Howdy Inter-Webbers. I’m Matt Cohen, and I dig the summer.
You just can’t beat the combination of warm sunny days and crisp, colorful comics. Something about the natural light that’s all around lends itself to enjoying funny books. It’s bliss. And, on some rare, lucky occasions, us few and dedicated get to see our childhood heroes put up on the bigscreen in larger then life glory. The Summer Movie was built for Comic Book adaptations. And this summer seems to be the most Comic Booky in years, if not ever. We’ve already seen the kickassness that is IRON MAN, and DARK KNIGHT promises to wow geeks the world over when it gets released next month. Somewhere in all the hype for the previously mentioned films, another comic book movie got forgotten by the masses, or so it seemed. Luckily, according to the first weekend box office, only the opposite could be the case, and it’s well deserved. I am here to tell you that THE INCREDIBLE HULK is pretty damn good. Nearly great.
Hulk, Hulk, Hulk… What are we gonna do with you? I was too young to watch the TV show, and the Ang Lee version - while entertaining - left me wanting a lot more. I compare that film to superhero ballet. Beautiful and masterful, but boring as all hell. With the new reboot, directed by TRANSPORTER 1 + 2 helmer Louis Leterrier and starring (and supposedly mostly written by) Tyler Durden himself (Spoiler) Edward Norton, I - along with countless other Hulk Comic fans - were given one more chance for one of our favorite four color characters to be done justice on the big screen.
Was the wait worth it?
I defiitely think so.
Though THE INCREDIBLE HULK is far from a perfect film, it is evertything it needed to be to make it an extremely enjoyable summer film. So there’s that factor. But forget the masses. Forget the uninitiated. Will a comic book fan like the new Hulk movie?
Yes, yes and a whole lot more yes.
By this time there are countless Hulk reviews on countless websites, so to avoid redundancy and try to keep this bad boy fresh, I’m going to get right to the nitty gritty. How the film played for me. I’ll break it down into pros and cons, to further avoid another long winded synopsis/review that you don’t want to read, and I don’t want to write.
HULK LIKE!!! (pros)
Comic Book Content: More so then possibly any comic book film that has been released in this fun filled decade of ours, THE INCREDIBLE HULK is jam packed with content and references lifted directly out of the comics. It is almost hard to keep a tally of the geek-ster eggs (I’m witty), they fly by so fast and often. It’s one thing for a big summer blockbuster to pander to the masses, but for one to pander to Comic Book fans - That is freaking fantastic. From shout outs to obscure characters yet to play their part in the MU, to glimpses of players just now finding their role, this film does not skimp on the cameos. Of course, by now everyone knows about Tony Stark’s appearance in the film, but to me, the more impressive and quite frankly badass cameos belonged to Doc Samson and Sam Sterns, two characters who will (hopefully) morph from what we’ve seen in this film, to the respective hero and villain we all know and love. The entire film practically seeps comic book style, from the Kirbyesque sonar canons to the fun and often cheesy (and yet somehow still effective) dialogue. Simply put, fans of the comic will not be let down one bit. All the characters remain true to their roots and I applaud Marvel Studious on yet again making a comic book film for comic book fans.
The Acting: First it was Robert Downey, Jr. and crew in Iron Man. Now, Edward Norton leads another ensemble of extremely talented actors in what is a shining example of how good a comic book movie can be. No need for overacting and schtick. Everyone here plays it real, unless the character calls for some other trait or eccentricity. The viewer doesn’t feel like they are watching a film in a genre that has traditionally been style over substance to the max. Hulk, along with Iron Man and Nolan’s Batman series, has definitely reversed the “Comic-Acting” trend in a big way. Norton and Roth in particular really shine here, bringing a sense of depth and emotion to their respective characters that viewers would probably not expect in typical “Light” summer fare. Norton gives a unique performance as Banner, not necessarily drawing on Bixby and Bana, rather by playing it fairly simple and “real” he paints a Bruce that rings truer to the comic version then any I have seen so far. He manages to bring a quiet intensity to the role, one I felt was badly missing in the other film and television attempts. Roth is Roth. What can you say about the man? I mean, it’s freaking Mr. Orange! Roth, as usual, is one of the most nuanced and compelling screen actors around, and never does he let Blonsky become a parody or a caricature. Though he is menacing and f’d up to the nines, we understand this man, his motivations, his desires. The chance for cheesiness was high in that role, and Mr. Roth couldn’t have done a better job of avoiding it. Rounding out the cast are Liv Tyler and William Hurt, two actors who are very hit or miss in my opinion. Thankfully, both hit this time, bringing life and scope to what can be considered very two dimensional characters. Commendable job on both fronts. And I would be lying if I said Tim Blake Nelson is not one of my favorite actors in the world, and though his performance as Dr. Sam Sterns was a “Tad” campy, it fit right in with the character (If you know who the character is about to become… hint…hint…. google it.) and got me extremely pumped for any and all future appearances.
The Hulk: He looks fake!!! He looks CGI!!! HE’S A 10 FOOT TALL GREEN MONSTER-MAN!!! General casting was not going to solve that one. I am under the opinion that they absolutely NAILED the Hulk this time around. Forget the haters. Of course he has to be CGI - a realistic practical affect would be impossible. So when all is said and done, one can only judge the work by what was put on screen, and what was put on screen in pretty much the EXACT Hulk we know and love from the comics. Though the changes were subtle and slight from the past film they did wonders to improve the look and overall feel of Big Green. He’s not as bulky now, less Frankenstein then in the Ang Lee version. Not as neon green, which as ridiculous as it sounds really helped me to buy the reality of the universe, at least more then I did in the previous film. Besides the physical changes there are personality ones as well. This Hulk is smarter, a better fighter (through better use of defense) and yet at the same time much more animalistic then previously seen. This Hulk is pure rage and aggression, but coupled with a quick and resourceful mind. The ultimate destruction machine. One scene in particular nailed it for me. SPOILER ZONE. Hulk and Betty are holed up in a cave during a thunderstorm. A crash of lightning booms out of nowhere, and Hulk is not only startled, HE IS PISSED. He runs out of the cave, picks up a giant boulder, hurls it at the sky, pounds his chest and screams. HULK IS MAD AT THE SKY!!! And even better then that, Hulk tries to fight it! That is the Hulk I know and love. The Hulk that runs on pure anger and aggression. No more contemplative dune jumping Hulk, finally, after years of waiting, The Hulk is here and he’s as badass as we’ve ever seen him.
HULK SMASH!!! (cons)
Abomination: Not so much the character as the visualization. Not great bordering on craptacular. I don’t know why this trend continues but I really have a problem when they make “Monsters” look like they are about to explode. Mr. Hyde in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen suffered from the same issue. They don’t look cool and creepy, they look bloated and as if they will fall apart at the first touch. I know that they wanted to make Hulk look “Good” in comparison but I really think the design team made a mistake with the look of Abomination in this film. And here is a simple solution they could have used… The comic book version. Why did they not go with the reptilian, scaled Abomination we are used to? I think he would have worked fine on screen, a hell of a lot better then Mr. Melting Corpse Boy that we got. Yes, the size and power were there but the look was all off. My one major complaint with the film.
SUMMARY: All in all, a great extremely fun film that will not dissapoint comic fans and “Normals” alike. If this and IRON MAN are any indication of the future of Marvel Studios, not only am I on board but I am one of the biggest supporters. All I can say is, BRING ON THE AVENGERS… Wait, what? Another seven years!!! Oh… Never mind then… REMIND ME ABOUT THE AVENGERS IN FIVE YEARS!!!
That’s all she and or he wrote for now. Tune in next week for another gripping and nail eating installment. Until then,
“Keep em’ bagged and boarded”
Matt Cohen is currently very current
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