Old pal and former Marvel Comics colleague/apartment mate Glenn Greenberg just saw the new Hulk flick (opening this Friday night) and sent in the following review. Take it away, Glenn!
WARNING: MILD SPOILERS THROUGHOUT
Now THIS is more like it! Let me say right up front: THE INCREDIBLE HULK is good! Much like STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN was to STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, THE INCREDIBLE HULK is a vast improvement over its predecessor. It gets right what the previous one got wrong. It has its head and its heart in the right place. Most of all, it feels like a Hulk movie should. Now, I’m not saying that THE INCREDIBLE HULK is as great as STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, but it’s a giant step in the right direction. THIS is the movie we should have gotten five years ago.
The best, most simple way I can describe the film is this way: “The TV show on steroids.” And when I say “the TV show,” I mean the GOOD episodes—like the original pilot TV movie and the episodes that focused primarily on Banner trying to find a cure. Fans of the TV series no doubt remember the classic episode in which the Hulk confronts another, far more dangerous Hulk-like creature. Or the one in which he gets captured by the military. Or the one in which Banner experiments on himself and ends up accidentally corrupting the “Banner” side of his personality. Well, those are the kinds of episodes I’m talking about—not the ones in which Banner is driving a cab or working in New York’s garment center and getting mixed up with loan sharks, or getting involved in midget wrestling (no, I’m not kidding about that last one).
In this film, Banner’s efforts to control his anger and thus prevent his transformations echo some of the things he tried in episodes of the TV series. In fact, you’re bombarded with imagery inspired by the TV series, particularly in the early section of the film—some of this has already been shown in the trailers and advance publicity photos. But believe me, there’s lots more!
And there’s a plethora of in-jokes, tying in to both the TV series and the comics. For starters, Stan Lee, Lou Ferrigno, and even Bill Bixby show up throughout the film. And the audience I saw it with ate it all up. I’d argue that this is Stan’s best cameo in a Marvel film, because it actually helps to move the plot along. There are lots of other references, so be on the lookout for them. While the Bruce Jones run on the comic series is probably my least favorite of all time, this film takes probably the most intriguing plot element from that run and utilizes it quite well.
And yes, the beloved theme music from the TV series is included in the film, and it’s used appropriately.
The script is good and solid and shows of lot of imagination and care. While he’s not getting official credit for writing the screenplay, Edward Norton did a very good job and should be proud of himself. He took the material seriously and it’s clear he wasn’t just blowing smoke when he declared that he read the comics as a kid and loved the TV series. The same goes for director Louis Leterrier—he shows off his knowledge of all the good stuff that was done in the TV series, both conceptually and visually.
There isn’t a lot of humor in the film, but the bits that are in there work very well—and they never demean the characters or the situations.
The only major criticism I have about the film is that a rather important plot twist doesn’t get the proper dramatic set-up—but I’m almost positive that this is a result of the editing of the film. The scene that I believe would have properly set up this plot twist was edited out of the final cut. I know the scene exists, because it was included in the early trailers. It’s not a deal-breaker for me—but it does require the audience to do some mental extrapolations and fill in some blanks. For me, it was kind of frustrating because I KNOW the scene exists, it just wasn’t included in the final cut, and I’m almost positive that its inclusion would have helped the storytelling.
There are some other character bits and lines of dialogue from the early trailers that didn’t make it into the final cut, and I wish they had been kept in—I think they would have strengthened the narrative a little bit. There’s one line of dialogue in particular that I wish had been kept in, because it sets up PERFECTLY a moment at the very end of the film. But this stuff wasn’t absolutely necessary, and it’s possible that I wouldn’t be missing it so much if I hadn’t already seen it.
That said, I really REALLY want there to be an “Extended Cut” of the movie on DVD, because I think it’ll make for an even more satisfying viewing experience.
As for the cast—
Edward Norton is perfect as Bruce Banner. At times, he seems to channel the spirit of Bill Bixby, who was also perfectly cast in the role. Norton’s Banner is noble, gentle, caring, sensitive, heroic, interesting, and thoroughly sympathetic—everything he was in the TV series, and everything he is in the comics when he’s being written correctly. Unlike Eric Bana, Norton’s performance makes an impression.
As far as I’m concerned, Liv Tyler delivers the goods as Betty Ross. She brings soulfulness, energy, earnestness, and sweetness to the role, and you can understand right away why Banner loves her so much—and why she has the effect on the Hulk that she does. She’s also feisty and downright explosive when the situation calls for it. As far as I’m concerned, Ms. Tyler is a VAST improvement over Jennifer Connelly, who practically sleepwalked her way through the previous movie.
I liked Sam Elliott well enough as General Ross in the previous movie, but I have to say, William Hurt is better. Because William Hurt is playing the REAL General Ross—massive, imposing, arrogant, and willing to cross the line to achieve his goals. Elliott’s Ross was too nice of a guy, too likable, too much of a straight arrow. There’s a real look of menace and ambition in Hurt’s eyes as he plays Ross, and he’s one of the most interesting characters in the movie.
Tim Roth is thoroughly enjoyable and believable as Emil Blonsky, and I’d love to see him return in a sequel. He has great chemistry with William Hurt and his character arc throughout the film is well done.
I also liked Tim Blake Nelson as Samuel Sterns—there’s a lot of potential there for a future sequel.
As for the Hulk himself, he has only about three lines of dialogue, but each line is well chosen, delivered at exactly the right moment--with proper dramatic buildup--and well performed by Mr. Ferrigno. He sounds exactly the way you'd want the Hulk to sound.
The CGI isn't always perfect, but I don't think that's what will be at the forefront of your mind when you're watching the movie. And let me tell you, when the Hulk shows his face for the first time, it's a GREAT moment!
Another thing audiences will no doubt enjoy is that there is not one, not two, but at least THREE tie-ins to IRON MAN—including the well- publicized cameo appearance by Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. The scene in which he appears received a very enthusiastic response from the audience.
All in all, I really liked THE INCREDIBLE HULK. I can’t say I LOVED it—but I really liked it. I’d say it’s about on par with IRON MAN, which I also liked. I don’t know if this will have the mass appeal that IRON MAN has, but I’d hazard a guess that if you liked IRON MAN, you’ll like this too.