The Incredible Hulk..and a franchise begins

I struggle to find the incredible in The Incredible Hulk, the 2008 feature film by Transporter franchise director Louis Leterrier.  Don’t get me wrong, there are memorable moments by Edward Norton(Bruce Banner) and I was happy to see William Hurt as the by-the-books career serviceman, General Thunderbolt Ross – though admittedly fresh from seeing him in The Doctor makes for a bit of a bias influence.  But in the end the film feels heavy-handed with unsettling liberties taken to the original character and story.  I wanted to like this film if for no other reason than the dismal job Ang Lee did with his version, aptly called Hulk in 2003.  Where I think Lee’s film failed was his reliance on a CGI hulk that came across as artificial and emotionally detached.  In short, it was difficult to feel anything meaningful about the computer hulk – I’m reminded of the ground breaking film Final Fantasy and while I liked that film, I think Hironobu Sakaguchi experienced similar problems connecting audiences with characters created entirely by a computer.

Where I think this film was successful, perhaps to the bane of some, was in the filmmakers focus on building the story from the character out.  There is a well done credit sequence for this film that effectively provides the back story for the film and as soon as we get into the story we have all the information we need to follow the principle character.  However, the movie’s star, Edward Norton, was my original draw.  Die hard action flick enthusiasts might take an exception to the lengthy story and character building, I mean lets face it in this version of the Hulk we don’t actually see said green meanie for quite a spell.  While I found the idea of building the world up from the ground refreshing in a comic book adaptation, think Spiderman and X-men which have successful franchises, I feel that there is an imbalance between story and action here.  When we finally enter the big money shots deep into the second act, it is as though the director had a box of fireworks that he had been saving for some grand finale only to realize that time is running out and he better set them all on fire or risk having to wait another year to show them off.  The result is an onslaught of special FX violence the likes of which drone on without reprieve until finally things look resolved.  I would have preferred balance over the kitchen-sink-of-FX approach but that’s just me.

Edward Norton first caught my attention back in 1996 as the altar boy-turned-killer in veteran television director Gregory Hoblit’s feature film Primal Fear.  It is safe to say that Mr. Norton was amazing in that film and stole more than one scene from star, Richard Gere. Norton would go on to star in back to back roles in American History X in 1998 and Fight Club in 1999 alongside heavy hitters Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter; a move that put him on the radars of audiences and critics ever since.

My biggest complaint about the film has to do with the franchise.  We have to keep in mind that the Hulk character has yet to find the kind of success other more notable characters have in the Marvel house.

In 1976 there was a television show that ran for 82 episodes called The Incredible Hulk. In 2008, there was a film adaptation of the series directed by Louis Leterrier, who helmed The Transporter in 2002, Danny The Dog and The Transporter 2 in 2005.  His $150 million dollar ode to the television series earned almost $250 million dollars at domestic and international box offices.  Leterrier’s version follows Ang Lee’s troubled interpretation in 2003 – receiving grades of C and lower, Hulk was panned by fans and critics alike for straying too far from the beloved, though box-office-success challenged Marvel comic book character that first appeared in the early 60’s.

I can’t see this review changing the hearts and minds of avid action flick aficionados or even deterring the most hardened comic-book-turned-feature-film fans from seeing something else.  While I don’t think all is lost in The Incredible Hulk, I do feel that there are quite a few holes in the production that have me perplexed.  If you’re either of the aforementioned filmgoer, then you have to watch this film if for no other reason then to embark on yet another high budget thrill ride of action, devastation, and special effects.

About rorydean

Rory Dean is a multi-medium artist, writer and new media strategist with a background as a creative consultant and technology liaison in the San Francisco Bay Area. His broad experiences and specialties include print-to-web publicity, promotions and design marketing using traditional and social media networks. As a motion pictures and television professional, his short films, productions and commercials have screened to domestic and international audiences. His connections to a diverse client base include artists, entertainers, corporations, non-profits and everyday people.. Dean is co-owner and founder of Dissave Pictures, a boutique production company focusing on audio, video, photography and multi-media designs. Dean's personal and professional background includes dreaming and avid notebook journaling, creative and copy writing, promotions and marketing, audio/video production, photography, videography, editing, web design and new media. He’s also a fan of collaboration and knows when to turn the reigns over, offer feedback, lead the team and step aside. His portfolio includes print, online, film, video, photography, graphic design and promotions. He’ll show you. He has a book and everything. "When not juggling various online worlds, I do a pretty good mime – but that’s another story."
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2 Responses to The Incredible Hulk..and a franchise begins

  1. Rodney says:

    Will agree somewhat that the film’s unbalanced first and then final acts, in which the money shots all come (he he) close together at the end, may sour some critics favour towards this movie, but I felt that the cheeky, comic-book style of the acting and direction ensured it would always be an improvement over Ang Lee’s version. I really enjoyed this film, and found Norton-Hulk a vast improvement (as a CGI character) than the Bana-Hulk.
    I wholeheartedly agree that making a completely CGI character “emote” in a genuine way is all but virtually impossible for filmmakers today, although in saying that a contravention of this would be both Gollum and King Kong under Peter Jackson, both character who managed to revolutionise just how well emotion can be generated in a computer. Final Fantasy had problems with this (as you point out) although I think the characters themselves were poorly written (and the film’s overall story was shockingly confusing… ghost spirits… really?) which didn’t help.
    If you were to put Gollum, Norton-Hulk, Bana-Hulk and the CGI Kong together side by side, I tend to think Norton-Hulk would come in a credible third. It’s not perfect, but I think reflects the cartoonish, comic-book nature of a character such as he is quite well.
    Great review as usual!

    • rorydean says:

      You touch on what I think is the general consensus regarding the Hulks — the ridiculous Ang Lee treatment typically panned in contrast to what Norton brought to this one – and I think I mentioned how much I liked the character work they did here. Nice mention of Peter Jackson’s characters, though admittedly I really dislike King Kong. I mean that is an entirely different article and perhaps one I should venture to soon, but point well taken. The Gollum character is probably the most significant CGI enhanced/created character in recent memory that knocks the socks off just about every other film character I can think of. Thanks for the exchange, as always — cheers->

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