After the preceding Iron Man being the smash success it was, Marvel Studios released their next film a month later, focusing on the troubled life of Bruce Banner (Edward Norton), a.k.a. the Hulk. A scientist who is infected with gamma radiation, he turns into the Hulk when his heart rate rises above 200 beats per minute. After becoming a fugitive from the U.S. military, he travels to Brazil, where he hopes to find a cure. However, General Thaddeus Ross wants to weaponize the Hulk and make a new breed of “Super Soldiers”.
It’s no surprise that many overlook this film when glancing at the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. It doesn’t really serve much of a purpose in the franchise, and considering Mark Ruffalo’s replacement of Norton in The Avengers, there really isn’t much reason to watch it. However, a franchise is a franchise, and when given a closer look, this is a highly entertaining entry. The film begins with a montage of the events leading up to Banner’s exile, and admittedly, it’s quite cheesy. You see flashbacks of the gamma-ray experimentation, Banner’s first bout as the Hulk, and him injuring the woman he loves. It’s too bad the rest of the movie relies on this opening scene for exposition. Most of the time, exposition feels forced, but this is a movie where there needs to be more clarification on certain elements. For example, we know that Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) and Bruce were romantically involved, but her father doesn’t seem to know much about their relationship or care that Banner injured her. He just wants to breed powerful military weapons.
The film’s main antagonist, Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) is just fine. He has some of the things a villain should, but what he lacks does prove to be a damper. For one, he really doesn’t have much of a motive. There isn’t some driving force in his backstory that propels him to do the things he does. He’s just evil. He wants Banner’s power, but that’s really it. However, he does have charisma, which proves to uplift the bad parts of his character. In every one of the action scenes, he’s involved in (save for the final battle), there’s a sense of pure adrenaline when he’s onscreen, though, in Abomination form, he’s terrible. Just a sluggish mess of CGI. Speaking of…
Let’s get something straight. The visual effects in this movie are terrible. It makes no sense why Banner’s facial structure changes when he turns into Hulk. The Hulk looks nothing like Edward Norton. And finally, the models just look so damn sluggish and unrealistic. Their movements are horribly rendered, which really drags down the final fight between Hulk and Abomination. It could’ve been really intriguing but with a sequence that’s 90% CGI, it’s sad that 50% of it looks awful. Abomination’s eyes look unfinished. It’s quite unfortunate because there’s so much potential.
The other action sequences are really well-done. The battle at Culver University is an extremely fun, fast-paced action sequence that delivers on all levels. The chase scene in Brazil is tense and well-shot, making great use of the cityscape and creating a tense, simple scene that didn’t need to have explosions to be good. Craig Armstrong’s fantastic score also does a great job of creating a dark atmosphere in scenes like these.
It’s too bad there isn’t much room for humor here. The film is filled with bleak moments, ones without any sense of hope. While you do feel a twinge of emotion during scenes featuring Bruce and Betty together, it all eventually leads up to him running away in his Hulk form, never seeing her again. There are just times when there needs to be levity and in The Incredible Hulk, there just isn’t any. That’s not to say that the story isn’t good, though. It most certainly is. There’s just a drag because of the focus on one certain tone, and not having consistency.
Among a solid story, well-acted characters, and great action sequences, there’s a great film here. While it’s void of any real character development and has poor visual effects, it goes overlooked by many because of its disconnection to the MCU. However, it definitely deserves a second look.
The Incredible Hulk stars Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell, William Hurt. Directed by Louis Leterrier.