For a while, it felt like I was the only person really excited to see The Incredible Hulk. While my statements regarding the flick centered around, "It should be tons of fun, even if totally derivative,â€ everybody else replied with, "That looks like shit; the Hulk looks cartoony as hell.â€ Not that I could blame them, reallyâ€”based off the trailer and early clips leaked online, the CGI seemed more like old-school Nintendo than Wii. Yet still, I stood by the green monster. Edward Norton is the star, and he can do no wrong in these eyes (pause). Liv Tyler, the soft-spoken hottie that she is, is totally in my good graces now after the kick-ass The Strangers (if you didn't like it, Fuck Youâ€¦sorry, had to get my Ricky Bobby on there). And, it couldn't be worse than Ang Lee's arthouse-gone-wild take on the character, 2003's deservedly crucified Hulk, could it?
Well, my friends, you can collectively pat me on the back, because The Incredible Hulk is a winner. Not a full-fledged, Iron Man-like winner, but very good times, nonetheless. The rumor mill loudly spoke of Norton's frustrations over Marvel and Universal trimming some of the character-development fat off the movie, making it a leaner, faster-paced popcorn joyride, and that's evident in the final product. While it's far from mindless, it's a film totally dependent on the execution of its many action setpieces. Sure, Norton plays Bruce Banner quite nicely, but the way director Louis Leterrier (the eyes behind the Transporter series) paces this, Norton's performance is second fiddle. And, really, with a summer blockbuster, could you be mad?
Much of the dialogue is beyond cheesy (particularly about 80% of the lines voiced by Tim Roth, who plays the fight-first/talk-later soldier who becomes Hulk's villain, Abomination; I wish I could remember an exact quote, but the lines were so lame that they completely left my mind once action commenced). And being that Banner is a serious, conflicted characterâ€”miles away from Iron Man's Tony Stark, who carried his movie more than the action due to Robert Downey Jr.'s scenery-chewing charismaâ€”The Incredible Hulk tries for moments of comedy, all which seemed forced (save for a funny moment when, trying to speak in Portuguese, Banner fumbles the Hulk's signature line: "You wouldn't like me when I'mâ€¦hungry. No, that's not right.â€).
But, again, this is still one helluva good ride. There's three major action moments, the first being my favorite, set within a dark warehouse in Brazil, with Hulk being seen more in shadow, giving it a slight horror element. The showstopper, however, is the final 20-minute deathmatch between Hulk and Abomination on the streets of Harlem. It's here, specifically, where the CGI work here shinesâ€”this could very well be the best superhero fight scene of all time, and is where this outdoes Iron Man for a moment (Iron Man's final showdown was super-wack, admit it).
Bottom Line: Ignore the bad pre-buzz surrounding The Incredible Hulk, buy a ticket this weekend, turn your brain down a few levels, and have a good time. Especially if you're a comic book junkieâ€”there's at least a half-dozen nerdy touches for you to bask in (hints toward Captain America; the conception of The Leader, Hulk's longtime top nemesisâ€¦or was his name The Brain? Whichever; and a not-so-subtle foreshadowing of The Avengers).