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The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: The Making of The Incredible Hulk; Becoming The Hulk; Becoming The Abomination; Anatomy of a Hulk Out:; Hulking Out in the Bottling Plant; Hulking Out on Campus; Hulking Out in Harlem; From Comic Book to Screen; Feature Commentary With Director Louis; Leterrier And Tim Roth.

MARVEL’S new version of The Incredible Hulk was always going to be a very different beast to Ang Lee’s cerebral take on the comic book legend but while more action was always going to be called for, who could have guessed it would be quite so thrilling.

Louis Leterrier’s f/x-driven chase movie, co-written by leading star Edward Norton with Zak Penn, is a leaner, meaner blockbuster that expertly delivers more carnage than before, while also paying neat homage to several of its former incarnations.

The film hits the ground running as Bruce Banner (Norton) hides out in the slums of Rio de Janeiro desperately trying to find a cure for the gamma radiation that poisoned his blood cells as part of a military experiment gone wrong.

When he’s located by arch-nemesis General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt) and only narrowly escapes the clutches of expert commando Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), Banner heads home to America in a last ditch bid to rid himself of the green beast within.

Enlisting the help of former love interest Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), Banner tracks down the one man who could help him (a mad scientist played by Tim Blake Nelson) in New York, unaware of the growing threat posed by Blonsky who, in his desire to match Hulk’s physical prowess, has unwittingly created an equally ferocious force of rage.

Leterrier’s movie isn’t without flaws, of course. In trying to distance itself from Lee’s 2003 incarnation, the film seems less concerned with psychology or character development and lacks the emotional depth that’s found in other Marvel offerings such as Spider-Man and, more recently, Iron Man.

It also sticks to formula in the sense that the ending yet again places its hero in the midst of another almighty smackdown while keeping an eye on the woman he loves.

But there’s so much that’s right about The Incredible Hulk that audiences should be having too much fun to get too angry about what’s wrong.

The decision to thrust viewers straight into the middle of the action, for instance, pays off immediately as it’s only a matter of minutes before we get to see the green beast in action for the first time, as part of a genuinely thrilling chase sequence through the slums of Brazil that successfully marries the effects quality of last year’s Transformers with the gritty realism of The Bourne Ultimatum. (The origins of the character are explained in a snappy titles sequence that neatly avoids the need for scene-setting or pointless retreading).

Thereafter, the emphasis is on bringing Norton’s character home and building towards a second and third confrontation with Blonsky. But while this may sound repetitive, Leterrier works hard to keep things fresh and fast-moving.

Fans of the original TV series will enjoy a fun cameo from Lou Ferrigno (who also provides the voice for the Hulk), as well as a sly nod in Craig Armstrong’s new score, while Stan Lee’s obligatory appearance is also well handled.

The Hulk effects, meanwhile, easily erase memories of the rather curious green, bouncing blob from Ang Lee’s incarnation, skillfully combining the required menace and ferocity with some traces of humanity (first realised in a sequence between Hulk and Liv Tyler that contains deliberate echoes of King Kong).

And while the set pieces may ultimately dominate, they’re suitably well choreographed and provide some pulse-quickening excitement.

Of the cast, Norton works hard to ensure that Banner does have emotional depth (grappling effectively with his dark side), Tyler seems to get better as the stakes are raised and Hurt and Roth make their mark despite limited opportunities. Leterrier, meanwhile, drops in a delicious late cameo (which we won’t reveal here) to set up a tantalising possibility for future movies.

And therein lies The Incredible Hulk‘s biggest triumph. Whereas Lee’s art-house blockbuster left audiences irritated and confused, Leterrier’s no-nonsense actioner should leave them exhilarated and thirsting for more. It’s a rip-roaring crowd-pleaser that really does entertain.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 114mins
UK DVD Release: October 13, 2008