I didn't mind Ang Lee's 2003 film "The Hulk" ... though I could not have picked the lead actor, Eric Bana, out of a crowd and Jennifer Connelly was as dull as dishwater to me. I liked that a comic book character was brought to "life." However, I have never bothered to watch the film on DVD.
At first, I thought "The Incredible Hulk" was a sequel, and as such, I was curious. I was surprised to hear that this movie was not a sequel at all, but rather a remake. Why would they do a remake, only five years later??
Well, thank goodness they did. Edward Norton is excellent as Bruce Banner, and well, I might as well admit that I always love Liv Tyler. William Hurt outdid himself as General Ross, that mean, power-mongering, ruthless, driven ... I wanted to meet him and slap him in person.
The Bruce Banner story is recapped: in an experiment gone horribly wrong, a mild-mannered scientist is transformed into a raging monster when his heart-rate and aggravation reach a critical level. The Weapons-Minded General is hunting him down, because he wants to harness the affliction and use it to make super-soldiers. The General employs a special agent to bring Banner down, an agent who lusts for the serum to become a super-special-agent, possibly because he is short, but definitely because he's a nutcase. The mild-mannered scientist's love of his life wants to help him, but the General is her father, and with her involved, he's even more rabid about grabbing Banner and turning him into Super-Soldier Soup. The megalomaniac agent gets the serum, transforms himself into the Abomination, and Banner has to embrace his inner green raging monster to save New York.
Yeah. New York gets trashed once again, possibly while Spiderman was on vacation in North Carolina, on Hatteras Island, frolicking in the surf and basking on the warm beach. (I've been there, and the sound of the ocean isn't conducive to making you want to listen to the news.)
CGI is great. The trailers don't do it justice. As a fan of blow-em-up summer movies, I was delighted with the things that got blown up and/or smashed to smithereens.
There were funny bits, which I like because we are talking about comic book characters here, not real people. The humor reminds the audience, "Remember, this is not the real world." A quick cameo by Stan Lee had me giggling with delight, but I must confess that my favorite scene in the movie was the last, in which Tony Stark appears at the General's side at a bar, and obnoxiously lectures him about his activities. As we all know from the "Iron Man" review, I am seriously giddy about Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark. Along with others in the audience, I laughed out loud, and chortled all the way home.
I liked it. I'll buy the DVD.
So why do I do movie reviews? You all already know that I don't claim any expertise in the field. I mean, for Pete's sake, I am an autoworker, and I can't make cars. I only make the bumpers that go on cars, and only the rear ones at that. Technically, I don't even make the bumper -- I pick it up from point A and move it to point B, and in the process, attach a few things to it to make one group of bumpers look different from another group of bumpers. I am more of a bumper enhancer than I am a bumper maker. There are only eight rear bumper enhancers in our plant (there are front bumper enhancers too, but that's an entirely different process), and given that there are only about 300 auto assembly plants in the world, it can be said that there are fewer than 2400 rear bumper enhancers in the whole world! Factor into the equation that not all cars get bumpers that are enhanced, and you could probably cut that number in half to about 1200 bumper enhancers world wide. And of that number, to the best of my knowledge, only I and Wang Chu Fat, a Hongqi bumper enhancer in Shanghai write movies reviews on any kind of a regular basis. It's a niche kind of thing. For Wang and me, it's just in our blood.
It was with this sense of responsibility to speak for the bumper enhancers of the world that I accompanied Sand to see The Incredible Hulk. Virtually everyone I talked to said they probably weren't going to see this one because the previews they had seen looked terrible -- the CGI of the Hulk looked cheap. And furthermore, this was a remake of a poorly received movie that was in theaters only five years ago. What's up with that? I don't know what's up with that. I make bumpers. But having seen the film, I think that this one is indeed far better than the first one, and is a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
The story is simple: Bruce Banner has some real problems with his inner child, a brat with anger management issues. The brat is so bad that Bruce is forced to live apart from everyone that can help him, including his girlfriend Betty. Betty's dad, a single-minded military type who wants Bruce to be a WMD, will risk anything, including Betty, to get hold of Bruce. In his zeal, he unleashes another WMD, a career commando who having taken every enhancement pill offered by all the spammers in the world with no discernible result, compensates by simply wanting to kill things. With a shot of secret juice, this lifer becomes...The Abomination. With big arms, big legs and big shoulders, The Abomination finds he is still poorly endowed and now also has a pin head with even further reduced gray matter, all of which makes him angry and itching for a fight with the Hulk. And fight they do.
What does this film have going for it? First, it's well written. It achieves a nice balance of humor, substance and pace that keeps it interesting from start to finish. The storytelling reminded me a lot of the first Spiderman film, or the first Superman film. Secondly, the casting was pretty darn good. Edward Norton and Liv Tyler in the leads were great and a pleasure to watch. Tim Roth as the career commando/monster villian was a bit of a stretch, but at least he was easily dislikeable. Third, the CGI effects were in fact better than they had appeared in the trailers -- can't explain that. There wasn't anything new added to the industry standard special effects, but they were cool enough to work for the tale.
What are my quibbles with this film? You know, I know we live in a violent society. Unfortunately we live in one of the most lawless places in the civilized world. I was a little disturbed by the violence of the final confrontation between The Hulk and The Abomination. There was an "ultimate fight" quality to it -- the violence was meant to be vicious and damaging. I grew up on Godzilla verses Whoever fights. Monsters try to beat the hell out of each other. It's who they are. But Godzilla and Whoever fought with the gloves on; they were actors who pantomimed the battles. Too often now, especially in "family movies," I'm seeing violence portrayed with a bit too much relish. I don't want too much reality in my fantasy.
But it's just a quibble. This Hulk was pretty darn close to incredible, and it was certainly well worth the bucks to see it in the theater.
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