Marvel does it right again.
Director: Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, Unleashed)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images, and brief suggestive content.)
What I Expected: Ed Norton commanding an excellent film adaptation of The Hulk.
What I Got: An excellent film adaptation of The Hulk.
Appeals To: Hulk fans; special effects buffs; anyone looking for a good, story driven action film.
Not too long ago, I spoke of how Iron Man shattered everything I came to expect of a Marvel film – focusing on the art rather than the character value and becoming a true medium where art and literature collide on a live-action performance. Now that Marvel has taken command of production, their movies have transcended the popcorn-value of the average summer blockbuster and achieved true cult status among comic fans and movie aficionados. With the release of The Incredible Hulk, we get to see Marvel continue its trend.
I’ve discussed this movie in parallel to Iron Man with a home-based movie club I formed, and the general consensus was that they liked Iron Man a little better. While I can understand the sentiment, I have a modified angle on that: Iron Man was a little more fun to watch. Where Robert Downey Jr. had full command of his character and artistic liberty, Edward Norton’s character has much less freedom. To its credit, Iron Man‘s source material is probably more for a Hollywood summer film than The Incredible Hulk‘s source material. That being said, you shouldn’t come in expecting Iron Man, because this is The Incredible Hulk; they are two different characters, two different themes, and thus they are two entirely different movies. At first, I generally agreed, but in taking the time to think about it, I love each of these movies equally for their own reasons – it’s like comparing a drama and a comedy.
However, when you compare ounce by ounce the quality and love poured into the films, they really stand side-by-side. For example, Jon Favreau was selected for both his knowledge of the Iron Man comics and his pedigree in comedy films; with Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, it’s obvious that Iron Man needs to have a sense of humor, especially thanks to his somewhat current-epochally-sensitive origins. Likewise, it seems to me a no-brainer that Marvel chose Louis Leterrier to direct The Incredible Hulk, a man who has directed three action-packed movies based on the writings of Luc Besson, the mastermind behind the character-driven action classics La Femme Nikita and Léon/The Professional.
And, Leterrier, I profess my love for your talent with the subtle green motif used throughout the film. Everybody knows The Hulk as a green beast, and as such, he uses the color to unify visuals throughout the film. While it is used for many critical story elements and important objects, it is also used many other places, such as in beverages and the rich landscape. While it is certainly not to the same effect as Zhang Yimou’s rich use of saturated colors, it certainly reminded me of his technique, and if a director uses a technique that reminds me of another director, that shows he’s doing homework.
If that’s not enough homework for you, have no fear. The Incredible Hulk has many nods to fans of the comic and the classic TV show. Let’s just say that cameos have become a critical part of the definitive Marvel movie, as they play Where’s Waldo through the movie as they did in Iron Man.
Now, you may notice that I didn’t give much credit to Edward Norton in the “What I Got” section of my primer. He doesn’t do a terrible job; in fact, he does a fine job as Bruce Banner, and I wouldn’t have asked for anyone else in that position. I suppose it’s a minor nod to Fight Club to cast him in that role, but in the end, Banner is Banner, and the focus is always on The Incredible Hulk, who in this movie is played by a computer-generated image which is voiced briefly by Lou Ferrigno. While I credit Norton, Liv Tyler, and William Hurt for their performances, Tim Roth easily steals the spotlight as Emil Blonsky, whose light-toned British accent borrowed from Pulp Fiction adds a palpable chill to his crazed soldier role. By now, Marvel needs to realize that no matter what, they are going to cast the perfect person to play each role.
As with Iron Man, the actors and actresses play their roles consistently. Without spoiling anything, even The Hulk and his nemesis behave differently, showing different tiers of advantages and handicaps; while his opponent has more command over his lucid thoughts and knowledge of conventional weaponry, The Hulk has more experience with his condition. Every other character also has their set motives and desires, and their characters play consistently to them.
What I really liked about The Incredible Hulk – even moreso than Iron Man – is the way The Incredible Hulk builds up. While it was appropriate for Iron Man to keep a steady pace throughout the film, for The Incredible Hulk, the buildup is entirely necessary because it helps you sympathize with the Hulk and love him. There were steadily paced action sequences through the movie, and while they were mostly predictable, many were applaudable, even if modestly. The buildup pays off in the climax was worth every heart-pounding, bone-breaking, building-shattering moment, and if you went to a weekend showing, you will be screaming and hollering.
Marvel continues to shatter the limits of what defines a summer movie, pandering to the causal audiences, the comic-book gurus, and the film sages. Though The Incredible Hulk is being released as a summer blockbuster, it’s pedigree makes it a deeper, character-based film that all audiences will enjoy.
~ Setsuna Setsunai