June 13th, 2008


After the puny 2003 psycho-babbling Ang Lee Hulk movie, Marvel bought back the rights to their beloved Hulk character and did things their way.  They rebooted the franchise with a better cast, more sophisticated effects and a lot more action and monster mashing.  The result? 


Nothing short of incredible.


Seriously, remember how good Iron Man was?  Well The Incredible Hulk is just as good.  Scratch that.  It’s slightly better, if only because Iron Man is in this flick too.  Sure, you got to wait till the very end, but when Tony Stark waltzes in and says, “We’re putting a team together”, well, it’s enough to make any fanboy make meringue in his pants.


This new Incredible Hulk follows the rhythm of the iconic 70’s television show, just kicks things up several notches (it’s basically The Fugitive on Jolly Green Giant steroids).  Dr. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is hiding out in Brazil searching for a cure to his gamma ray induced fits of rage.  The psycho General Thunderbolt Ross (Wiliam Hurt) wants to turn his gamma genes into a biological weapon (Isn’t that always the way with the Army?) and with the help of a pissed-off military grunt with sketchy alliances named Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), Ross and his crack crew try to capture Banner.  Every time they get THIS close to catching him though, they make the mistake of making Banner VERY angry; and we all know what happens when he gets VERY angry.  He Hulks out big time, turns green and smashes things up left and right and tosses around Humvees and forklifts like they were Matchbox cars.  Blonsky gets his mitts on some of that gamma ray goodness (along with healthy doses of Super Soldier Serum) which turns him into the gnarly looking Abomination, a giant monster that looks like Godzilla with a calcium deposit problem.  When Abomination goes rampaging through Harlem, he threatens the life of Banner’s sweetheart (Liv Tyler) and that makes Bruce VERY angry.  You know what comes next.  Giant monster WWE grudge match. 


I can’t think of a summer movie as perfectly paced as this one.  Just when you’ve had enough of Banner searching for a cure, in comes Thunderbolt Ross with his tanks and Hummers.  Bruce hulks out and causes millions in property damage and escapes.  Bruce heads to some college in Virginia, starts looking for a cure… BAM!  Ross shows up, Bruce turns green.  Banner hitches to New York, Abomination shows up, Monster Mash City. 


Oh and speaking of that fight scene between Abomination and Hulk.  It just so happens to be the best superhero fight scene since The Son of Jor-El took on the trio of Kryptonian baddies at the end of Superman 2.  I’m not kidding.


Hulk himself also happens to be the single greatest CGI creation ever.  Fuck those dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.  Screw Kong.  Hulk is the best fleshed out CGI character ever put on screen.  Yeah he looks awesome, that’s for sure, but the key to what makes him work so damn well is that you can always see what makes him tick through his expressions.  Granted, most of the time he’s just pissed off and smashes the shit out of stuff, but you always sympathize with him because during every battle, he’s protecting the woman he loves first, and smashing the shit out of stuff a very close second.  As much as I loved the Hulk/Abomination fight, I enjoyed the tender, quieter moments between Hulk and Betty just as much.  The scene in the cave where it’s just them together hiding from the rain is phenomenal.  When their tranquil peace is ruined by an annoying bolt of lighting, Hulk lets out a roar into the skies as if he was yelling at God himself.  With equal parts of Kong and Frankenstein-like pathos, this scene is the heart of the movie.  Great stuff. 


In short, this was not the Hulk movie I was expecting from the director of Transporter 2. 


Sure I LOVED that movie, but I’ll be the first to admit that it was just mindless action junk.  Like that movie, this one is filled with tons of action, but here, director Louis Leterrier expertly balances the CGI rampaging action scenes with warmth and humor (this flick features the best superhero sex scene of all time) and is filled with lot of in-jokes for fans.  (The original Hulk, Lou Ferrigno has a cameo and also voiced the Hulk for this movie.)  By honoring the history of the Hulk (even to some extent, the Ang Lee film since it picks up with Banner in Brazil) Leterrier also creates something wholly original and crafts a truly wonderful and exhilarating comic book movie, one of the best ever made.  He also peppers enough hints of things to come (The fucking LEADER, baby!) to have you ready for Incredible Hulk Deux ASAP.


The Incredible Hulk is quite simply INCREDIBLE.  As far as Marvel Movies go, it’s second only to Spider-Man 1 and about on par with Iron Man.  It easily mops the floor with the shitty Ang Lee Hulk movie.  The only thing that isn’t as good as that first Hulk movie was Thunderbolt Ross. I much preferred Sam Elliott’s performance to William Hurt.  That’s not to say that there was anything wrong with Hurt’s performance in this flick, it’s just hard to top Sam Elliott and Hurt knows that, so he doesn’t even try.  (Hurt seemed more or less like a pushover in comparison to the much more machismo Elliott.)  That’s only a MINOR quibble.  The rest of the performances are excellent.  Tyler brings a quiet vulnerability to Betty, yet always remains foxy as Hell.  And what more can you say about Norton?  The man is probably the closest thing to Brando his generation will ever get and he plays one of the most beloved comic book icons of all time exactly how you think it would:  He nails it. 


With two perfect comic book movies under their belt and a litany of other inter-connected ones to come (Ant-Man, Captain America, Thor and the granddaddy of them all The Avengers are all in the works), Marvel looks to be well on their way to bringing every comic book movie fan’s dream of superheroes mingling in each other’s universe to fruition. 


All I’m going to say is that The Dark Knight will be hard-pressed to follow the astounding one-two punch of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk.


The Incredible Hulk goes straight to Number 2 on The Video Vacuum Top Ten, right behind Rambo and just a smidge ahead of Iron Man.