Review: The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk

I skipped The Incredible Hulk in theaters because I was fully expecting to be disappointed, but my son really wanted to see it and Iron Man was unexpectedly good, so we picked up the DVD and I was pleasantly surprised.

Ed Norton isn’t as dynamic an actor as Robert Downey, Jr., unlikely to carry a blockbuster superhero movie on his own shoulders, but he brings the right level of intensity to the Hulk’s conflicted alter ego, Bruce Banner, that combined with some precision casting — and, according to several rumors seemingly backed up by many of the DVD’s bonus features*, exerting influence far beyond his own character — makes for a movie that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Tim Roth and William Hurt shine in their roles, and Liv Tyler manages to escape the confines of the cliché “female interest” as she and writer Zak Penn (who takes an impressive step forward from Fantastic Four and X-Men: The Last Stand) make her character work as the emotional centerpiece of the story.

It’s a well-paced action movie with just the right dash of drama — many of the deleted scenes featuring psychiatrist Dr. Samson are deservedly so — and the CGI Hulk and Abomination are even more impressive than last year’s Transformers triumph, especially their final battle which is arguably the best balls-to-the-wall fight scene put to film in recent years.

There are a couple of nods to Iron Man and the new shared universe Marvel Studios is creating with their most recent films, and while Hulk is unlikely to get another solo outing any time soon, the prospects for the upcoming Avengers movie suddenly look pretty good. Hopefully the cast will include Norton, but as Marvel proved with the surprise dumping of Terrence Howard in favor of Don Cheadle (I’m conflicted; like Howard, loved Cheadle!, they’re unpredictable, and Norton has been quoted saying as much:

“The minds of Marvel are sometimes opaque… I won’t say [they’re] obtuse, but I don’t have any idea what they want to do.”

If the Hulk doesn’t appear in the Avengers, will he be replaced by the Ghost Rider…?

NOTE: The bonus features on the 3-disc DVD are a bit light — and unless you’re watching movies on your computer or iPod, the 3rd disc is useless — and barely meet the minimum expectations for a 2-disc set, but watching them (and they are worth watching) leaves no doubt about the stories of Norton’s being heavily involved in the creative direction of the movie. There are several references to “Louis and Ed” throughout that make it pretty clear that he could have legitimately been credited as co-Director, if not co-Writer and co-Procducer.

PS: For those looking for Captain America’s cameo in the unused alternate ending, Film School Rejects has the screen capture that’s almost impossible to make out with the naked eye if you don’t know exactly where to look for it.

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