Thursday, June 19, 2008

Incredible Hulk: Smashy Smashy

What is weird about The Incredible Hulk is that it's not a relaunch, reboot, or a "requel" as it's been called, in suspect to "make up for" Ang Lee's 2003 version (which has its own batch of weirdness). What we got here is just another in a long line of Hollywood trends: turning and old TV show into a movie. This latest version of the Hulk doesn't even try to hide its roots in the Bixby series of days past, it's a flat out continuation. In some ways it's disappointing, namely the origin. I always though the Hulk had a great origin for film, but that's yet to be adapted at all. As has been noted in other reviews such as at The Beat's, the Hulk's origin is told in an opening montage that likens to a flashback, for a movie that never existed.

But going in with low expectations, as I did, has its advantages. The movie isn't that bad-- I was fairly entertained. I don't think it has the impact of Iron Man, but there is plenty for any action film aficionado or comics reader to like. Almost too much, I can't imagine someone who knows nothing of the Hulk following more than the broadness of the story. What I felt was that the fanboys finally got everything they could want from a comic book movie, but at the expense of having it be anything more than a by-the-numbers adaptation.

There is tons of "Hulk Smash." It's close to Transformers in the wanton destruction of property department. And you know, it's fun to watch the Hulk go all aggro and rip cars in half and throw tanks around. A nitpick of mine is that this movie had the Hulk use shrapnel as weapons more often than not, which to me is a transparent translation of things to make into toys, but whatever. Hulk doesn't need accessories, Hulk has fists!

So while it's neat to watch the ridiculous CG money pit Hulk against Abomination, what I missed was any attempt to actually define what the Hulk is and its relation to Banner. A huge part of the comics, when it was at its best, was the turmoil of Banner dealing with the Hulk actually being a part of himself, a gamma-born psyche that fights to be set free without limits. The movie treats the Hulk more as an unwanted super power that Banner is afraid to unleash not because of what it represents, but for the superficial damage it does. Maybe I am asking too much from the new wave of comic book films.

As for the Hulk itself, he's just a big, nice, expensive CG animation that bounces around and hits things. He doesn't have the pathos of Gollum nor the subtlety of Yoda. Sure they try to hit you over the head with their attempt at that in a couple scenes, but it's lacking. Strangely Abomination has more personality, due likely to his extra non-human deformities. Though I must say I am extra critical in this department, and for all intents and purposes 'ol Jadejaws is a commanding presence when roaring in full theater surround sound.

Clearly after Iron Man and now The Hulk, movies are the new Marvel. Which makes me wonder why the Fantastic Four movies are so awful. Talk about needing a reboot!

BONUS! Hop over to io9 for a look at some concept art of Hulk and Abomination. "Frankenstein Hulk" would have been awesome!

The Hulks that Almost Were

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