Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Incredible Hulk

When it comes to media outside of comic books, The Hulk have never had much luck. He made his television debut on the syndicated cartoon The Marvel Super-heroes in 1966. Unfortunately, the animation on the series was shoddy at best. And while many have fond memories of the Seventies series The Incredible Hulk starting Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, I must admit I never cared for it myself. The 1982 animated cartoon The Incredible Hulk was acceptable by Saturday morning standards of the time, although obviously the censorship of the era somewhat limited the violence on the cartoon. The 1996 cartoon The Incredible Hulk started out well, but faltered in its second season. The 2003 movie, Hulk, directed by Ang Lee, it was a bit of a disappointment for many, being thought far too slow moving and containing too little action. When it came to a quality adaptation, it seemed that the Hulk was overdue.

Fortunately, with The Incredible Hulk, fans of the Marvel Comics character have received the adaptation for which they have longed. Not only does The Incredible Hulk capture the feel of the classic Marvel Comics, but it is also one of the best adaptations of a comic book character ever made, ranking up there with both Spider-Man 2 and Iron Man. Much of the reason it succeeds where other adaptations have failed is that it has a script (written by Zack Penn, who also wrote the second X-Men movie that is intelligent but contains plenty of action. And any concern about Louis Leterrier being an untested director should be laid to rest with this film. He clearly has succeeded where the much more experienced Ang Lee had previously failed.

Of course, the movie also succeeds due to a stellar cast. Edward Norton is perfect as the much put upon Dr. Bruce Banner, making the scientist seem as if an everyman with which we can all identify. William Hurt and Liv Tyler also due well as General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross and his daughter, Dr. Betty Ross respectively. Kudos must also go to Tim Blake Nelson, who is perfectly smarmy as Dr.Samuel Sterns (if you are a fan of Marvel Comics, you will no doubt recognise the name...).Tim Roth is also appropriately sinister as Emil Blonsky. The cast take Penn's already superior script and bring out the best in it.

What will make the movie even more enjoyable for comic book fans is that The Incredible Hulk acknowledges the character's history. When General Ross mentions a "super soldier" programme from World War II, long time Marvel Comics readers will recall the origin of Golden Age character Captain America. Stark Industries is mentioned in the film, as is S.H.I.E.L.D. The film also features in jokes and cameos which acknowledge the history of the characters and Marvel Comics in general. Hiding out in Brazil, Dr. Banner tries to say the classic line, "Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry" from the TV show in Portuguese, with hilarious results. At one point Betty Ross buys Banner a pair of purple pants (which Banner constantly wore in the comics books), which Dr. Banner rejects out of hand. Early in the film a clip from the TV show The Courtship of Eddie's Father appears on a TV screen, featuring Bill Bixby, who would play Dr. Banner in the Seventies series. Not only does Lou Ferrigo, who played The Hulk in the same show, have a cameo, but he provides the voice of The Hulk. Stan Lee has his usual cameo in the film, this cameo being the best besides the one in Iron Man. Even Robert Downey Jr. puts in an appearance as Tony Stark himself.

Of course, where Hulk failed is having too little action. This is hardly a problem with this movie. There is action from nearly the beginning in The Incredible Hulk, as we get to see The Hulk battle the Army and other opponents. Many of the fight scenes are very impressive, particularly the final battle in New York City. The CGI in this film is extremely convincing, with The Hulk looking extremely realistic and able to express a wide range of emotions.

Over all The Incredible Hulk is very fine adaptation of the comic book. It is intelligent and possesses plenty of action, while paying homage to both the character's past and the history of Marvel Comics as well. It is easily another film of which Marvel Comics can be proud, easily ranking up there with Iron Man and Spider-Man 2.

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