Superhero Movie Month: "The Incredible Hulk" Review

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

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Rating: PG-13
Length: 112 minutes
Release Date: June 13, 2008
Directed by: Louis Letterier
Genre: Action / Sci-Fi / Thriller

Despite the success of many superhero-themed films, few movie producers are keen to rework a story line that recently graced the big screen. However, the producers of the 2008 blockbuster "The Incredible Hulk" did exactly that, revamping a tale told only five years earlier. Director Louis Leterrier's unique take on the comic book classic treated the subject in a serious manner and honored the expectations of the fans. The resulting picture was very successful, due in part to a bold script, incredible special effects and numerous A-list actors. All of these elements combine to weave a special tale of a man struggling against his internal demons.

Edward Norton stars as Bruce Banner, the film's protagonist, but he also had a hand in rewriting the initial script. In a 2008 interview, Norton expressed his desire to stay true to some parts of the original storyline while exploring different backstories of some of the villains. Additionally, he and the production team felt it necessary to ensure that they did not disappoint the Comic-Con crowd.

The script of the film far exceeds the expectations of the genre. In contrast to many modern superhero or comic book stories that are full of corny dialogue, unbelievable plots and obvious outcomes, "The Incredible Hulk" contains the kind of realistic dialogue that modern audiences crave. Additionally, the script successfully navigates the tightrope between providing enough explanation and leaving enough room for many different interpretations.

Despite the film's title character, the movie is about mild-mannered Bruce Banner more than it is his muscular alter ego. This helps to convey one of the film's central themes, which is that even civilized people struggle with their primal urges. The film begins with Banner undergoing a military experiment designed to make him immune to gamma radiation. Instead, the gamma rays cause Banner to change into the Hulk when his blood pressure skyrockets. Banner flees the military, who wants to create an army of such mutants, and takes up residence in Brazil. After an accident leads the army to Banner's location, he transforms into the Hulk and defeats an entire team of trained soldiers with ease.

Seeing the Hulk's strength and power, Emil Blonsky agrees to take medications that grant him similar powers. The serum does grant Blonsky with exceptional strength and speed, but it distorts his skeleton and impairs his mental abilities. The rest of the film follows the adventures of Banner as he tries to rescue Ross and prevent the military from using the Hulk process to create more monsters like him.

While the 2003 film starred accomplished, big-name actors, such as Jennifer Connelly, Nick Nolte and Sam Elliot, the 2008 version capitalized on the talents of some of the finest modern thespians. In addition to Norton, Tim Roth and William Hurt bless the film with remarkably powerful performances. Roth plays Royal Marine Emil Blonsky, while Hurt plays General ‘Thunderbolt' Ross. Liv Tyler stars as Banner's estranged girlfriend, Betty Ross. The film also features cameos from the original Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno and Robert Downey Jr.

The special effects of "The Incredible Hulk" do exactly what they are supposed to do. They suck the audience into the story by portraying a fantastic reality as though it were ordinary. The crashes, explosions and battles look as they would if you were watching the action unfold while living inside a comic book. The film features over 700 different special effects shots, some of which took over a year to produce.

Leterrier appreciated the techniques used in creating the Gollum character from the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. He tasked the visual effects companies with creating a comparable product. Leterrier hired the firm Rhythm and Hues to provide the film's computer-generated images, which was a departure from Industrial Light and Magic, who provided the graphics for the 2003 version of the story.

The film's attention to detail yields a visual masterpiece. In addition to the detailed background artwork that decorates many of the film's scenes, the art team even considered the way the Hulk's blood would change his skin tones as his mood changed. The film's new take on The Abomination's appearance is also very impressive.

By all measures, "The Incredible Hulk" vastly outperformed 2003's "Hulk." Compared with the 29 percent of audiences who said they liked "Hulk," 72 percent of audiences liked "The Incredible Hulk," according to Rotten Tomatoes. Getting a 6.9 rating on the Internet Movie Database, "The Incredible Hulk" beat "Hulk" soundly, as the 2003 film only achieved a rating of 5.7. "The Incredible Hulk" quickly became the number-one film during both its opening weekend, and when the producers released the DVD. In total, the film grossed more than 263 million dollars, surpassing the 245 million dollars generated in the film's 2003 iteration.