Being a devoted comic book fan and Hulk afficionado, I went to see the movie the weekend it premiered. To say the least, I was not disappointed. To say the most, I do not habitually write movie critiques nor do I have the writing flavor or analytical expertise of the "professionals" that typically post on sites like rottentomatoes.com, etc.
Having read the mixed reviews regarding the new Hulk movie like, "It is ordinary.", "It is just another film with the Hulk smashing things." yada yada yada, I felt all the more inclined to see it. The Hulk smashing things? The Hulk fighting the Abomination? Admittedly an Abomination who looks very similar to Skeletor on speed without his hood on, but who cares? The Abomination is supposed to be ugly.
So, on to the review. Edward Norton was an interesting cast. As much as I try and steer away from the bias that builds in me when watching experienced actors play my beloved comic book characters, I cannot escape it. Every time I looked at Edward Norton I expected him to steal the gold bars from Marky Mark Wahlberg, kill Donald Sutherland and then recklessly fly around in a rented sight-seeing helicopter in order to try and get his gold back. At least he didn't have that terrible mustache.
Back to topic, Edward Norton does a good job of playing the emotionally-torn and generally dorky Bruce Banner. He reminded me very much of the old Bill Bixby Banner, from the Incredible Hulk television series, which I enjoyed very much. When inserting the old TV theme music in the movie I had a nostalgic sense of bell-bottom jeans, cowboy shirts with two-ton colors and leather overlay, and bad, italian leather loafers. Regardless of that Norton was convincing. His dedication to the safety of Betty Ross was charming and he stayed very true to the Banner of the comic in that he sought solitude in the hopes of sparing his loved and and friends pain.
Speaking to the CGI effects in the movie, I was pleased. I found Ang Lee's Hulk to be an impressive vision of the comic brought to life but there is an interesting contrast to Lee's virtual Hulk and that of Louis Leterrier. While Lee's Hulk was bulging but smooth-skinned, Leterrier's image is that of a skinnier (albeit still huge), more sinewed monster. This lends the Hulk a haggard, more battlescarred feel. It also seemed to allow the Hulk more opportunities to show physical growth because as we know, the madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets. When watching the film the first thing I made sure to look for was that, "Holy shit, he's going totally god-damned crazy" feeling in my stomach. There are several of them in The Incredible Hulk and that is a positive thing. I got a distinct and scary feeling of how destructively and uncontrollably powerful the Hulk was in the movie.
I felt that the pacing of the movie was appropriate. The Hulk-outs cannot be classifed as few and far between, but the minutes w/o the green guy always left me with a desire to see more of him in action. It had a good blend of character exploration in that you see Banner in various stages of his long-sought escape from the persecution of General "Thunderbolt" Ross and his love for his daughter, Betty.
While there were points in the movie where I thought, "This is really how the damned Hulk is supposed to be, smashing, slashing, screaming, jumping, punching, destroying!" There was a general sense of disappointment for me in the final battle with the Abomination. While the Hulk of the comic book has experienced various iterations of himself to the point of being big, green, and strong all the time while still retaining his personality and intelligence possessed as Banner, The Incredible Hulk presents a skewed image of the big guy, imho.
Betty has too great an effect on the Hulk. Admittedly, she is playing the Rick Jones role of the pacifier, the calmer-downer, but it rains on the Hulks parade and takes away from the Hulk's indefatigable rage. The exact reason why the Hulk wants to be left alone is because he knows he is a danger to others, even those he loves and in this film, it seemed as if Betty was a healing panacea that allowed the Hulk to think rationally, or at least come to many a psychological conclusion regarding his own personal state.
The final battle scene with the Abomination was well-done. There were plenty of times where I was laughing at the absolute riduculosity (I know that's not a word but it fits) of the destruction of Manhattan, but the Hulk wimps out in the end and the Abomination apparently gives up as well. The danger of using to massive adversaries like Hulk and Abomination lies in the fact that they will not stop until one or the other appears to be dead. In the end, the Abomination seems to all of his suppressed feelings of inadequacy while the Hulk at the same time engages in an unreal sense of gentility. You can't end a movie with an open-ended fight scene, but I wish they had spent more time showing the Abomination and the Hulk beating the crap out of each other.
We're almost to the end, I promise. My one question for all the cinematic interpretations of the Hulk is; What is so damned scary about using the actual comic book storyline? I mean, how hard would it be to film an explosion where a guy saves the life of some homeless dude walking around on a military weapons-testing range? I don't see the danger of misinterpretation here. Why must things always been changed? Would the original story be too-complicated? I guess I should send a letter to Stan Lee and maybe he can tell me.
Anyhow, go see the damned movie. It was great. Just know what you're going to see, destruction, pain, the Hulk being a general wimp at times, and be ready for that.