The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Dr. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is on the run from the U.S. Army, bottling soft drinks for money in Rio de Janeiro where he has established an e-mail correspondence with a scientist claiming to be able to help him control, and maybe even permanently subdue, his alter ego, Hulk. When an innocent mistake leads a special forces team headed by British Royal Marine Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) to his door, Banner loses control and unleashes the beast on his pursuers. Escaping back to Culver University in Virginia, he reunites with Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) and tries to track down his original findings with which to furnish his accomplice. Desperate not to fail again in capturing the beast, General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) sanctions further experimentation on Blonsky which leads to the creation of Abomination, Hulk’s most dangerous adversary to date.

Having suffered an overdue backlash from superhero-fatigued audiences following their previous attempt to bring the character to the big screen, in Ang Lee’s criminally underrated Hulk, Marvel tried again in 2008 with a marginally grittier reboot redubbed The Incredible Hulk. Directed by Louis Leterrier, this new film saw the roles recast and Banner’s initial transformation explained away in a pre-titles sequence so that more screen time could be devoted to setting up the film’s villain, an element which had proved an apparent weakness of the original movie, as Lee had chosen to ignore the title’s more esteemed villains in favour of a trio of mutant dogs and Banner’s unhinged biological father, the terrifyingly ridiculous Absorbing Man.

So, with Lee’s comic book stylings and psychological focus a thing of the past, The Incredible Hulk reaffirmed the brand’s decidedly more mainstream roots in an attempt to avoid the box office disaster that met its predecessor’s release. Cue a bigger budget, a greater reliance on set pieces and an antagonist with something approaching name recognition. With a cast of respected actors in place, Leterrier left his cast to act in the margins while he concerned himself with the creation of a Hulk that might finally hold up under scrutiny. Aiming to introduce a version of the character that could conceivably fit into the same narrative universe as Iron Man (in accordance with the first phase of the studio’s Avengers Initiative) Marvel ultimately succeeded both in terms of increasing box office gross and – in a now-familiar cameo sequence – uniting its franchises for the first time onscreen.

But the character of Bruce Banner deserves to be more than a mere place-holder designed to placate audiences until the studio can arrange for the scientist to crop up as part of an ensemble four years down the line. Edward Norton fails to convince either as a genius scientist or as a man on the run, his Banner an uninspiring and unremarkable protagonist, not only in response to Eric Bana’s brooding performance but also in comparison to Robert Downey Jr.’s sarcastic Tony Stark – not to mention the rest of the Avengers soon to follow. Tyler, on the other hand, bores as the permanently wet-faced love interest, while Tim Roth hams it up to preposterous levels as the Russian-born (but accent-free) Emil Blonsky – at least until he is finally overrun by pixels in time for the film’s computer generated finale.

Whichever incarnation you happen to prefer, it’s nevertheless difficult to argue that the decision to reboot the franchise is entirely justified. In hindsight, the special effects are just as dated as those of Lee’s film, while the finished product is only nominally less cartoonish. With the effects now distracting rather than delighting, the only real difference between incarnations is just how less interesting Leterrier’s proves on its own merits. As The Avengers prepares to reboot the character once more, it’s clear that they too had their own reservations about this particular abomination. And rightly so.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

2 Responses to The Incredible Hulk (2008)

  1. Pingback: March 2012 – Fire all things that go bang! « popcornaddict

  2. Pingback: The Three Hulks: Eric Bana, Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo « Radu presents: The Movie-Photo Blog

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