Angry green giant

The Hulk denies having received steroid injections from Roger Clemens’ trainer.

The Hulk denies having received steroid injections from Roger Clemens’ trainer.

Rated 3.0

I am a big fan of Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003). Enough of this talk about how the Hulk was “babyfaced” and how the movie was boring. Hulk looked great during night and day scenes, and special effects artists did a nice job of integrating some of lead Eric Bana’s features into the big green guy. Yeah, I still don’t know what that ending was, with the big Nick Nolte bubble thing, but I don’t care. When Hulk soared through the air during his jumps—that was awesome.

Now we get The Incredible Hulk, a franchise reboot that doesn’t try to make you think (God forbid!), as Lee did with his effort. This is a more straightforward action pic, starring another great actor, Edward Norton, as the emotionally conflicted Bruce Banner. The movie is pretty much a take-it-or-leave-it affair. Not bad for a summer no-brainer, but definitely not the vast improvement over the prior film its producers would like you to believe it is. It’s pretty good, yet unremarkable.

The film starts in Brazil, where Banner has gone to chill out. He’s practicing some breathing exercises designed to keep his blood pressure low, and he’s counting the days “without incident.” He’s working in a soda factory, where he cuts his finger, contaminates a bottle, and winds up getting his potentially very-green-ass located by evil General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt). The army comes after him, and Banner gets angry from time to time, resulting in Hulk episodes.

Banner eventually makes his way back to the states and into the arms of Betty Ross (Liv Tyler, having, with this and The Strangers, a pretty good year). They play some sex games, but due to Banner’s propensity toward wrecking clothes and smashing things when he gets too excited, they can’t go past second base. They eventually find themselves on the run, chased by General Ross and nasty soldier Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth).

Blonsky allows himself to be injected with some Hulk serum. He takes a little at first and has a not too successful battle with the Hulk while looking like Tim Roth. After a goofy scientist (Tim Blake Nelson) gives him a whole lot more, he turns into a nasty looking thing that battles Hulk in the film’s final showdown. Roth usually makes for a good villain, and this film doesn’t deviate from the norm.

Norton is good. Hell, the guy is always good. Word around the Internet is that Norton is peeved over the final cut after a lot of his script additions wound up on the cutting room floor. Norton might be right to be a bit upset. The final movie zips on by with very little depth. Norton and director Louis Leterrier had something different in mind than the studio, and I imagine we’ll see it on some director’s cut DVD one of these days.

How does the Hulk look this time? Pretty cool, I guess. He’s uglier than the last time, and artists have done basically nothing to retain any of Norton’s features in the full-blown Hulk. I absolutely love that Hulk is voiced by Lou Ferrigno, who played the Hulk alter-ego to Bill Bixby’s Dr. Banner in the original TV show. (On the show, the character’s first name was changed from Bruce to David.) Ferrigno also makes a cameo, as he did in Lee’s version, as a security guard.

Other fun nods to the TV show include the light green eyes before Hulk transformation, the sad piano music that often accompanied Bixby as he walked alone, and even a clever cameo by the late Bixby. There’s also a fun play on that old “Don’t make me angry” saying.

So, as it stands, I like Lee’s version better than this one. Lee made a movie with some meat on it, and this one is the equivalent of a fun wrestling match with master thespians. I am in no way complaining about this. I had fun watching it, and I look forward to seeing it again someday on my Blu-ray player. I just hope Norton and his director get to tinker with it a bit. Hulk smash … and that’s about all he manages to do.