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2008 sure seems to be shaping up for a marquee year in super-hero flicks. Iron Man has kicked things off with an impressive bang; in one short month Batman pays us another visit to the big screen; the sequel to Guillermo Del Toro's criminally under-rated Hell Boy lands toward Christmas, and Marvel has just gone two-for-two with it's unveiling of an all new Hulk.

2003 saw the first cinematic outing of Marvel's famous green monster open to mixed responses critically and a lukewarm response from the public. This is not to say the film didn't make money, but the general consensus seemed to be no matter how unique a 'vision' its director conceived, the film simply missed the mark on the title character himself. People wanted the Hulk to SMASH, and what they received was a far more introspective story that took its time getting going. Also a divisive bone of contention was Lee's stylistic choice of multiple shot frames to create a living comic book.

The Incredible HulkSkip forward 5 years and ala Batman albeit with far less entries the Hulk creative team has been rebooted. A new director, new stars, and a very conscious attempt to listen to what the people want has resulted in Marvel's second crowd-pleaser in as many months. This Hulk film doesn't mess around with a slow build. From a very inventive 30 second origin rehash (ignoring or rebooting the original) the film quickly unveils itself as a rollicking chase movie, not unlike The Fugitive.

In The Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner is living in exile, and off the grid in South America, trying desperately to find a cure for his unique anger management problem. But General ‘Thunderbolt' Ross is still searching for Bruce in earnest, single-mindedly wanting to harness his accidental mutation for military applications. Of course it doesn't take very long before Banner is found, at the hands of a psychotic career soldier Emil Blonsky, and so begins the chase. When Blonsky discovers Banner's alter-ego, he asks for the same power to fight him... and of course that is a VERY bad idea.

Norton was the original choice for Bruce Banner in 2003 before Aussie Eric Bana was cast. The difference in the two is significant with Norton's Banner being far less a repressed and socially awkward character than Bana's. The struggle to control the monster inside remains the template on which both performances were based, but the framework of this film allows Norton to explore that in a far more economical way and not at the expense of the action something the original did not afford Bana.

The cast is filled with very talented performers. Liv Tyler replaces Jennifer Connelly as Banner's one true love: Betty Ross and William Hurt replaces Sam Elliot as General Ross. They are like Norton different interpretations, but are served well in the framework of this movie. Dependable on-screen bastard, Tim Roth makes for a deliciously watchable villain. His Emil Blonksy is a red flag character you know is going put the hurt on our good guy the moment he steps into frame.

The film is not without its faults. The CGI has been mentioned as one of these faults in several reviews, but honestly, how are you supposed to render an essentially human figure green and have it be real? The photo-realism is pretty good for this reviewer's money. Where the effects tend to slip up a little is in the final battle between the Hulk and a hulked-out Blonksy spectacular as they are, there are several moments where the animation seems more like a punch ‘em up video game, forgoing the laws of gravity or natural movement. But for the most part, especially in early scenes where a lot of shadow is employed, the effects work a treat.

French director Louis Leterrier has stepped into the big leagues with a very comfortable, clear approach of what he wanted the Hulk to be. It does have some stylistic homages to the 70's TV series but to be accurate they are like shots plucked from TV and hulked-out bigger and louder. Leterrier's Hulk is a chase movie, through and through, and definitely maintains its frenetic pace to the last frame. Some sacrificed character development and moments skirting dangerously close to plot holes result at this speed (IE Betty Ross's boyfriend gets lost in the noise) but are easily built upon/answered in the sequel they are obviously setting up.

Five years ago the people said they wanted an action-packed Hulk movie and Marvel has given you the director and star to deliver exactly that. Iron Man is going to be the super hero flick to beat this year, and The Incredible Hulk isn't gonna pull that one off, but it's a Hell of a lot better than last year's efforts, including Spider-man 3.

Component Grades
4 stars
3 Stars
DVD Experience
2 stars


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Language and Sound: English: DTS 5.1 HD; English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo; French: DTS 5.1 Surround; Spanish: DTS 5.1 Surround

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; deleted scenes; audio commentary.

* Commentary - feature-length audio commentary with director Louis Leterrier and actor Tim Roth
* Deleted Scenes (13:28)

Number of discs: - 1- Keepcase Packaging