The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Rated PG13

Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, and Tim Roth

out of

2003's Hulk was, by most accounts, a disappointing comic book movie. Although it was directed by the highly acclaimed Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain), it was a little too cerebral and dramatic for most fans. Lee's approach to the subject matter was novel but comic book fans tend to like more action in their superhero movies. As disappointed as I was in Hulk, I said in my review of the film that I hoped a sequel would be made because I wanted to see the Hulk smash more stuff. Thankfully, someone was listening because not only did I get a sequel but it has a lot more of the Hulk smashing stuff. Almost to a fault.

2008's The Incredible Hulk reboots the franchise with Edward Norton replacing Eric Bana as Bruce Banner, the gamma-radiated scientist who turns into a 12 foot tall green monstrosity when he's angry. Liv Tyler takes over for Jennifer Connelly as Betty Ross, fellow scientist and former lover, who tries to help Banner find a cure to his affliction. Betty's father, General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, is now played by William Hurt. General Ross is committed to finding Banner because, "He is property of the United States Government."

As the movie opens, Banner is living in Brazil, working in a soft drink bottling factory, and trying to find a rare flower that may hold the key to a cure. When a freak occurance gives away Banner's hiding place, General Ross sends a military squad led by a top-notch, if slightly crazed, soldier named Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) to bring him back to the States. As luck would have it, Blonsky faces off against Banner's alter-ego, the Hulk. This encounter makes Blonsky eager to overcome the limitations of his own body and be more like the Hulk. General Ross has something up his sleeve that just might make this possible.

The Incredible Hulk is by no means brainy. It's big, dumb, loud, and chock full of things that explode. In short, it's a perfect summer movie. Inevitable comparisons to Ang Lee's Hulk will probably divide the audience into those that prefer the smarter, more emotional movie and those that enjoyed this one. I prefer The Incredible Hulk because it makes no pretense about being anything other than a good comic book movie. It also contains plenty of references to the campy 1970s TV show that helped introduce many fans to the big, green guy. That helped win me over as well.

Edward Norton is better suited for the role of Bruce Banner than Eric Bana. Liv Tyler isn't the greatest actress in the world but her scenes with Norton have a certain chemistry and they're believable as former lovers. William Hurt's version of General Ross comes across as less gruff than Sam Elliott's but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The CGI effects used to bring the Hulk to life are significantly better than those of the 2003 film. (And, of course, they're light years ahead of the green makeup and bad wigs that turned bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno -- who appears in a cameo -- into the Hulk every week on the TV show.)

Director Louis Leterrier, who helmed Transporter 2, has a feel for action and it serves him well. The film's "Hulk vs. the military" sequences have an intensity that feels right. That's something I couldn't -- and didn't -- say about Hulk.

The Incredible Hulk leaves things open for a sequel and this time around -- if the same people are involved -- I don't think I have to ask to see more of the Hulk smashing stuff. I think it's a certainty.

Trivia: Betty Ross buys Bruce some purple pants. In the comics, the Hulk is almost always seen wearing purple pants. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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