The Incredible Hulk Review
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After seeing Ang Lee’s perplexing take on the Marvel comic The Incredible Hulk in 2003’s Hulk, I didn’t exactly jump up and down when I heard that Transporter 2 director Louis Leterrier was going to give it another try. Still, this one was supposed to be bigger and better—with all kinds of summer blockbuster action—so I was willing to give it a chance. But, as it turns out, I would have preferred some kind of happy medium.

This time around, The Incredible Hulk stars Edward Norton as mild-mannered scientist Bruce Banner. The latest retelling doesn’t waste any time in telling the background story—about the experiment that filled Banner with gamma radiation, which turns him into a giant green beast whenever his heart rate is elevated. Instead, Leterrier assumes that the audience knows the story and the characters, and he picks things up a few years later.

  
 
Banner knows that his contaminated blood could be used as a powerful weapon—and that the military would love to get their hands on it—so he’s hiding out in Brazil. He works in a bottling factory during the day, and he spends his free time searching for an antidote. But when General Ross (William Hurt) discovers Bruce’s location and sends a team of soldiers to capture him, Bruce decides that it’s time to head home—back to his lab, where he might be able to find some answers. There, however, he’ll have to face his former girlfriend, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), who’s long since moved on and found someone new. He’ll also have to face the General’s new attack dog—power-hungry military man Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth).

In the beginning, The Incredible Hulk presents an interesting character with an interesting story. Norton’s Banner is a sweet guy who just wants to be normal again. He doesn’t want to be a monster—so he practices meditation to keep him from transforming into the Hulk.

But, unlike Ang Lee’s thoughtful Hulk, The Incredible Hulk focuses less on the story and more on the action—and that’s both good and bad. On one hand, the bulked-up action will make it more of a fanboy favorite. But since I’m not much of a fanboy, I couldn’t help but wish that Leterrier had focused just a bit more on the story—because, in the end, it seemed as though very little had happened. Sure, there’s plenty of action, but when the action picks up, the story pretty much falls away. And when stuff started blowing up, I didn’t know enough about the story to really care all that much.

Of course, the distracting CGI didn’t help, either. The CGI Hulk looks more like a cartoon than a mutated human being, and I was thrown off time and again by the little things—like the Hulk’s black hair, as opposed to Banner’s brown hair. I could never tell exactly how big (or how intelligent) he was supposed to be, either. At times, he was a little bigger than a normal person. At other times, he was a massive beast that could stomp across thousands of miles without batting an eye. Sometimes, he could speak in sentences—but, later, he could only muster a “Hulk…smash!”

Okay, so maybe I’m over-analyzing things a bit. After all, this is a summer blockbuster—not an award-season drama. But while The Incredible Hulk is good for a bit of summer fanboy fun, those who prefer to have their explosions served up with a side order of story will leave the theater feeling less than satisfied.


DVD Review:
If you’re thinking of picking up a copy of Louis Leterrier’s high-energy version of The Incredible Hulk on DVD, you’ve got a couple of options. Superfans can choose the three-disc collector’s edition, packed with every extra under the sun. Or, for everyone else, there’s the stripped-down, single-disc standard edition.

The standard DVD offers just a couple of extras: six deleted/extended scenes and a commentary with director Leterrier and actor Tim Roth. The deleted scenes were definitely deleted for a reason—because they’re not all that interesting (unless you’re interested in watching Edward Norton running or William Hurt overacting). The commentary, however, provides plenty of interesting tidbits about the cast, the locations, and more.

In the same way that I would have preferred a happy medium between Ang Lee’s deep, thoughtful Hulk and Leterrier’s high-energy, low-story version, I would have preferred a happy medium between the feature-loaded, three-disc special edition and the fairly featureless standard edition. I’m a sucker for a good making-of feature, so I would have liked to see a feature or two on the standard DVD. But for those who really don’t care to watch hours of extras, the standard edition will do just fine.

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