Tuesday, July 08, 2008

MOD-BLOG REVIEW: The Incredible Hulk

Movie: The Incredible Hulk
MPAA Rating: [PG-13]
Mod-Blog Rating: ****/5

The Short Version:

This relaunch of Marvel Comics's character owes very little to Ang Lee's version of a few years back. This one instead is almost a big-screen remake of the TV Hulk, complete with themes of alienation, loneliness, and always being on the run. The characters are pretty strong, the acting good, and the plot works within its own universe. The only real problem is the main villain who fights the Hulk in the last act as a monster as large and as strong as the Hulk. The villain neither fits the Marvel comics mold to satisfy old-school fans, nor really is convincing in its own right. Thus, the viewer is left somewhat unsatisfied. That being said, it is a very fun film and worth your time to see. Just don't go expecting anything on the level of the Iron Man or Spider-Man films. Parents with young children should also be aware there are several scenes which could easily inspire nightmares. While the Hulk is a favorite of young-'uns, best to wait for this version until they can really differentiate between fantasy and reality.

The Long Version:

Ang Lee's Hulk may be the most-reviled of the Marvel Comics films to come out, since Spider-Man revitalized the genre. It is by no means the worst by most objective estimates - I'd argue Punisher or Daredevil (non-directors cut) takes that particular cake - but it managed to alienate the majority of its audience by ignoring most of the comic-book canon and then also failing to truly be a super-hero movie. The director himself pitched it as a Greek tragedy, and that is exactly what he provided. Unfortunately for him, the Hulk comes out of a much later tradition - the horror story Frankenstein, which many consider to be the start of the "horror of science gone wrong" tradition of storytelling. It is not about how parents spoiled their child or about the fickle quality of fate, but rather about the dangers hidden within the promises that modern science makes.

This time around, rather than try to salvage something out of Ang Lee's Hulk, Marvel essentially called a do-over. They hired a new director and brought in Edward Norton who not only plays Bruce Banner (the Hulk's alter ego) but also wrote or rewrote the majority of the script. The new effort owes far more to the popular television series than to the comic books. This Bruce Banner is not a conflicted abuse child, but a man haunted by a dark secret and a power that he can not control. He is constantly on the run both from the military men who want to exploit the Hulk's power (remember, it is the most powerful being in the Marvel universe) and from his own runaway emotions which could trigger a transformation at any time. He hides himself away in South America, urban America, the wilds of Canada - anywhere he can hope to avoid his twin nightmares.

But, of course, it would not be much of a movie if the Hulk stayed in the shadows, and ultimately Bruce Banner is drawn back to New York City in hopes of finding a cure. Instead, he finds a new foe in the Abomination (a creature almost as powerful as the Hulk) and a chance for redemption as the city is saved from one rampaing monster by another rampaging monster. If anyone missed the pure visceral thrill of seeing the Hulk smash everything in sight in the first film, will be very satisfied in this one.

But ultimately, that final act is the Achilles Heel of the film as well. The Hulk is a full CGI creation - as is required by an 8-foot-tall, 8-foot-wide creature which tear thru a city like jagged glass thru a bare foot. So is the Abomination. And neither is known for their eloquence. So, the last 1/2 hour or so of the film is two computer-generated puppets grunting and beating the stuffing out of each other. It is hard to get completely absorbed into the action when you know nothing onscreen is real, and when every action is so over the top. It is a lot of fun, but simply not "real".

The other thing to be aware of is that the transformations in this movie are fairly horrific for a film which could be regarded as targetted at children. Please take the PG-13 rating seriously, as the bone-crunching transformation of either the Abomination or the Hulk could easily give nightmares for years to come. And the level of violence is well above that of a Saturday morning cartoon.

But overall, this one is a winner. Don't expect a masterpiece, but take it in if you want some good old fashioned mayhem.

3 comments:

Ward said...

It's a shame that reading your review was probably more enjoyable than watching the movie would have been ;-)

Nomad said...

Actually, Ward, I think you'd probably enjoy the new film. But if you are in doubt, it can wait until DVD for a "fan" like you. :-)

shadowmom1 said...

It was fun.