Reel Features Ticket 06
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Oh, boy....I have very mixed emotions regarding these flicks as the Hulk is one of my faves from my childhood. I grew up watching the cartoons from the 80s and 90s and I'm a big fan of the Bill Bixby series from the 70s because it portrayed the character in a very believable and competent manner where you felt sympathy for the character and wanted to see him cured of his gamma-powered affliction. And I do like that Bix's iconic line of "you wouldn't like when I'm angry" was put into the 2003 movie. That's a very respectful nod.
After the advent of 2000's X-Men and the iconic 2002 film of Spider-Man, all eyes were turning onto what would be produced next for the the resurgence of superhero movies. I learned through a making of Spider-Man in 2002 that the Hulk was next. And I also found this out when seeing Spider-Man in June 2002 when they were showing trailer for next year's movies and this popped up.
This is what I feel modern Hollywood is lacking in so many areas with regard to trailers - less-is-more.
When you show little, you create an air of mystery, you get people thinking and using their imagination. Whereas today, trailers show too much, too quickly.
Such as the example above. Now, I will hold my hand up and and admit that I love the Jurassic Park Movie series wholeheartedly, but even I cannot defend the amount of details that get spoiled through this trailer alone.
The whole point of a trailer is in the same context of a review - you get given a slither, a look through a keyhole in order to entice yourself to either go watch the movie at the Flicks or to go purchase it on DVD or Blu-ray.
And with trailer today, you're not given a slither. You're given the whole pie or buffet that you're already full by the time you get to the Theater.
Phew. Tangent over with.
So, I went into the 2003 movie not knowing what to expect because this was not going to be the Hulk that I remembered from childhood. Sure, Lou Ferrigno made a cameo appearance, which is to be expected whenever you do any new adaptation of the character - you have to honour what has gone before. And it has to be said, in both Pictures, he looks to be in great shape.
The 2003's story takes a while to get up to the first transformation but it does get the audience invested in the character in seeing what kind of childhood he had and you see the kind of man he is an adult in that he's goal-orientated, has a sense of humour and cares about what he's doing with his research. That is fine. Because you have to care about the lead role in order to feel invested. The problem is with the lead role is that the lead actor is that Eric Bana has about as much charisma as watching paint dry. Now, for context - I happen to like Eric as an actor. I enjoyed his performance as Nero in 2009's Star Trek. But in this movie the material and direction he has to work with is just poor. It feels like he's not fully invested in what he's doing. The rest of the cast put in much better performances, notably Jennifer Connelly as Betty Ross who can not only act great, but she's also great looking too. Sam Elliott does well as General Ross as he displays actual emotion when acting his role out. With Eric it just either comes from a place of phoning it in, or just not believing in what he's doing.
The Visual effects are great and they hold up well for a movie from 2003 as the Hulk looks photo-real and reacts well with his environment with regards to light, shade and contrast.
The score is too Danny Elfman as I described in my review with me acting out my Retro and Modern selves because while Elfman is a good composer, he just seems to put in the same type of Score for most of his movies. If you look at movies like 2002's Spider-Man, Batman Returns and this movie, you hear similar patterns and notes.
The movie under performed at the Box Office making only $245 Million. A movie has to make $300 Million or more to be considered a hit, and when you see that it made $55 Million less than it's intended target, then it's not a hit.
There was word-on-the-wire for a few years of a sequel, but I don't think Universal would put money into a sequel where the original didn't make any profit. The movie industry is a business, like it or not. If the movie doesn't make any money, the Executives aren't going to green-light any sequels. It's like if your local store isn't getting any money from one specific brand of soda and they discontinue it from their catalogue. It might just be your most favourite drink but if it ain't bringing in the green - it's gone.
Time to hit the reset button
We wouldn't see another Hulk movie for 5 years until Universal and Marvel Studios teamed up to reboot the Hulk as the second movie of the MCU that would see Edward Norton in the lead role as Bruce Banner.
This was practically reenacting the beginning of the TV Series pilot with him in the chair being exposed to gamma rays looking for extra-strength.
What I find rewarding about Norton's portrayal is that you can see from his performance is that this is coming from a place of a fan that enjoyed the character as a kid and is approaching his role with respect - you see him acting out Banner's day-to-day routine in Brazil just trying to lay low and just have some semblance of a normal life after being on the run for a few years hunted just for being what he is.
The story even has elements from the TV series where Banner develops smarts in order to not be caught when instructing Betty not to use her credit card or turn her phone on because the authorities would be able to track them.
I did enjoy seeing the Easter Eggs in Lou Ferrigno cameoing once more as a security guard and to Bruce rejecting the purple stretchy track pants, which of course is a nod to the Hulk's attire from the comics and the 96 Animated Series, which is sorely underrated in my view.
The supporting cast in places leaves the movie feeling partially flat with Liv Tyler's Betty Ross and William Hurt's General Ross. This is where the vice-versa effect has taken place where 2003 had a lackluster story, with a poorly cast leading role, good effects and very good supporting cast. Whereas this movie has a very good story, great leading role, flat supporting cast and visual effects that leave a lot to be desired.
Liv Tyler cannot hold a candle to Jennifer Connelly's Betty Ross. While Liv does look like Betty from the comics I just felt her performance was phoned-in and lacking an conviction and the fact that she sounded like she was whispering most of the time didn't help.
William Hurt...where do I start? I got the impression that he phoned this in because this was a comic book movie. Visually he looks the part, but boy did he not bring it. The Studio would have just been better off paying Sam Elliott whatever he wanted to reprise his role as he actually cared about what he was doing.
Tim Roth I cannot say anything bad about his role because like Edward he actually cared about his performance. His role as Emil Blonsky impressed me as a soldier that was at the end of his career and was looking for something that would give him his second wind. It just so happened to involve genetic meddling that would eventually cause his transformation into a member of the Hulk's Rogue galley - the Abomination.
When you look into Roth's eyes as Blonsky you can see that he's investing his energy into this role. I firmly believe the eyes will always tell the story. The lips will say one thing but the eyes will always be the deciding factor. And he was enjoying his performance as a British Royal Marine on lone who was born in Russia. That and this was a clever way to side-step him not having to put on a Russian accent as the character had been known to have in the comics. That, and it's just more convincing for Roth to act this way. That's not to say he couldn't do the accent. But Roth needs to be Roth and he did that just fine. He maintains that he did this movie for his kids and he wanted to be cool for them when picking them up from School. And I believe that. I mean, who doesn't want to the hero of their kids, in their eyes? That's a beautiful thing. Good for you, Tim.
Visual effects when compared to the 2003 movie kinda takes a nose-dive as the Hulk himself doesn't really look any better than that of an Xbox 360 character. And when you consider that the 2003 movie had better CG compared to a movie that should look better considering the advancements and improvements in Visual effects technology is a worrying sign. That's not to say that it was awful, but it could have looked way better.
I do like in the beginning that the Hulk is shown sparingly - as a creature of the shadows. Although just saying that I'm now picturing the Hulk dressed in Batman's outfit asking people "where are the triggers?" Meme creators, have at it! You can have that on me.
But seriously, what this movie does right is that each time a transformation happens, you get more of a reveal of the gamma-powered hero until the fully reveal happens at the University where you see the design in full daylight taking on the army. It's like I mentioned earlier with regards to trailers - you show a little at a time to get people interested, to get their imagination going until they see the full reveal and their expectations are either met or are greater than their expectations.
What I do find clever is how Bruce is learning relaxation techniques in order to quell his anger and thus stopping himself from wreaking havoc as the Hulk by using his body to control his anger through breathing techniques as it's not just his anger that triggers these transformations. It's also his pulse-rate, adrenaline and if he happens to be in a romantic situation as he finds himself with Betty as they're attempting have a love scene and he hears his pulse going up with via his sports-watch and explains that he can't get too excited.
That's when you know it's really not fun to be Bruce Banner - you get Hulk-blocked.
The score this time around is much more pleasing with it enhancing the Hulk and action scenes that creates an air of suspense and uneasy situations because when Hulk is in a scene you don't know how it's going to pan out, aside from multiple property damages and unlimited repair bills for highway and building maintenance.
I love that the lonely man theme from the TV series was included when you see Banner making his way back to the United States through Mexico really emphasysing how all alone this man is and what his affliction has cost him from his career, his love and his happiness. Because it's not fun being Bruce Banner when he transforms back from the Hulk. It's the sense of "what has he gotten me into this time?" when he sees the carnage and destruction in the wake of him being made angry.
I was disappointed that like it's previous attempt at a Hulk movie, this under performed at the Box Office taking $263.4 million against a $150 Million Budget. Meaning that this cost $13 Million more than the 2003 offering and only took nearly $20 Million more. So this once again failed to be a hit.
Which as a fan was disappointing for me as I really wanted the Hulk to have some measure of success outside of the comics, cartoons and the TV show.
I enjoyed the 2008 movie more so than the 2003 version as I felt that this was a much more authentic Hulk that audiences could be content with from respectful nods to the TV show, comics and even name-dropping Jack McGee as a High School reported which is a reference to the role played by Jack Colvin.
In all honesty the 2008 movie will leave you wanting more whereas the 2003 flick will have elements that you enjoy but ultimately making you feel underwhelmed.
Hulk & The Incredible Hulk are available from...
Incredible Hulk (2008)
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