Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Incredible Hulk (2008)


HULK SMASH!

Yes, the Incredible Hulk does utter those lines in this newer, updated version of the comic-book superhero movie. He does the Thunder Clap, uses two halves of a squad car as boxing gloves and does not fly for miles. The studio has spent a lot of money, hired an A-list star cast, got a famous director and even distanced itself from Ang Lee’s critically-panned outing five years ago. Edward Norton re-wrote the script and Marvel has made sure the movie is littered with direct references from the Hulk comics and the Marvel universe that fan-boys will geek over. Yet, this movie misses the target quite spectacularly. It suffers from the same problem that X3 did – the movie just does not come together due to extremely poor execution and hence seems mediocre at best.

The movie starts with Bruce Banner (Ed Norton) hiding away in a Brazilian town doing small jobs while researching for a cure. In the next tedious 100 minutes, we see Banner/Hulk returning to USA, fighting the US army, reuniting with Betty Ross, and facing & triumphing over arch-nemesis (a grayish, spiny, talkative Abomination).

Now you hardly expect Ed Norton to go wrong, especially when he’s writing as well, but this has to be the vainest attempt by the actor yet. Bruce Banner’s portrayal fails because his green monster never brings any sense of threat to his scientist. We see him suffer without clothes, money and shelter but we never really see him suffer under the weight of guilt or responsibility for the force of destruction within him. This not only makes the Hulk that less effective, but his oft-repeated roar and mayhem seems superficial. A bimbo Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) and reluctant semi-pacifist Gen. T Ross (William Hurt) don’t help matters much. Tim Roth (pre-mutation) comes as a huge saving grace though. His Russian-born, British-schooled operative Emil Blonsky may just be one of the best supervillain characters yet. Without much of a backstory, and with absolutely no insight into his psyche, he still makes the vile and single-minded Blonsky a formidable opponent – one that I cheered for!

Yet, the bad CGI and campy dialogues bring any momentary expectations crashing down. (It has one of *the* worst dialogues this year: “You’re making me hungry… you wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry”!!) It comes as no surprise though that the deathmatch finale is all mind-pollution. The numerous plot-holes and the unforgivable sin of using Hulk for comic relief just plunges the standards of this movie lower.
One thing though – with Ironman and now with Incredible Hulk, Marvel studios has hit the perfect formula to close these movies. Even if the movie is bitter or bland, you finish with a touch of excitement.

My rating --> 1.5 of 5

p.s.: The movie can’t help but make references to Ang Lee’s movie through out its running – the starting notes of the theme music, the opening scene, the dialogues (“he has managed to stay unseen for five years”, HULK released in 2003).

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