After a disappointing debut film, more from a critical and fan standpoint rather than a box office one, the Hulk franchise disappeared for several years before being revived again by Universal and Marvel. Despite only five years existing between Ang Lee’s Hulk and Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, The Incredible Hulk acted as a “reboot” of sorts for the series as a way to get the bad taste that Lee’s film may have left behind. Although The Incredible Hulk didn’t make much more than Hulk did in theaters, it proved that the character was able to carry its own film and set itself up for what will inevitably be a fantastic take for the upcoming Avengers film.
Academy Award nominee Edward Norton stars as scientist Bruce Banner, a man who has been living in shadows, scouring the planet for an antidote to the unbridled force of rage within him: the Hulk. But when the military masterminds who dream of exploiting his powers force him back to civilization, he finds himself coming face to face with his most formidable foe: the Abomination – a nightmarish beast of pure aggression whose powers match the Hulk’s own! Starring Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Black Nelson, Ty Burrell and William Hurt.
One thing I was glad to see when popping in The Incredible Hulk (I opted to spend my movie money on repeated The Dark Knight viewings, so Hulk got pushed aside during its theatrical run) is that the origin of Hulk was breezed by in the credits. It roughly takes what was decent about Lee’s film and translates it into this film so those who remember the 2003 film won’t be so bored by unneeded repeats. Instead this entire film is focusing on finding a cure for Hulk, all the while intermittently mixed with some of the most violent and aggressive action sequences I’ve ever seen put to film. There’s a lot to take in about this film, but one thing’s for sure: this isn’t like Ang Lee’s two hour epic.
Don’t get me wrong, while I didn’t enjoy Lee’s film in theaters, it fared better on the home video format once I knew what to expect from that film (crazy visuals and…really weird scene transitions) but The Incredible Hulk is what I expected from the character all along. It’s not a terribly hard story to screw up and I think Lee simply packed too much in his film to the point where it felt too bloated; Leterrier’s take is a much leaner look at the character and one that is simply a lot easier to swallow. This is Hulk and Banner at their finest: a man looking for a cure and a beast looking to knock the crap out of stuff.
Admittedly as the film wore on it got a bit crazy to watch the repeated military strikes against Hulk and the creation of Abomination was a bit too farfetched (the man who Banner trusted to cure him simply gets too curious and more than willingly creates a more demonic Hulk?) to really swallow; I half expected Abomination to show up sooner than he did, but it’s probably a good thing he didn’t. I don’t think my walls could have taken the rumbling, growling mess that emitted from my speakers as the two clashed and punched the snot out of each other.
Before I get caught up in the films violence (man…it was awesome. Hulk used a cop car as boxing gloves…) I should note that I really did enjoy the quiet character moments as well. Norton and Tyler were excellent as Bruce and Betty, although I really have nothing against Bana and Connelly in their roles, but there’s something about the chemistry that Norton and Tyler had that was just a bit more believable. Then again I think Tyler could make falling in love with a tree branch believable, she’s just that kind of actress. I had my doubts about Norton pulling off Bruce Banner, but he really did a hell of a job. Hurt’s role as the general was a bit conflicting to me; he seemed a bit over the top at times, but it was Tim Roth’s role as the “villain” of the film that really ended up being the greatest addition to this film. Although he was always the “bad guy” of the film, Roth’s ultimate role as the villain was a lot of fun to witness. And who could forget the cameos by Stan Lee and Lou Ferrigno? Ferrigno’s dual role as security guard and as the voice of Hulk was just awesome. “Hulk Smash!” indeed.
Ok, so now…the violence! As if the first two massive clashes with Hulk weren’t violent enough for you what with the pulsating sound wave weapons and Hulk throwing pieces of Hummer’s around like Frisbees, the clash between him and Abomination can only be described as Transformers but with meat instead of metal fists. The amount of destruction they caused was just breathtaking and the whole fight itself caused so much rattling in the room that I was afraid the Wii would vibrate off the top of one of the shelves. It really was one of those types of fights where you start to laugh at how violent it’s getting, but I am genuinely surprised by how much carnage they put into this PG-13 film. Were Hulk and Abomination a little more human looking I’m sure they would’ve had MPAA rating issues.
In the end the film really was just about the violence and the characters behind them. While Roth’s character made for an interesting villain, I just don’t know if Hulk has another film in him. Unless they focus more on Banner controlling the beast, which is a possibility, the character just doesn’t lend himself well to being a superhero. Having said that I’m sure he’ll kick ass in the Avengers film whenever that takes off. Oh and the Robert Downey Jr. cameo in this film at the end? Worth the price of admission alone. I swear that man is one of the most suave characters I’ve ever seen on screen.
Overall The Incredible Hulk comes Highly Recommended. If you’re a Marvel fan you won’t be disappointed and if you enjoy a good smash em’ flick, then you’ll be in absolute heaven. There isn’t much global appeal here, but there is a decent marriage of tender scenes between Tyler and Norton that are quite moving to watch.
Universal really wants this title to stand out on shelves as the Blu-ray packing for this release marks the first time I’ve seen a Blu-ray come out in a non-blue case. Yes, this Elite case is a radioactive green, complete with fancy 3D lenticular on the cardboard slipcover. The “3D” image is rather disappointing, as all the characters do is move left to right…there’s no limb movement or anything. I’d have been more impressed with an embossed foil image than this thing. Inside the green packaging is the disc itself which mimics the cover art on its disc. Those looking to take a copy on the road of the film with them will be delighted by the Digital Copy included, although it’s in a paper sleeve which is kind of…cheap. Universal seems to be doing that a lot lately…
Encoded with the VC-1 codec, The Incredible Hulk looks absolutely fantastic. The detail level is pushed to extreme levels and the amount of detail seen on the Hulk and Abomination’s bodies is absolutely breathtaking. The non-CGI filled sequences contain about the same level of detail, although a couple of the close-ups on William Hurt’s face were a bit waxier than the rest of the film. Overall though the films transfer is not one to snuff at and it will be something to marvel at on a shiny HD set.
The film would be nothing without a great track and the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track does what it’s meant to do: blow your face off. From the films start, the bass is pounding and rarely does it let up. Each bullet fired in the film has a full push with it and the surround elements that are mixed in with the film sound fantastic. From the factory Hulk battle to the campus collision, the film doesn’t let up. As soon as those humvee’s rolled onto the scene (what was with the Hummer’s entrances all being preceded by jumps into the air, by the way? Seemed kind of strange there were so many hills and bushes to jump over on a college campus) with the massive speaker weapons attached to the top , I knew to brace for impact. The resulting pulsations brought a smile to my face as the whole room reverbed from the sound mix. An absolutely great film in both the visual and aural area—definitely one to show off your home theater system with.
Moving onto the extras we have quite the hefty mixture here. First up is a commentary with director Louis Leterrier and Tim Roth who make for an engaging and insightful track, although the two can be a bit hard to understand at times, Leterrier especially with his accent. Still, the two cover every angle of the film in this commentary and it’s entertaining and insightful through and through, although there are some dead spots you have to get over. The remaining extras are a mixture of Blu-ray exclusive and extras that appear on the standard three-disc DVD release as well.
The first of the Blu-ray exclusives is a couple of neat little bits, although some of them seem a bit unnecessary. The first is “My Chat” which allows you to chat with other My Chat users while watching the film. I wasn’t able to test this as, well…I’m reviewing this disc before it comes out, and so it’s difficult to get these Profile 2.0 things working until the thing streets. The rest of the extras are easy to access though and range from a “Comic Book Gallery” which pops up images from the comic books that inspired specific shots in the film and “Thunderbolt Files” which gives a full dossier on characters, locations and events as the movie plays. Next we have a “Picture in Picture” extra that includes behind-the-scenes footage for specific sequences and follows along the same lines as Universal’s other titles with this feature. The other two Blu-ray bonuses, “Scene Explorer” and “Animated Comic” seem to be a bit clunky, as when you activate them with the U-Control feature it actually pauses the movie and then brings it up and resumes the film. I don’t know if it’s an issue with my PS3 that’s causing the delay in playback or what it is, but it’s certainly not as seamless as other PiP features.
Moving onto the remaining extras, we can find these on the three-disc edition. First is the “Alternate Opening” (2:34, 1080p) which shows Hulk in the arctic and causing an ice shelf to fall when he goes ballistic. A cool sequence but I’m not sure how the rest of the film would have worked and it would have just felt unnecessary if that’s how the film itself opened. Next are some "Deleted Scenes" (42:45, 480p) which is the only extra on this set not in high-definition… rather strange. Maybe it was done for disc space reasons, although with the number of quality deleted scenes given here I would have rather had some of the other extras in standard definition instead. Oh well.
Next up we have "The Making of Incredible" (29:54, 1080i), your standard documentary that shows how the film came to be. "Becoming the Hulk" (9:22, 1080i) focuses on Norton’s role as Hulk, while "Becoming the Abomination" (10:16, 1080i) shines the line on Roth’s Abomination. "Anatomy of a Hulk Out" (27:50, 3 parts, 1080i) shows the progression of the Hulk sequences in the film, while "From Comic Book to Screen" (6:33, 1080p) is an animated comic book of the original comic story that inspired the cave sequence with Hulk and Betty. Oddly enough this is also in the U-Control area, which is strange as hell because when you access it while watching the film it literally stops the film and plays this extra. Seems like kind of a waste.
That wraps up our extras and strangely enough there aren’t any trailers or anything included here. Odd, but not a huge disappointment—they’re readily available online anyway. Overall this is a jam packed release of a highly entertaining film that comes Highly Recommended. I really dug this movie a lot more than I thought I would, which isn’t a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.