The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Louis Leterrier

Edward Norton - Dr. Bruce Banner
Liv Tyler - Dr. Betty Ross
Tim Roth - Emil Blonsky
William Hurt - General Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross
Tim Blake Nelson - Dr. Samuel Sterns
Ty Burrell - Dr. Samson
Paul Soles - Stanley

Genre - Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Science Fiction/Comic Books

Running Time - 113 Minutes

After getting Dr. Bruce Banner's (Edward Norton) transformation into the Incredible Hulk due to high levels of gamma radiation through an experiment, we find Banner in Brazil working in a factory that bottles beverages. Brazil is Banner's hideout, as he's evading the search made by the United States Army, led by General 'Thunderbolt' Ross (William Hurt) - who the experiments were conducted for. After some of Banner's radioactive blood accidentally is ingested by a customer who bought a tainted bottle from the factory, Ross sends a squad to go after him, led by the power-hungry Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth). Even though Banner had tried to suppress his anger with many techniques to keep his alter-ego in check, the ambush on him pushes him over the edge and into The Hulk, who can't be stopped by bullets or any other military weapons. Banner manages to escape, realizing he needs to go home in order to find a cure for his 'disease'.

When Banner returns to the States, he hides for a while until reuniting with his lost love, Dr. Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) - who also happens to be 'Thunderbolt''s daughter. Even though she tried to move on from Banner's incident and disappearance, she still has feelings for him and goes along to help him find a cure. Betty's allegiance with Banner paints 'Thunderbolt' into a corner - as he wants to protect his daughter while attempting to stop Banner from spilling any secrets that will hinder his plan to use gamma radiation as a weapon. Realizing that he needs someone special and strong to stop Banner, 'Thunderbolt' decides to inject Blonsky with some special super soldier serum that turns Blonsky into something of an Abomination.


- A new direction. The character of Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk has been a part of pop culture since his debut in 1962. Not only is he one of Marvel Comics' most popular comic book characters, but the character has starred in multiple cartoons and the insanely popular television show starring both Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno as Banner and The Hulk respective from 1978-1982. The same cast also starred in three television films in the late 80s through the early 90s.

In 2003, the character was finally given the big screen treatment with Ang Lee directing Eric Bana as Bruce Banner and Jennifer Connolly as Betty Ross. While THE HULK was a decent success, it wasn't the blockbuster studios and audiences were expecting. It's a shame because I'm probably one of the few who didn't mind the more character driven and introspective version of the character, although I do agree that the film should have had more "HULK SMASH!" One day I'll discuss this film in more depth, as it's one that will spark a debate in comic book fans.

Realizing that THE HULK wasn't the most fitting movie for their powerhouse character, Marvel decided to buy the rights of the characters for their own studio feature that would later tie in for this year's THE AVENGERS. Hiring TRANSPORTER 2 director Louis Leterrier and signing intense actor, Edward Norton to star in the lead role, 2008's THE INCREDIBLE HULK was meant to act as a reboot for the character in a more action-filled and traditional comic book manner. And while it made pretty much the same as Lee's 2003 film, most fans prefer THE INCREDIBLE HULK due to its energetic and fast paced style.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK is a mix of THE FUGITIVE meets DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, with its chase narrative and the drama Banner struggles with as he attempts to keep his moods in check. While the story doesn't have much character development, especially in terms of the supporting characters, it makes up for it by presenting what the fans want - The Hulk smashing stuff and kicking ass. There's no origin story here, besides what's presented in a cool opening credits montage, so the rest of the film is allowed to present something different - or retro, as it's pretty similar to the structure of each episode of the television show [which I'm sure was intentional]. We see Bruce trying to find a cure, the military attacking him, The Hulk is unleashed due to Banner's anger over his situation, The Hulk kicks ass, and it repeats with slightly different variations. Nothing really wrong with that, to be honest. It's what most of us would expect out of a Hulk film, so I can definitely dig the narrative.

is mainly focused on Banner, as it should be, so he obviously gets the most depth. His struggle to get rid of the monster rather than control it is a great drama plot device. We watch him do meditation. We watch him avoid any sort of confrontation. We even see how sexual activity effects him in a negative [and interestingly human] way. Banner is obviously a victim of his experiment gone wrong, wanting to do the right thing by laying low, but can't due to outside forces wanting him found dead or alive. The cat-and-mouse chase between Banner and General Ross is great because it gives both characters personalities and something active to do. Ross wants the Hulk contained for his own selfish reasons [he doesn't want his part in it exposed while wanting to create more of The Hulk as a personal army] while conflicted over protecting his daughter, who has feelings for Banner. Betty is more of the stereotypical girlfriend role, but she has enough spunk to be something besides the generic damsel-in-distress. I thought the love story aspect was typical, but still worked due to the chemistry between Norton and Tyler. All three characters present a cliche dynamic that becomes interesting when one of them is really two people in one.

And then we have Emil Blonsky, who manages to be a formidable foe for The Hulk. With or without super powers, Blonsky manages to keep The Hulk on his toes and finally gives the character someone powerful to battle against. I thought Blonsky didn't have much of an arc, other than he wanted to be like The Hulk due to his power, but it's great to see him evolve from a proud soldier into a genetic freak known as The Abomination [one of the Hulk's greatest villains]. Add in Dr. Samuel Sterns [who later becomes The Leader], and you got a good Hulk flick here. The story isn't perfect and follows the template we're already used to, but it's what the fans wanted and that's fine by me.

- The acting. None of the acting is spectacular, but it gets the job done. Edward Norton [who also co-wrote the film under a different name] does well as Bruce Banner. He brings a level of sympathy to the character in a very realistic and natural way. Plus he's a pro at the action scenes as well. It's a shame he wasn't asked back to play the role in THE AVENGERS, but Norton wasn't exactly proud of this film's final cut. I'll get into that shortly. Liv Tyler does what she can as Betty Ross. She doesn't get a whole lot to do, but she has nice chemistry with Norton. William Hurt is a bit bland as General Ross [I thought Sam Elliott was a lot better in the 2003 film], but he didn't do a terrible job as a whole. Tim Roth hams it up as Emil Blonsky. I love it when he plays a villain and he played a nice foil to Norton. Tim Blake Nelson almost borders on annoying as Dr. Samuel Sterns, but he isn't in the film long to get to that point. Ty Burrell is just there as Dr. Samson. And the cameo by Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark is fantastic and a great way to tie the Marvel Universe together. Not the best acting in a superhero film, but they made the most out of the material.

- The direction. Louis Leterrier is a director who is more style than substance, but it works well for THE INCREDIBLE HULK. His visual style has a ton of energy and the action sequences are very impressive and exciting. The pace of the film is quick, as it just builds and builds towards it's action-packed climax. The editing is a bit iffy at times [some shots seem to be cut before they should be], but Leterrier does a great job keeping the film visually stimulating and watchable. A definite departure from Ang Lee's style, but one that seems to fit the franchise a lot better.

- The "Lonely Man" theme. In a great homage to the television show [besides the cameo by Lou Ferrigno and the short TV clip of Bill Bixby], the "Lonely Man" theme that played during the end of the show plays every once in a while as Bruce Banner tries to find a new place to hide. It's just a nice touch of respect by the filmmakers that made me feel all nostalgic.

- Not enough depth. While it's great that THE INCREDIBLE HULK has a narrative that enhances the action stuff, the film could use some more substance when it comes to certain characters and situations. Betty Ross doesn't really have much to do and is really just there for the love portion and to show people that someone can calm down The Hulk. Nothing more, nothing less. Betty is an interesting character because of her relationship and devotion to Bruce Banner. More scenes with her father would have been nice to really explore their relationship. Also, why did Betty forget about her relationship with Dr. Samson all of a sudden once she laid eyes on Bruce again? It was like it never existed, even though the two seemed more than chummy. It feels like something was edited out there. Very weird.

General Ross also had his inconsistencies. One moment he wants Bruce/The Hulk dead. Then he feels bad because Betty is in love with Bruce/The Hulk. But then, he uses people in her life to rat on her whereabouts to find Bruce to shut him up. He'll attack areas without question, even though it could kill anyone around him. You're never really sure what the guy's real deal is. He's so conflicted in terms of his actions, that he ends up coming across as confusing and not realistic. They either needed to make Ross a real bastard who didn't care who he was hurting as long as he achieved his goal in stopping The Hulk, or he's a concerned father who's doing his best to protect his daughter and everyone else from what he considers a threat to himself and others. The middle doesn't really work here.

I thought Emil Blonsky, while a cool villain, was a bit one-note at times. He seemed to be about just one thing [power] and that doesn't really make for an interesting character. Also, what was up with the dude who drank that contaminated bottle? What happened to him after he ingested the beverage? Did he become Hulk-like as well? It just seemed to disappear. I also thought the last shot was pretty lame too. It seemed to contradict with the rest of Banner's goal.

Apparently, a lot of the narrative misfires was due to conflicts between Edward Norton and the studio. Norton, under the name Edward Harrison, added lines of dialogue and extra scenes during each day of the shoot to accommodate for his character and the plot devices around him - about 30 more minutes worth [and the film is already too long at 113 minutes]. Norton took out the characters of Rick Jones and the presence of S.H.I.E.L.D., while adding scenes involving the flower that proved to be a failed antidote. A scene involving Captain America trapped in a block of ice was also deleted. The edits made, due to what the studios wanted, angered both Leterrier and Norton because they wanted a longer film that would create more character development. But when the studios wanted a film less than two hours, Norton decided not to really promote the film during the film's release. Whether the case, you can tell some sub-plots were shortened or taken out entirely as you watch the movie. It doesn't really hurt the film in a really terrible way, but it would have been interesting to see what a longer cut would have looked like.

- The CGI. Now I understand that both The Hulk and The Abomination have to be CGI effects because of the characters' looks. But at least make the special effects look as close to realistic as possible. Did I like the final battle between The Hulk and The Abomination? Sure. But it's kind of hard to take seriously when I'm watching two computer generated characters beat the crap out of each other, while CGI helicopters try to shoot down one of them. But like I said, I understand why it's used and it's better than the CGI used in THE HULK. But it just looks so obvious compared to its surroundings, making it seem funnier than what's probably intended. From what I've seen, the CGI in THE AVENGERS looks much more realistic - so applause for improvement. It looks as good as it can, I guess. But even some of the locations look computer generated. I'm a fan of practical effects, but the CGI isn't totally terrible. But it's somewhat distracting at times. Still, it's better than watching a bodybuilder covered in green paint kicking ass. It may have worked in 1978, but it wouldn't have in 2008.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK is a flawed film, but still manages to be entertaining and very watchable nonetheless. The character development could have been better. Some of the continuity is questionable. It could have been ten to fifteen minutes shorter. But there's a lot to like, especially Edward Norton's performance, a simple to follow narrative, energetic direction, and a nice homage to the television show. It's not as good as IRON MAN and/or THE DARK KNIGHT, both of which were released the same year, but still manages to be good popcorn entertainment.

3 Howls Outta 4


  1. I actually personally liked this movie more than The Dark Knight! haha! Well, that is to say I find this more enjoyable than TDK (which is still great, of course).

    I wonder how Mark Ruffalo will do as Bruce Banner and the Hulk in The Avengers. I can't see him in the role, but I'm sure he'll be cool!

  2. We'll agree to disagree about the two films. I think THE DARK KNIGHT was a much better film than THE INCREDIBLE HULK. And I prefer Marvel movies. Still, the comic book films from 2008 were all pretty solid from what I remember.

    As for Ruffalo, I won't judge until I see him in the role. I do think Norton should have been let to continue the role, but I guess the studios felt he was too difficult to work with. But from what I've read, The Hulk and Ruffalo are highlights in a very awesome AVENGERS movie.

    1. I'm sorry to be dropping this question here, instead of the Puppet Master (part 1) review, but I'm hoping I may get a quicker reply here. Does anyone know the name of the beautiful piano/musicbox piece Toulon is listening to in the first 5 minutes of the film?

      Mad props and a thousand blessings on anyone who knows! It's a famous melody, everyone's heard it, but I can't get the name or composer...

    2. Never mind dawgs. I figured it out--It's Brahms' Waltz No. 15. Beautiful little tune...


Related Posts with Thumbnails