heavy involvement with the production, with Incredible Hulk now and the intermittently entertaining Iron Man before it, proves that when a team knows what they want and who their characters really are, they can adequately use it to their advantage. - Faizan Rashid

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