Friday, June 27, 2008

10 Belated Thoughts on The Incredible Hulk movie

I just saw the movie a week ago on my birthday. Business at work has kept me from writing of it until now. So for what it's worth, here's some of my random musings on The Incredible Hulk.

1. Despite some voices of dissent, I agree with the general consensus of fanboys and the common man alike: This Movie is the Hulk movie we SHOULD have gotten five years ago. There are many reasons this movie is infinitely superior to Ang Lee's "film", even ignoring that this one isn't shot in Panel-Vision.

2. Bruce Banner - Ed Norton was everything that Eric Bana wasn't. And it's not just that Ed Norton is a skinny geek and that Eric Bana was a pretty boy who looked more suited toward being the quarterback on some teen drama show than a tormented scientist. It's deeper than that. It's that Norton sounds smart enough to utilize all the scientific terminology that the film requires and that he manages to convey tension in a subtler manner than Bana, who went through most of Hulk looking like he really had to go to the bathroom.

3. Betty Ross - Jennifer Connolly went through Hulk on auto-pilot, spending most of the movie looking doped up on Nyquil and speaking of and to Bruce with all the passion and intensity of a woman reading the phone book. Love him or hate him, she didn't sound the least bit like an on-again/off-again girlfriend. In wide contrast, Liv and Ed are a very convincing screen couple. You honestly believe that Liv is conflicted about whatever feelings she had for Bruce and the life she has rebuilt for herself, but she's also strong enough to make the right choice and damn the consequences when her controlling father forces his way back into her life. Which isn't exactly in keeping with Betty's portrayal in most of the early comics, but hey... I like this Betty Ross.

4. General Ross - One of my favorite comedic movie review sites noted in their review of Ang Lee's Hulk that General Ross was the most sympathetic character in the movie. In retrospect, I think they were right and I think this is one of the signs of just how far off the mark Ang Lee's Hulk was. You can chalk most of that up to a much-better-than-this-movie-deserves performance by Sam Elliot, but the minute Thunderbolt Ross becomes the most likable character in your Hulk story is the same minute that you stop writing The Hulk properly. By contrast, William Hurt played General Ross as the xenophobic, guns-a-blazing, macho military stereotype that we all love to hate.

5. Tangent #1 - All of Stan Lee's comics from the 60s - whether intentional or not - did explore certain aspects of the culture of the time. Of course we all know that X-Men explored the issues of racial strife and inequality, but did you ever stop to consider how the role of the media in politics was repeatedly analyzed in Spider-Man? Or how The Fantastic Four was a commentary upon The Space Race and the dangers of science advanced without morality? Or Iron Man being a metaphor for the conflict between Western and Eastern culture? Similarly, The Incredible Hulk was similarly just as much about the dangers of an unrestrained military in American life (and, to a lesser degree than The Fantastic Four, the importance of morality in science) as it was about the Jekyl-and-Hyde conflict within Bruce. General Ross frequently caused just as much damage as The Hulk in his efforts to capture or kill The Hulk - all with Uncle Sam's approval and Your Tax Dollars At Work.

6. Tangent #2 - Actually, this brings to mind another question. How the hell does General Ross keep avoiding being court-marshaled for gross incompetence? I know that in the comics he was eventually kicked out of the military (Even today, the comics are still uncertain as to whether or not Ross is in the Air Force or the Army) but that was due to his committing high treason when he made an alliance with The Leader, MODOK and The Abomination. Now, I'll admit to not being an expert on military procedure, but isn't it standard practice for American military courts to sentence anyone convicted of treason to death rather than dishonorably discharging them? Regardless, over the course of the movie, he sends armed troops into two separate, highly-populated civilian population centers - one a crowded barrio, the other a college campus. You'd think they could have quietly evacuated at least PART of the area or established a perimeter to keep people out of the area once they had Bruce Banner surrounded. Further, even granting that certain information must be kept on a need-to-know basis within the Chain of Command, one might think that it would be a good idea to mention to the field commander of your team of Hulk Busters that "Oh, by the way - this scientist we're sending you to catch might suddenly change into a big green monster capable of destroying buildings if you make him angry or miss your first shot with the tranquilizers". You know, just on the odd chance that your team of soldiers fail their Will Save vs. Terror roll when they see a big hulking monster unlike anything they've ever seen before. I'm just saying...

7. Emil Blonksy/The Abomination - despite a convoluted means of explaining why we have a British actor playing a character who originated as a Russian spy, who is now working for the American Military... not bad at all.

8. On that note - the most obvious reason this movie was better than Ang Lee's? Actual monster fighting. Hulk Smash, indeed. :)

9. And on that note of that note, the special effects were a LOT better. You can blame a lot of that on the effects for Ang Lee's Hulk having been 12 years in the making. But 12 years to make a bigger, badder Gumby and some evil hell hounds... too much for too little.

10. Lots of set-up for a sequel, even ignoring the obvious nods at an Avengers movie. The Super Soldier formula came into play and they set the stage for Doc Samson and The Leader to be introduced down the line. I can't wait for the DVD were there will apparently be even more footage tying into the characters and - if rumor is true - a Captain America cameo.


  1. Re: Seeing it tomorrow
    Trust me, True Believer. It is good!

  2. I know. I'm dating myself with the Conan RPG references.

  3. Re: Seeing it tomorrow
    Okay, that ROCKED! I didn't really like the cast, but everyone did such a good job, I can't say bad about it. And the end!!! and I was struck by the awesomeness of it all about what they are doing, and the kids were really excited when I told them about it, because I didn't know until I saw the end of the Hulk and I just knew. Then Cody told me about it when he woke me up this morning. I can't believe the level they are going to for the epic movie to follow after all introductions are made. I'm really excited about it all. I hope they keep up the level of quality.
    But now I am just wondering who all is signed for The Avengers movie. Do you think Fantastic 4 and Wolverine will cameo? Or maybe come in for a part?
    Thanks again for the article. It made me feel more at ease, and I really did enjoy the film better than the first.