« Watch the Incredible Hulk Trailer Now! | Main | Louis Leterrier says fans can expect 70 MINUTES of Additional Footage on the INCREDIBLE HULK Blu-Ray DVD! »

The Incredible Hulk Review (SPOILERS)

Disclaimer

Whether or not you enjoyed 2003's Hulk (and for the record I did) is irrelevant to your enjoyment of (or not) The Incredible Hulk (2008). The Incredible Hulk (2008) is an entirely different beast, and has about as much connection to Hulk (2003) as Universal's Frankenstein (1931) has with Hammer Film's Curse of Frankenstein (1957); although both films are based on the same character and share much of the supporting cast, they are completely independent of one one other and exist in their own universe.

End Disclaimer

With that disclaimer out of the way, what is relevant to the enjoyment of The Incredible Hulk (2008)? Good question! Are you a fan of:

The Incredible Hulk comic book series?
The Incredible Hulk TV series?
The various Hulk animated series?
The Hulk: Ultimate Destruction Video Game?
Action/Adventure, Comic Book, Drama, Horror or Sci-Fi films?

If you are not a fan of any of these, sadly, you will probably not enjoy this film. But, if you enjoy just one of the items listed above, you will love this film!

The Incredible Hulk is a film based on Marvel's character The Hulk. Although the film is not based on any particular comic book, television show or video game, it does incorporate elements from all three genres, resulting in a very satisfying, pulse pounding 1 hour and fifty-five minute romp!

The film begins with a credit sequence that economically shows how Bruce Banner became the Hulk and brings us up to speed in regards to his current situation. Sitting in a chair very reminiscent to the one Bill Bixby's David Banner was sitting in when he subjected himself to an accidental overdose of gamma radiation, the experiment goes wrong and Bruce Hulks out. His love interest, Betty Ross is hurt in the ensuing rampage, cementing General Ross's (Betty's father and project leader) hate for Banner/Hulk. The credit sequence goes on to show that Bruce is now on the run, and through the clever use of newspaper headlines, how "Green Sasquatch" sightings are being reported all over the globe.

With the credit sequence now over, Banner now finds himself living in a favela (the Brazilian equivalent of a slum or shanty town) in Rio. He is trying to rid himself of the raging beast within, and is getting help from a mysterious Mr. Blue via an encrypted chat server. After yet another failure, Mr. Blue convinces Banner to send him a sample of his blood so that he may be of more help.

At about the same time, General Ross learns the current whereabouts of Banner and assembles a covert black ops team to take Banner in. This team is lead by one Emil Blonsky, a career soldier. Born in the Soviet Union but raised in England, he is currently on loan to General Ross via the British Armed forces.

What follows next is one of the most spectacular scenes of the film, and it's all real, no CG in sight.

For those of you that may be put off by the use of CG in the film, get over it! It's 2008 and the reality of the situation is that just about every film currently being released contains varying degrees of CG. The key to convincingly incorporating CG into a live action film is to only use CG when it is absolutely necessary. And when you are dealing with two 10-12 feet tall, monstrously proportioned, heavily muscled characters, CG is a must. But other than the exception of the Hulk and the Abomination, the rest of the film is green screen free. And the film is better for it.

Back to the favela rooftop chase scene; It is a pulse pounding, balls to the wall action sequence featuring Blonsky and crew chasing Banner over the rooftop slums of Rio. Casino Royal's opening chase scene in Madagascar was good; The Incredible Hulk's opening chase scene in Rio is better. Much better.

This scene leads directly to the second Hulk out (the credits being the first). The change occurs in the cover of darkness and is very evocative of the initial appearance of the Xenomorph in Alien. The Hulk is portrayed as a frightening, menacing creature lurking in the dark and snatching victims before anyone knows what is going on. The Hulk also speaks for the first time here; a very low, guttural "Leave me alone". But he is not left alone, and destruction ensues. When the Hulk finally does step out of the shadows we get a very clear look at his face. This is a weary and weathered Hulk; you can get the sense that he is tired of running, tired of being pursued, tired of being provoked. The CG is flawless; THIS is the image that should have been released as a high resolution wallpaper. The face is very reminiscent of a Sal Buscema/Bob Larkin Hulk and is intimidating/menacing/powerful.

When we next see Banner he is Guatemala, courtesy of the Hulk. While Banner begins the long trek back to the States in attempt to rid himself of the Hulk, General Ross fills Blonsky in on who/what Banner is and goads him into undergoing an experimental process first created in the early 1940's, codenamed Super Soldier. Blonsky is then injected with a low dose of a serum created by one Dr. Reinstein, whom comic book fans should recognize as the scientist responsible for transforming Steve Rodgers into Captain America. Marvel is definitely laying the foundation for their "Cinematic Universe" and fans will find these other easter eggs quite satisfying.

What happens next? Well while this is intended to be a spoiler filled review, it's not meant to be the Cliff's Notes version of the film and I'm not going to give a scene by scene breakdown.

But from this point in the film the plot is firmly established; Banner is back in the States looking for a cure and General Ross is in pursuit, determined to capture and weaponize him. Along the way Blonsky's mental state rapidly deteriorates as he seeks even more power than what Ross has already given him while Banner finds out that trusting 'Mr. Blue" (Samuel Sterns AKA The Leader) was perhaps not the best decision. All of this leads to a final showdown approximately 20 minutes in length that takes place in Manhattan between the Hulk and the Abomination. It is a fight that puts Iron Man's fight with The Iron Monger to shame, both in terms of ferocity and excitement. You get the sense that either the Hulk or the Abomination could take out both Iron Man and Iron Manger in just a few seconds. Speaking of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk features Stark Tech throughout (the sound cannons WERE AWESOME!!) also similarly features a great epilogue scene, hinting at the coming formation of an Avengers team.

In summary, The Incredible Hulk is a fast paced, pulse pounding, action film. The majority of the characters are well thought out, developed and NOT one dimensional. There are nods to both the comic book and television series, and perhaps just as importantly, to 2005's Hulk Ultimate Destruction video game. The CG is almost perfect; the Abomination's CG is consistently good throughout and the Hulk looks great in almost every scene. The CG Hulk particularly shines during the cave scene with Betty, as he convincingly displays a wide range of emotions, and is perhaps my favorite scene of the film.

Which brings up an important point; though The Incredible Hulk IS a fast paced, balls to the wall action film, it IS also, at it's core, a love story between Bruce Banner and Betty Ross. Huh? Not macho enough for you? Get over it.

TV show fans, why was Dr. David Banner searching for a way to tap into the hidden strength that all humans have? Oh, yeah, that's right, he couldn't save Laura, his wife, from a burning car and as a result became obsessed with gaining the power that he lacked that fateful day.

Comic book fans, who is the one constant in Bruce's life, the one who grounds him, gives him a reason to go on; a purpose? That's right, it's Betty! And in film, just like in the comics, it's Betty who gives the Hulk a reason to persevere and fight on.

Bruno