Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Incredible Hulk - The Credible Hulk

The second movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be 2008's The Incredible Hulk, distributed by Universal rather than Paramount like Iron Man previously. While I wasn't sure how I had felt about this movie the first time I saw it in a theater, having not remembered too much of it due to a lack of a copy on home video, my opinion changed a bit after renting it for a second round. Though I don't think it was as good as Iron Man, an inevitable comparison anyway, it was a lot better than I had remembered it being in retrospect.

Rather than spend the entire movie focused on the Hulk's origin story, the movie makes the interesting decision to show it in the opening credits, filling us in on the specifics as the movie goes on. It's actually a good move and it allows the audience to get a full story in return, which thankfully does not really require reading the comics to understand. In this case, it details Bruce Banner's (Edward Norton) attempts to rid himself of transforming into the Hulk, a struggle filled with many dead ends and hardships, while also on the run as a government fugitive trying to get away from General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt) and Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth). On a second viewing I was able to experience more of what was going on and listen to some of the more subtle dialogue that hints heavily toward the larger MCU, though most of the movie does a pretty good job at following the separate story it has. Bruce Banner is actually an interesting character in his quest to become normal again and his relationship with Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) is handled in a way that adds depth to his character. Another interesting characterization is that of the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno). Rather than make him out to be a completely unstoppable monster, he is shown to actually have emotions beyond anger that in turn make him more three-dimensional. Thunderbolt Ross and Emil Blonsky both go through their own arcs as well, but in opposite directions; Ross starts out doing whatever it takes to get Banner but then realizes the sort of monster he created in Blonsky, and Blonsky continues lusting for power until he becomes a complete abomination.

But while I did actually enjoy the story better this time, I must admit that unless you pay full attention to the dialogue, some things might come off as plot holes, such as how Banner was discovered at the University to trigger a pivotal scene. Re-watching these parts on a Blu-Ray helped me fully understand the events, so it seems that the movie requires multiple viewings to fully understand the events. On the plus side, I did have fun trying to find references to the MCU or other information about the Hulk that I had gathered from other sources.

If there's one thing to enjoy however it would be the action scenes. The destruction caused by the Hulk is impressive to watch thanks to the well used special effects that display his coordination and strength. However he does seem more vulnerable, even though he's practically bulletproof, which does help to make the big fight against Abomination at the end really memorable and more interesting to watch. Hulk's cerebral instinct and resourcefulness in combat do help make him seem much less mindless than one may think, though it is rather annoying that the military loves to waste valuable bullets even when it is proven that they simply do not work on him. Regardless, the effects also help to display a wide array of emotions in the Hulk's face, allowing the viewer to see when there is more of Bruce Banner on the surface than the monster, especially when Betty is around. I was also amazed by the attention to detail put into animating Hulk, making him seem a bit more realistic as well, though still looking like something out of a comic book.

Other aspects that pulled through rather well were the cinematography and score. The action is framed very well while capturing the speed and power of the fights as well as the more important scenes that help establish more of the characters and events, though I couldn't help but be slightly annoyed at the use of shaky cam when following the army on the ground. Thankfully however, it is more subtly used here than in other movies and did not escalate for me beyond a minor complaint. I also found the lighting fairly balanced even in the night shots. Craig Armstrong's score helped to gel well with the events onscreen and I really have nothing to complain about there.

The Incredible Hulk isn't as good a movie as Iron Man, but on its own it's pretty enjoyable and I wouldn't mind owning a copy of it someday. An interesting story with good effects help it to stand out from other blockbusters and make it more memorable, though it isn't a flick I would be willing to watch again immediately. It is however at least worth watching again to help build up to The Avengers and see how it relates to all of the other MCU movies to date, and the scene at the very end is worth sticking around for. Those who do watch it however should keep in mind that they may need to watch it second time or more, if only for the sake of the plot.

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