Josh Finally Watches ‘The Incredible Hulk’


I’ll warn you right off. You’re not going to like this. If you’ll remember correctly, apparently I am the despiser of fun, and mirth flees from me, terrified of my grim countenance.

This was the summer of comic book movies; a summer where I was featured in several interviews as something of a comic book expert, talking about these movies, and what they meant to comic books in general. I saw them all. Well, I saw them all except for The Incredible Hulk.

Going over the checklist, there should have been no reason to avoid it. I like Ed Norton a lot. I don’t think Liv Tyler is a very good actor, but I love her nonetheless. I have nothing against Louis Leterrier (like that charlatan Ratner). I was on a high off Iron Man, released a few weeks earlier. Tim Roth, Bill Hurt, and Tim Blake Nelson have all made me smile a lot in the past. And I didn’t even really hate that last Hulk film all that much, because I admired what Ang Lee was attempting, even if it wasn’t ultimately successful.

But really, the thing I can’t seem to get past is that, no matter who or what is making the attempt, I just don’t care about the Hulk. I never have. Unfocused rage and raw power just don’t float this boat. Maybe it’s because it’s the opposite of intellectualism, but try as I might, I can’t get into The Hulk.

But hey, when we plant our flag in the sand and refuse to experience, we die a little inside, right? So I said that when the DVD shows up, I’ll give it a spin, and go in there with a clean slate.

I’ll start with what I liked about the movie. I think the cast was strong. Ed Norton was a good Banner. He was driven, intelligent, but vulnerable and scared, yet ultimately brave. He’s never acted badly, so that obviously wasn’t a concern. He’s also rather slight in build, so it makes a nice contrast to the giant Hulk. It was certainly a better physical fit than Eric Bana, but it should be noted that I am a huge Eric Bana fan, and really loved his performance in the first Hulk, and many other movies. Still, this is a new day, and you can’t really beat Ed Norton. Liv Tyler is not the best actor in the world, but she has a certain quality that almost forgives that, in that I tend to want to like her, so I give her the benefit of the doubt, even if she doesn’t necessarily deserve it. William Hurt is a guy who I just like whenever I see him, and I think it’s a credit to his performance that I saw his name in the opening credits, but didn’t realize that’s who he was until the end. Either he’s excellent, or I’m an idiot. This is one example where, no matter how well he did, I still prefer Sam Elliott, but that’s my own personal preference, and it should take nothing away from Hurt. Finally, Tims Blake Nelson and Roth are both favorites of mine. In fact, there are really no weak links in this cast at all, which is a good indicator of how important these Marvel movies are.

Obviously, the story was really much stronger in delivering what people expect from a Hulk movie, remaining exciting, and not really dumbing things down so much that they’re insulting my intelligence. But then, it’s been proven that Hulk fans didn’t want an artistic exploration. Well, no one really did, so hence the reboot we got. I think it was a very good idea to skip telling the origin, and set us up after the fact. No one needed to see the gamma bomb/radiation experiment/lightning bolt/random story device told in any more detail than what we got. I like the idea that we didn’t have to waste time with all that setup, and we can get into the world of the characters already in motion. The story spanned the world, and ended up inย  New York City, which is a fine nod to the heart of Marvel Comics, and felt appropriate and in the spirit of Jack Kirby and Stan. Then again, as someone who lives here, I found it funny that they wrecked Harlem and not midtown. Finally, the villain was a believable supervillain, that works within the confines of the story, and who was actually significant and scary.

Overall, the film was solid, not offensive, and pretty much what you could expect. The problem is, that bored the hell out of me. Like I said, I’m not a Hulk fan, and never have been, so when you take away all that Hulk moments, and winks and nods to the fans, I was left with a very plain movie.ย  It was vanilla without the little specks of real vanilla that make vanilla good. It just was. It was home cooking when mom doesn’t know how to season. It was a diversion. It was just a bit plain, and it relied on its legacy to spice things up. But if that legacy does nothing for you, the movie doesn’t really either. Where Ang Lee went too far with his experience on the previous Hulk movie, the 2008 version didn’t do enough in my opinion.

Let’s talk about those nods and winks, by the way. I’m getting super sick of them. Where many comic fans feel like they’re getting the attention they deserve from filmmakers. It started with Stan Lee’s cameos in all the movies, and hey, they’re fun, so whatever. But then it’s constantly saying to the few small fans out there “Hey, we know! We see you! Look!” I am getting taken out of movies more and more often. So, while it’s lovely to put Lou Ferrigno in a scene, the only thing that did for me was to rip me out of it, and say, “That’s Lou Ferrigno,” and roll my eyes at the extremely irritating phenomena that certainly took place in theaters when at that moment, thousands of times over, geeks who knew that special factoid, turned and whispered the special easter egg to the person sitting next to them. When you think about the audience out there, does it really make sense to make a joke about purple sweat pants? I’m just getting tired of everyone trying so frequently to be cute and clever, and it’s just getting old.

The last thing that really bugged me, and this might be a completely subjective position, was that I didn’t think the Hulk looked that good. I thought CGI had come further than this, and it didn’t feel like a significant leap from the Hulk we saw in the previous film. One of the great problems with CGI has always been the connection with the ground, and whenever you look at the feet of most standard CGI characters, it doesn’t really look like they’re on the ground. I kept seeing it the Hulk floating slightly above the ground. But more so than that, the Hulk’s movement just didn’t feel organic. It felt like the over exaggerated flowing movement we saw in the earlier days of CGI, or even motion capture from an actor who was just overdoing it. I’m not sure what it is, but I wanted less of the flowing, dramatic dance-like movement. I know it can be done better, because I saw Peter Jackson’s King Kong, and once the standard is set, you just can’t go backwards.

At the end of the day, this just wasn’t a movie for me. Despite my nitpicks, it wasn’t a bad movie, but it wasn’t really a particularly good movie either. It just was.ย  If you’re the kind of comic book reader who gets excited about this kind of thing, then you probably loved it, and I know there was no shortage of you. But now, about 5 months after the release, people are still talking about Iron Man and The Dark Knight, but we’ve already left The Incredible Hulk behind as just one more movie that was okay.

 

Comments

  1. man i get where you are coming from with all this! i personally loved it! i liked it better than ironman but im not an ironman fan, complete opposite to be exact! but i just took the movie as is and i enjoyed both ironman and the hulk!i like the deriction they are taking all these new movies! they keep leaking information and making us all wonder who is going to play thor and captian america! it’s a lot like a comic book! i do enjoy some of the comic geek jokes like i thought the purple pants was funny! but Lou and stan were both in the first one why do that again! As for the CGI thing i didnt really notice if it was bad i like the way the hulk and abomination looked and i thought thier fight was really great! i think you might have looked a little too much in to the movie but we all have our opinions and are entitled to them! just next time you go see a comic movie just go in exspecting nothing and you’ll get more than what you payed for!

  2. I agree with the comments about the CGI Hulk, it wasn’t convincing at all. It would’ve been more realistic to just paint some tall ripped guy bright green!

     

  3. I expect a lot of the ifanboys to buy Josh Hulk-related gifts for Christmas!  I have to ask:  have you read Peter David/McFarlane/Keown/Gary Frank run on Hulk?  It’s… incredible!

    I just rewatched it and liked it a whole lot better the second time around.  The best part of the movie was the beginning as far as I’m concerned, and I wasn’t too impressed with the CGI either.

    Lou Ferrigno missed a con appearance to do that scene, so we should show him a little respect for his sacrifice.  He hasn’t missed a con in 22 years.

  4. I attempted to watch this movie twice. I passed out for nice refreshing naps both times.

  5. Josh I’m sorry to tell you this but you are the despiser of fun sometimes.  It’s almost as though mirth flees from you terrified,  so as to find shelter from your grim countenance.  Or you thought the movie was just okay.  
  6. @kimbo – like in a political election, there is no in between.  There is only love or hate, terrorist or patriot, love or hate.

  7. There’s a way to handle the Hulk in a great movie that I don’t think we’ll ever see. If you think about the real world you (presumably) live in and think about the Hulk, that thing is f***ing terrifying. He has a seizure and wakes up a rabid bulldozer? Jesus! They need to treat Bruce Banner like that other Bruce, the shark in Jaws. He is not the hero of the story, not really. Comics are one thing and movies are another. You can’t make the whole movie from the shark’s point of view, not if you want the monster to have the weight it needs to be effective.

  8. I really enjoyed the Incredible Hulk movie when I saw it in theaters…I haven’t watched it since though.  Maybe it wouldn’t hold up to multiple viewings.  But I can definitely say that I was enterained by this film.  That wasn’t the case for me with the Ang Lee one!

  9. @jimski – See, it could be the greatest monster movie ever.  I think the Ultimates approached this with their Banner.  The Hulk is scary as shit, but they have to turn him into the hero over and over, and I just don’t buy it.

    And no, I never read the Peter David Hulk run.  I wasn’t around for it, and now it just seems like too much to go back for.

  10. I have the same reaction to Liv Tyler.  I just want to like her or root for her, in spite of acting.  I don’t think she’s bad, per se, but I think what works is some charming quality and not her acting choices or appearance.  She just seems genuine.  

    I think the question of intellectualism is interesting though.  There’s obviously an anti-intellectual draw for "unfocused rage and raw power" but I don’t think it’s as simple as all that.  You stressed that a lot of this is just your subjective opinion on the concept, and that’s completely respectable.  But my take on it, if you’ll hear me out, is that it isn’t just dumb fun.  Or it doesn’t have to be.  The concept of the Hulk can be a compelling intellectual story.  It’s the loss of control, the loss of intellect.  It’s scary.  The Hulk isn’t so far removed from the Frankenstein story.  The greatest fear for a person who’s got it together, smart and focused, is to drop the reins and have everything run away from him.  I think the idea is a sound one, but like any good idea, it’s open to some really inane interpretations too.  Hulk has the potential to be a big, dumb action story, or a really thoughtful, thinking man’s horror story.  

    I enjoyed the movie and don’t think it’s all that big a drop from Iron Man.  I think both had their flaws.  I agree with those you pointed out.  

    Also, Bill Heverchuck was in this movie.  Automatic win.   

  11. i really dug this movie – but i’m a fan of the character.  i actually felt that it was giving as many nods to the old tv show as it did to the comics – which i thought was really cool.  but i can see how if you ‘re not a fan of the character, you wouldn’t enjoy the movie.  

     hey – at least you gave it a shot – and you did ultimately have some positive things to say.  i know some folks who dismissed it right away and continue to take shots at it without having seen it.   

  12. That DVD cover is truly Atrocitus.

  13. Very fair review. I was sick of being the only person who wasn’t a huge fan of this movie.

  14. You’re just telling me what I already know. Try squeezing in something I can disagree with next time. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. As good as Peter David’s Hulk was, and I did love it long time, it wasn’t this Hulk. Put out a Hulk movie where he’s gray or chatty and see what happens. The public will start mailing Ang Lee apology cards first thing Monday morning. I don’t think, in eleven years, David ever wrote the "Hulk Smash!" Hulk for more than a couple pages.

    The character is definitely a case of "garbage in, garbage out." It does not have to be a dumb story. Issues of intellect and self-control and primal emotion put a lot of meat on the bone; whether that meat gets grilled, sauteed, or just used for stock is up to your scribe.

    I’m looking forward to seeing all those deleted scenes that got under Ed Norton’s skin to see if they blow my mind.

  16. I found it to be a very entertaining movie, simple as that.

  17. I enjoyed this one more than Iron Man, but like some others, I’m a bigger fan of the Hulk than Iron Man. My only problem, and it really is minor, is the appearance of the Hulk – anyone know what those slashes across his upper chest are supposed to be? Other than that, great opening sequence in Brazil, nice Hulk-out moment in the middle, and great fight at the end – finally, FINALLY, a Hulk movie where he hit something.

  18. when my girlfriend and i watched this she said "i didn’t know Aerosmith’s daughters in this? i hate her." i thought it was so funny that, from now on i will only refer to Liv Tyler as Aerosmiths daughter ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. I think that where the Hulk is flawed is in, wait for it, the Hulk himself.  This Hulk is completely unbelievable, whether it be his movements or CGI floatieness, he always seems out of place.  The rest of the cast was excellent, but when you have a movie called The Hulk, you expect him to be the most bad-ass but loveable thing in the movie, not some poorly rendered mess.  I think that the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park looked more believable than this.  Great review Josh.

  20. yeah the sinews on the Hulk and the brown coloration mixed with that muted green made him look like a plant more than monster to me half the time.

  21. i thought the first one was better only because what they did with the origin. i know the hulk, not his full history but enough to know what i like from him. the new hulk was just action action action which is cool to look at  but i just needed a little more substance to keep my attention.

  22. If you were bored by this, you must have been unable to awaken from the coma Ang Lee’s abomination of a movie induces.

  23. I thought the film was great and it delievered everything on what the Hulk was. I can see your view Josh and I can agree with it on all fronts. But the fact is that since you arent a fan in general of the character, you werent gonna be blown away by the film anyways. But it can be somewhat boring at times, but still the there are more good scenes then bad and I walked away from this film being happy.

    But I can see your point on these ‘nods and winks’ that Marvel has been doing. It was fun at first cause it was just Stan Lee making an appearence. But in this film, there are just too many cut aways or gags on either the comics or the original TV series. It didnt effect me as much on my first viewing, but after seeing it again on DVD it definitely got annoying. At least with Dark Knight, the nods we’re a bit hidden and didnt detract from the story. But if we have to focus on Lou Ferrigno or purple pants then it detracts from the overall story to much.

  24. JOSH!  You left out the most important comments:   What did you think about the Special Edition podcast?

  25. I watched this with my wife about two weeks ago (neither of us had seen it previously) and after the movie she turned to me and said, "That wasn’t as good as Ironman or TDK, but it was damn good."  I have to agree.  Those two movies raised the bar for what a comic book movie could be, but Hulk is still a very solid peice of entertainment (in my opinion) that would have been in my top two or three all time favorite CB movies if Ironman and TDK hadn’t come out this year.

    Infinitely better than the previous Hulk film.

  26. i didnt really like it that much either

  27. @Tad – I thought it sounded really good, quality wise, and they had well formed ideas about what they liked and didn’t like about the movie.  Basically having the same complaints that I did, but not letting that get to them in enjoying it.  I thought Paul’s points were excellent, but he should have piped up more.  That was also a really long time ago.

  28. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @josh – I had planned to talk more on the show, but before we started recording Conor said, "Do NOT embarrass me! Eight sentences and no more!"  

  29. Liv Tyler is terrible.  She delivers the same performance in all her roles, coupled with that ubiquitous blank stare.  Wasn’t her voice dubbed out in the Lord of the Rings film? That alone speaks volumes.

  30. I think you guys should do a "Terrence and Phillip" episode where there are three random people doing the podcast without explanation then the next week go back to business as usual without even mentioning it.  Great idea for an April Fools podcast.

  31. @k5blazer – No, that was her voice in LORD OF THE RINGS

  32. Glenn Close dubbed Andie McDowell’s voice in "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan" but that’s the only big name occurence of such a thing happening.

  33. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Aunt Beru was dubbed in A New Hope.  

  34. I meant to put "…that I’ve ever heard of" but was suddenly stricken with laziness.

    Wow, I didn’t know the crispy twins had names.  Should I have known that?

  35. "LUUUUUKKEEE!  LUKE?"

  36. Spielberg should have added an aunt and uncle massacre scene to New Hope.  Now that I could get behind.

  37. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I’ve been staring at that joke for several minutes and i still don’t get it.  

  38. That is one terrible cover for the DVD:

    ‘HULK SAYS I’M THIS BIG!!!!’

  39. It’s not really a joke I’m just bloodthirsty.  Watching Luke’s relatives get torched is much more fun than watching Jabba getting his tail stepped on.  Star Wars would be better as a hard ‘R’ movie if you ask me.

  40. But you said Spielberg.  Are we just denying Lucas’ existence at this point? 

    Most gruesome scene in all Star Wars movies is C3PO piling charred jawa bodies on the flames.

  41. Oooohhh!  My geek card just got cancelled.  Getting Lucas and Spielberg mixed up is very bad form.

  42. I didn’t enjoy this movie at all. So… yeah.

  43. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @josh – I’d pit the scorched Anakin at the end of Episode III against the Jawa corpses, but if we’re only counting the real Star Wars movies, I agree.  

  44. Josh SMASH!!!!!!!!!!!

  45. The seminal Hulk run for me was Bannerhulk, Peter David and Dale Keown’s alchemy that was the essence of good comic booking at Marvel in the 1990s. It’s tough to find another run that "meant" something, especially because this strayed so far from the original concept… but there it is. Try making a movie about that. 

  46. I agree with your assesment Josh.  The CGI was a step backwards, and I only find it re-watchable in the action sequences.

    I also preferred the Hulk’s devasting power realised as in the Ultimates, and more so in Azarello’s Banner. 

  47. Well rumor has it that the Avengers movie is going to be Hulk vs. Avengers.  We’ll see.  I’d love to see Iron Man hook up to a lamppost and blast the Hulk.

  48. I didn’t really like this movie, but it was better than Catwoman and Punisher.

    But Josh, how did you enjoy the special edition podcast? The crew did a fantastic job (I listened to it before it released in Australia, much like the Hellboy2) 

  49. Please disregard last comment, or just regard it in the fact that I wrote it two hours ago, and just posted it then.

  50. nice review. i enjoyed the cast and was excited to see this movie. it wasnt too bad at all cept for the ending…not a huge iron man fan. better than catwoman. enjoyable i thought. wasnt a TDK but i liked it

    podcast was good also

  51. I didn’t really like the movie either and it was mostly the choices in direction. I cradled my head when the scene of Hulk fighting the hummers. Whenever they went to a wide shot you could see that they couldn’t spring for anything other than about 10 soldiers. I didn’t love the original but thought it was directed a heck of a lot better.

  52. Oddly enough, one of my biggest problems with the movie was that I couldn’t get over the fact that Ed Norton was too damned old for Liv Tyler. Ed Norton, to my knowledge, has never been bad in a movie, but I liked Eric Bana better as Bruce Banner.

    I agree that The Hulk isn’t interesting, as a rule. I went to see this movie mainly because I’m a Marvel zombie and I enjoy the Universe.

     

  53. @Diabhol: he’s only 8 years older than her; same age difference between my parents. are you to deny them, too, good sir? cuz then i’d simply cease to be, back to the future style. 

  54. I thought it was just a pretty standard flick.  3/5.  There’s nothing truly great about it and honestly the part I enjoyed the most was Robert Downey Jr. popping in to remind me how much I enjoyed IRON MAN.

    Also, I know Liv Tyler is attractive and all but would his heart rate REALLY speed up that much when he starts kissing her?  Total nitpick but it bothered me none the less.

  55. I feel like the book Banner, or a concept like it, is what a Hulk movie needs to be. Perhaps that is just because it is the only time I care for the character at all. I don’t want to see Hulk reconcile with his Banner half, I want to see the two halves try and kill themselves/each other. Obviously, things still work out in the end but in a very different way. 

    Regardless, the movie that was ACTUALLY made wasn’t bad. I pretty much agree with Josh. Don’t like the character than an otherwise enjoyable movie just seems bland. That’s how I felt. 

  56. @leland222 – If he’s been on his own for 5 years, and hasn’t had any physical contact, and he’s totally in love with this gorgeous girl?  Yes, I’d say that would pick his heart rate up quite a bit.

  57. I’m just going to say it: Josh hates fun

  58. I think I beat you to it in the first paragraph.

  59. Watching it again, I think most of my issues with the movie was A.) Hulk felt too growly and King Kong-ish (which I guess is the point of the character, but still I was annoyed) and B.)  Elliot’s Ross was far superior to Hurt’s Ross in both acting and writing and I’m sad Elliot didn’t come back.  It’s a good movie I enjoyed but there were some flaws.

  60. I thought Hurt’s Ross was too cartoonish.

  61. I think my biggest issue with Ross was his motivations to duplicate the Hulk which is the complete opposite of his usual plan to exterminate the Hulk as a menace.  I think if Ross was being ordered by superior to capture the Hulk for duplication against his wishes, that would have worked more or if Ross was General Ryker instead.  Plus, Sam Elliot was perfect the last time (the only thing I liked last time around) and any other actor coming in would doubtlessly look silly by comparison.

  62. I watched it for the first time on the weekend and thought it was good for a monster v monster film. Plot was okay. Everything I have seen Liv Tyler in she has been very believable and this was no exception. The moment where she caught a glimpse of Banner in the kitchen was very solid. The Hulk isn’t my favorite character – my fav version of him is as the dumb Defender – but this is very watchable.

    Question: was the DVD ending the same as the movie version?

  63. @captbastrd,

    Liv Tyler was too young. Jennifer Connelly was the right age. S’all I’m sayin’.