Ho-ho-ho. Green GI-ANT.
It was excellent.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable melange of tight, character-driven emotion with bone crunching smashiness – even though the smashy really doesn’t come to a boil until the 2/3rds mark. In fact, you don’t even see the Hulk for a good forty-odd minutes or so.
Really, this is a film about Bruce Banner. In the first reel, we become intimately exposed to his life as a fugitive – his fears, his hopes, his struggle. We are led to believe that he is responsible for several deaths – after all, the Hulk is essentially a nuclear weapon trapped in the form of a mutated Jolly Green Giant.
o/~ Ho-ho-ho. Green GI-ANT. o./~
It will be impossible to talk about this film without comparing it to Ang Lee’s 2003 film about the same green-skinned Mr. Hyde character. This film. . . does not follow that film. I mean, it does in the sense that, yes, the 2003 film was an origin film, and the 2008 film is not, and it allows (rather than requires) the viewer to draw upon memories about that story (for instance, the film assumes that we know that Betty Ross is the daughter of the general – that isn’t explicitly spelled out until at least halfway through the film).
There is a reworking to the origin story and all of that is handled within (seriously) the first 20 seconds of the film rolling, during the credits. The origin reboot happens so smoothly that I felt almost that I’d been expertly and painlessly stabbed in the kidneys by a professional assassin and left for dead in a subway bathroom.
They pretty much do away with the “accidental exposure” origin and slid in a mishmash of the TV series (in fact, they use the same cool green laser machines). But this isn’t an origin story: seriously, the beginnings of the Hulk are probably the least interesting part of his struggle. The writers knew that – so they just ditched it. “Something happened to this guy and now he’s got an uncontrollable monster in him. Let’s move on to the good stuff.”
Lee’s Hulk is more of an art-house film. I personally think it is under-appreciated, and well done, but ultimately it is a bit of a surreal experience for all of the violent glory it contained. Lee’s film is a story about a man and his twisted relationship to his father, or something like that, and there were giant monster dogs, and . . . what? I don’t know. His dad becomes some sort of electrical monster? Or something? Who knows. It’s art.
However, The Incredible Hulk doesn’t mess around with that. It is a straight-forward film. That’s not to say that it is “dumbed down” in any way – quite the contrary. It is just based around a simple premise: a man with a curse is trying to escape his fate and prevent those he loves from being destroyed by it.
Norton is believable as Banner to me where Eric Bana was not. He takes all sorts of odd jobs and you can tell that he doesn’t belong there – he belongs in a lab. His face has a sense of urgency and his eyes have constant fear clouding in their blue irises. He (Norton) is able to project that same sense of constant vigilance that Bixby was able to pull.
Bill Bixby has a place in my Inner Shrine of Important, but not so much because of his role as the Green Fugitive. Rather, he starred in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, a little know sitcom from the late 60’s.
I know of it because the child actor, Brandon Cruz (later member of the Dead Kennedys, replacing Jello Biafra) is where my parents took my name from. My mother loved it. Hence, Brandon Bailey Harris (the “Bailey” part is a family name – I’m like the 12th Bailey).
(Bixby’s cameo in the film is a segment from Courtship, shown on the teevee at one point, dubbed into Portuguese.)
For the older fans, the movie is filled with homages and taps into many Hulk-tropes. Lou Ferrigno is in it, playing a security guard (again). Stan Lee. “Hulk SMASH.” “You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry.” (Yes. It makes sense.) We even get to see the birth of The Leader.
(You don’t have to sit through the credits: there isn’t a secret scene at the end. Just FYI.)
I was as enjoyable as Iron Man, though it has a different tone. In many ways, Iron Man was aware of its own comic-book nature. It wasn’t a hokey film, but it had its humor. The Hulk does not. The Hulk is a tragedy. There aren’t any heroes in this film: just flawed men and women trying to cope with what has become a force of nature.
And the smashy is excellent.