I have somehow made it to week two of the Marvel-A-Week challenge which is a heck of a lot further than I ever expected to get. The second film in the canonical sequence, according to the gospel of Tumblr, was The Incredible Hulk. I freely admit that morale was low as not only had I forgotten the film existed, it brought back upsetting memories of a time when I wasted too much energy trying to convince myself that Edward Norton was interesting.
True to form, I have never read a Hulk comic nor have I watched the TV show or sat through the Eric Bana movie. I don’t intend to either. There may have been a million in-jokes but they passed by as I watched on in blissful, and at times bored, ignorance.
PLOT: During a science experiment Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is infected with gamma rays and turns into the Hulk (CGI) when he gets angry. Banner goes on the run from the US army, which is nothing more threatening than General Ross (William Hurt) in a helicopter. Banner manages to outsmart the military until General Ross and Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) create Abomination (CGI), a creature more much more dangerous than the Hulk. END PLOT
In 2008 Edward Norton was probably the perfect Bruce Banner. I can vaguely recall being incredibly excited for Norton’s casting and I can definitely remember cursing Mark Ruffalo for taking over the role in The Avengers. The biggest problem with Norton’s Banner is the passage of time. Ruffalo has become the one true Hulk which just makes Edward Norton’s performance feel clunky. Norton is a convincing runner and I believe he can hold his own in a fight whereas I am not convinced Ruffalo has the core strength required to open a medium sized jar of jam. It is probably unfair to compare the two actors, but I just don’t accept Norton as the mild mannered Bruce Banner I have grown to love.
Tim Roth is fine as the villain, but when Blonsky evolves into his CGI counterpart, Roth becomes as irrelevant as Norton. Liv Tyler whispers her way through the film but never strays far from being the goddess that she is. Individually, the cast is solid, but as a unit there is very little chemistry.
The action sequences either consist of Edward Norton running very, very fast or Hulk and Abomination having a big old brawl in some New York side street. If you were so inclined you could make a drinking game and take a swig every time a vehicle is thrown through the air, which, with the threat alcohol poisoning, is the only way any sense of tension could possibly be created. The effects aren’t particularly dated, it’s worse than that, they just aren’t interesting. The only time I sat up and paid attention to the action was when Hulk extinguished a fire by clapping and this is because I almost choked on my tea and died the most British death of British deaths.
There are glimpses of Marvel humour, such as the taxi ride through New York, but the comedy doesn’t land. It almost feels like The Incredible Hulk was so scared of becoming cartoony it overcompensated by being too serious. Iron Man relied on AC/DC and witty quips to get by; The Incredible Hulk took itself far too seriously for such tricks, and in the end, suffered for it.
Zac Penn knows his way around comic book adaptations and Louis Leterrier directed one of my favourite go to films, Now You See Me, so I know that The Incredible Hulk was in capable hands. Maybe fans with prior knowledge of the comics will appreciate the film more than I did, but as a fan of the Marvel movies rather than the source material, I still don’t fully understand what happened to Bruce Banner to turn him into the Hulk. The opening credits attempt to fill in the blanks but in a rushed and vague manner. By the time the closing credits rolled, I no longer cared. The Incredible Hulk gets a generous 5/10. I am happier with the Ruffalo era of Hulk.