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Hulk Smash Big Honkin – The Incredible Hulk Reviewed!

14

Jun

Posted by Steve

hulkposter1.jpgIf you’ve been reading this blog or listening to the podcast for any length of time, you know that The Incredible Hulk is one of my favorite super heroes. In fact, he’s one of my top two all time favorite super heroes. So it was with great hopefulness and bated breath that I devoured every piece of news and every little spoiler that came about as this movie went through production for the past couple of years. I did my best to defend HULK, Ang Lee’s attempt at an Incredible Hulk movie, but I always knew that the movie wasn’t all that it should be. I just wanted it to be a great Hulk movie so bad, I hated that it wasn’t.

Flash forward a few years to today.

As I write this review I am a happy, happy man. I should warn you that this could potentially be a spoilery review. I will attempt to not be too spoiler heavy, but I make no promises.

What makes a good comic book adaptation? Respect for the source material? The right actors? A solid director? Amazing special effects? A good story?

I submit that it is the right combination of all of the above. In recent years, we’ve seen great actors in terrible comic book adaptations. We’ve seen great stories marred by terrible acting and mediocre special effects. We’ve seen directors who have a love for the material they are adapting fall flat in their delivery of the adaptation. We’ve seen movies where the characters are adapted in name only. We’ve seen special effects feasts for the eyes and been disheartened by a lack of attention to decent stories.

But there have been (more often than not since the first X-Men movie) some bright and shining moments in comic book to film adaptations. Studios have by and large actually learned that what has appealed to readers on the page for so many years actually can appeal to general audiences.

The Incredible Hulk had the daunting task of pulling off a good story coupled with great special effects along with moving past the first outing of The Hulk to the big screen and meeting the expectations of fans who only knew the Hulk from the television show of the seventies and eighties. I honestly believe that this movie had more stacked against it than any other movie in recent memory. BATMAN BEGINS may have had a similar task, but I think that most people enjoyed the character of Batman enough and Warner Brothers was able to (more so than Universal with THE INCREDIBLE HULK) market BATMAN BEGINS really well. I’ve gone to the point of rambling, now let me get to the point of THE INCREDIBLE HULK.

I was completely blown away by this movie. I thought I knew what to expect, but I had no idea. In fact, at this point, I’m not sure I really know where to start. So, let’s start with the story.

The plot of this movie moves quickly and if you blink you may miss something. This is good and bad. I’ve seen the movie twice today, and the first time, I missed a few little moments that were somewhat key. The biggest thing I missed was the naming of the Hulk. (Ironically enough, he was named by the same person who named him in the television show, more on that in a moment.) It happens in a newscast that if you worry too much about watching and not listening, you’ll miss the moment. However, the fast pace works to help mount the pressure that is on Bruce and Betty to avoid the army, and the intensity that Blonsky has when it comes to actually becoming what he needs to become to be able to face the Hulk one on one. However, I guess that’s due more in part to the editing than the actual plot.

The plot itself is a classic Hulk plot. Bruce Banner is on the lam avoiding the U.S. army as led by General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. This time, he is in Brazil working at a soda bottling plant. He’s been doing menial day labor, and has been able to lay relatively low. He’s also been learning a bit of Brazilian Judo and techniques to control his anger and pulse. After cutting his finger, a drop of blood finds it’s way into a bottle of soda, Stan Lee drinks it in the US and dies of Gamma poisoning. (Yes, you read that right.) From that point on, it’s on. The story follows Bruce as he travels to America in hopes of meeting up with a mysterious accomplice known only to him as Mr. Blue. Mr. Blue has been trying to help Bruce, as Mr. Green, find a cure to his problem. His travels cause him to cross paths with the love of his life Betty Ross, and of course Blonsky and the army. Emil Blonsky is a soldier “on loan” from Britain and he has become so intrigued by the Hulk that his only desire is to be able to take him down. His quest to defeat the Hulk causes him to subject himself to some experiments that transform him into a bigger, stronger monster that can only be the Abomination. Banner realizes that he is the only one that can stop this monster and a battle between the two behemoths ensues. It is a great story with all of the comic booky goodness geeks love and all of the action and pathos that general audiences enjoy. It works, and it works very well.

The acting in this movie cannot be ignored. While 2003′s HULK had some of the big screen’s best actors, they apparently were all directed to whisper and emote as little as possible. Not so here. Edward Norton plays Bruce Banner as a man tormented by the monster that dwells within him, but not completely defeated by it. He has a nobility about him that leads him to do the right thing, even when he knows it could lead to trouble. He is scared of being captured, but driven into danger by the search for a cure. He is brilliant and clinical, but passionate at the same time. This is a Bruce Banner with a personality, and Norton plays it well.

Liv Tyler’s Betty is a woman who has been through a ton but hasn’t been defeated by it. She is deeply in love with Bruce and all it takes is a glimpse to turn her world upside down. But it is her love of Bruce that helps her see through the rage of the Hulk and befriend the jade giant. I have to admit I have a total crush on Liv Tyler, when she tears up, it hurts a little to watch. I just want to hug her, and not in a weird stalkery kind of way. So, I totally believe everything she does in this movie.

Tim Roth, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson and the whole cast do outstanding jobs of bringing these characters alive on screen.

Then there’s the special effects. Specifically, there’s the CGI work on the Hulk. I have to be honest and say (and you will hear this thought repeated on the podcast) I have never seen a digital character that did NOT look digital. EVEN GOLLUM. We’ve come a long way in the realm of what computers are able to do in movies, but no company has been able to make a completely convincing all-digital character to me. Yoda came as close as any character has in REVENGE OF THE SITH, but he’s still digital, and I can still tell he is. So the question becomes, how well does the digital character interact with the real environment, and how do the real life characters interact with the digital characters. THE INCREDIBLE HULK does a great job in the look of the digital characters and how well they fit into the environment. No matter how digital the characters look, they interact with the environment well enough and the movie is solid enough that you are never jarred out of the experience because of the way they look. In fact, when The Hulk is facing the army on the college campus, a handheld camera is used. It had to be utter heck for the animators to make The Hulk fit in to the somewhat shaky shots just right, but they did and adds an air of realism to that scene that is very cool.

Then, there are all the throwbacks. I knew we’d get the obligatory Stan Lee cameo, and I was glad to see that Lou Ferrigno’s cameo wasn’t just him walking past camera, he got to do a bit of acting and even kind of pass the torch to Ed Norton. What I was not expecting though, was a cameo by Bill Bixby. I’m not being crass or callous. Bill Bixby makes an appearance in the movie and if for nothing else but this, Louis Leterrier and the makers of this film deserve some adulation. Well done friends, well done.

There is so much more to talk about and so much more to be said, but I will talk about it all in depth on the podcast early in the week.

To sum it all up, this movie works. It works well. It’s fun, it’s intense, it’s action-packed, and it even tugs at the heart strings a bit. I give it a solid 5 smashes out of 5. Go see it and have fun.

Tony Stark…Meet Thaddeus Ross

9

Jun

Posted by Steve

Here it is. I can’t believe they put this in TV Spot. Click HERE to see Tony Stark in The Incredible Hulk.

New Incredible Hulk TV Spot Puts Some Things Into Perspective

29

May

Posted by Steve

There is a lot of great buzz building around this movie on the web.  Hulk Hands are selling out at Wal-Marts all over the place.   Even casual movie goers I talk to are looking forward to this based on what they’ve seen, and as a Hulk fan for years, I couldn’t be happier.  I know that we haven’t seen the biggest moments.  I know that there’s some stuff in the movie that the clips, trailers, and TV spots haven’t shown us that will blow our collective minds.  I can NOT wait

Then there’s this:

The newest TV spot for THE INCREDIBLE HULK tells us that “the Marvel Super Hero Experience becomes incredible!”  I love that idea of marketing.  It lets people know that Marvel Studios isn’t just putting out movies of there characters individually, rather they are attempting to create a super hero experience for movie audiences.  I know we all know this.  “We” being the geeks.  We eat up every tid bit of information we can when it comes to these types of movies, but it is so cool to hear it kind of put out there for the world at large.  Here’s the spot that has a few new snippets and a great moment at the end between Bruce and Betty.

Incredible Hulk Soundtrack is HUGE!!!

24

May

Posted by Steve

Amazon has the Incredible Hulk soundtrack available for pre-order. The soundtrack is two discs with a total of 45 TRACKS!!!! Apparently they’re going for broke. 45 tracks on 2 discs means two things:

First, the tracks are obviously short.

Second, they are putting out a complete score. Someone must be impressed with Craig Armstrong’s work in composing for the movie.

We’ve all heard the strains of “The Lonely Man” theme in the trailers and on the website, but it’s nice to see that it’s an actual track on the soundtrack.

Here is the complete track listing according to Amazon.com:
Disc: 1
1. The Arctic
2. Main Title
3. Rocinha Favela
4. A Drop of Blood
5. The Flower
6. Ross’ Team
7. Mr. Blue
8. Favela Escape
9. It Was Banner
10. That Is The Target
11. Bruce Goes Home (with “The Lonely Man” performed by Craig Armstrong, written by Joseph Harnell (ASCAP))
12. Ross And Blonsky
13. Return To Culver University
14. The Lab
15. Reunion
16. The Data/The Vial
17. They’re Here
18. Give Him Everything You’ve Got
19. Bruce Can’t Stay
20. First Injection
21. Is it safe?
22. Hulk Theme

Disc: 2
1. Saved From The Flames
2. Grotto
3. Arrival At The Motel
4. I Can’t
5. Abomination Alley
6. Bruce Found
7. Bruce Looks For The Data
8. NYC Cab Ride
9. The Mirror
10. Sterns’ Lab
11. Bruce Darted
12. I Want It, I Need It
13. Blonsky Transforms
14. Bruce Must Do It
15. Harlem Brawl
16. Are They Dead?
17. Hulk Smash
18. Hulk And Betty
19. A Tear
20. Who’s We?
21. The Necklace
22. Bruce And Betty
23. Hulk Theme (End Credits)

Click on the link below to pre-order the soundtrack and help out the site while you’re at it.

My Top Ten Favorite Superheroes:
Number 2- The Incredible Hulk

21

May

Posted by Steve

colorsofhulkdom.jpg
The above image is from an article entitled The Many Colors of Hulkdom which you can read here.

As a kid, I sat down faithfully week to week with my family to tune in to the adventures of Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno as David Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk.  I was hooked on the story of a man plagued by a metamorphisis that would take over whenever he became angry or outraged.   Unlike some friends of mine, I was never scared of the big green guy.  I never saw him as mean or unfriendly…unless it was to those who were mean and unfriendly.  In fact, The Incredible Hulk was my hero.  He was the savior of anyone who had been picked on, bullied, or backed into a corner and had no escape. 

303px_Hulk_003.jpgA lof of people have a hard time wrapping their head around the Hulk. In fact, most people prefer the Hulk in his gray, smart, “darker” incarnation. Not me. My Hulk is the big green, super-strong, albeit unintelligent Hulk. That is not to say that I don’t like the Hulk in any incarnation. I think all forms of The Incredible Hulk have their merit. Big, green, and dumb is my favorite though. Why? Because I believe that the green Hulk represents the core of who the character is supposed to be. The Hulk is the personified rage and passion of Robert Bruce Banner. The Hulk is that which Banner would never openly allow himself to be. In fact, I remember an issue of The Incredible Hulk where Banner found himself inside of his own psyche unable to think or speak coherently. The Hulk, however, was speaking intelligently and coherently. The reason for this was the two were in the emotional center of Banner’s brain, and when it comes to emotions, Banner is incapable of expressing himself. Erego, the gamma radiation that Banner was blasted with manifesting itself as Banner metamorphosing into a creature fueled by sheer emotion.

I’ve said before that I really enjoy the superheroes who have strength based super powers. Well, just ask him and the Hulk will tell you, “Hulk is the Strongest one there is!” And strong he is friends. secretwarsstrength.jpgIn fact, shown to the left is one of my favorite covers of all time.  It’s my favorite not because it’s full of color or has an incredibly epic splash of hundreds of heroes done up Georg Perez style.  It’s my one of my favorite’s not because it shows an iconic/epic battle that the reader will get to sit in on in the pages to follow.   Its my favorite because it is the Hulk…standing strong…UNDER A MOUNTAIN!  I remember reading Secret Wars #4 for the first time and being so stressed.  During the Secret Wars, Bruce Banner had control of the Hulk, so as he stood holding up the mountain, he was losing strength because he was so rational about the situation.  Reed Richards stepped in and started insulting the Hulk making him angrier and angrier…why?  To make him stronger.  For we all know that “The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets.”  Another thing I love about this cover is the fact that the only one standing in that picture is The Hulk, and not only is he standing, he’s holding UP THE FREAKING MOUNTAIN!  That’s strength.  And, as I’ve said repeatedly I enjoy the super power of super strength for some reason.

I also relate to the Hulk in that he has always been misunderstood.  Throughout the history of the Hulk, he has sought to be left alone while at the same time accepting friendship wherever and from whomever he can find it.  It seems a paradox that his mantra would be “Hulk wants to be left alone” while he ferociously clings to the friends he has made in his journey.  I guess to explain my connection to this aspect of the Hulk, I have to get somewhat personal.  I think everyone knows what it’s like to be picked on, or to feel like no one understands you.   Some people experience those feelings and move on.  Others, however, allow their lives to be shaped by feeling like an outsider or like they have no friends.  I’m not talking about being emo and lame.  Rather, the people who have had to deal with real wounds left by uncaring words tossed in their direction.  People who are genuinely nice and good, but just don’t fit the mold that other’s think they should fit into.  Again, I’m not talking about whiny kids who choose to be different, I’m talking about the chunky kids, the kids who didn’t grow fast enough, or grew too fast, the girls who blossomed too early or too late, the clumsy kids, the kids who had enough different about them from everyone else, that they were an easy target to get picked on.   We have that feeling of wanting to run away from everything, but at the same time we wish for just one good friend who will look past what makes us different and just hang out with us.  Being from that group of kids, I always understood the Hulk’s frustrationHulkJacket.gif with the army and those who hunted him down, and I understood his joy at finding a friend who liked him for who he was and tried to understand him.

I guess the main reason I appreciate the Hulk though (the green, dumb Hulk) is that he is a good guy. He looks out for the weak. The smashing he does is always in retaliation to someone attacking him. He doesn’t lash out for no reason. Is there collateral damage from the battles the Hulk goes through? Yes. Why are people always quick to point that out though and slow to mention how many people SHOULD have been hurt in an Avenger’s battle with Kang or the FF’s latest battle with Doctor Doom? I guess the point I come to is that The Hulk would never intentionally hurt someone who doesn’t first try to hurt him. In fact, given the choice, the Hulk will protect those who are in harm’s way when they are unable to protect themselves. That’s a hero. Plain and simple.

I’ve talked mostly about the green, dumb version of the Hulk that most people seem to dislike more than the other incarnations. It needs to be said that I enjoy the Hulk in any form. I like the gray Hulk, I like the big green smart (Professor) version of the Hulk that Peter David created. I enjoyed the Hulk of Planet Hulk and World War Hulk. However, I feel all of those incarnations lacked the innocence of the Jade Giant. None of them lacked his heroism, though. I think World War Hulk was a morality tale of sorts that showed what happened when one’s rage goes unchecked. The Hulk allowed himself to be manipulated into hulk2.gifgoing on the attack against those who sent him off planet in the first place.  In the end, it was one of those he had chosen to trust who was responsible for the death of his wife and millions of others on Planet Hulk.  (I know the planet’s name wasn’t Planet Hulk…I just like calling it that.  It was Sakaar.) In the end of World War Hulk, though, the Hulk nearly sacrificed himself to save New York.   The gray version of the Hulk would never admit it, but he always winds up doing the right thing.  The “Professor” version of the Hulk, while still hunted and misunderstood, was the most blatantly heroic of the Hulk incarnations.  

The Hulk is an interesting look into the rawest most extreme parts of the human psyche.  He is also a reminder to try to look for the good in even the most different of people around us.  He is a warning to never let anger and rage go unchecked.  He is a good hearted soul who is driven by such raw emotion that he can be a most viscious foe or the fiercest friend a person has ever known.

I know for most the Hulk would never be considered in the top 2 of their favorite Super Heroes.  For me, that’s just another reason that he’s there.  I feel like I “get” the big guy…in any incarnation…except this red guy….who is that fella?   To read more about the Hulk, pick up some of the items below and help out the site.