As I sat in the theater last night, waiting for the movie to start, eyeballing the five rows of fifteen year olds who I know would do nothing but piss me off the entire time, my friend leaned over and said, “I heard this one is supposed to be better than you think.” I remarked that it’s a sad state of affairs when we talk about movies in terms of how much they’re going to disappoint us. He said it was better to go in with low expectations and have those blown away rather than the other way around. I really can’t argue with that. Although I don’t think it was low expectations that made The Hulk so damn fun, it was just that Edward Norton and company put together a good movie.
The Hulk’s been around long enough that, even if you don’t read the comics, you still know the story. Dr. Bruce Banner, in a freaky-deaky science experiment, is bombarded with gamma radiation, which transforms him into a Hulk. An Incredible Hulk. Anyway, he’s strong really strong and always pissed off.
Because we already know the backstory, the filmmakers made a smart move by not going back over the Hulk’s origin. The movie’s kind of like a sequel to another movie that was never made, with Banner’s transformation being skimmed over in a montage during the opening credits. This is good for a few reasons: It allows the filmmakers to advance the story’s narrative a little further than they would be able to otherwise, and it doesn’t retread any ground from the other Hulk – the 2003 film starring Eric Bana (which I’ve never seen, but also have never heard anything good about).
Edward Norton does a great job in the role of Banner. The John Everyman trying desperately to control the powers he’s been stuck with. Starring alongside Norton are Liv Tyler (who I’m liking more and more these days) as Betty Ross, William Hurt as General “Thunderbolt” Ross and Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky, who transforms into baddy Abomination. All have nice resumes and work really well together onscreen.
The filmmakers throw out a few winks to the audience. Lou Ferrigno cameos as a security guard in a pretty funny scene with Norton. And Robert Downy Jr. shows up in the last five minutes as Tony Stark in a nice little bit of continuity that’s sure to make fans of Iron Man (and Marvel’s upcoming movie slate) wet themselves a little. Fans of the comic books with also recognize Tim Blake Nelson’s character, Dr. Samuel Sterns, otherwise known as The Leader. Judging from his last scene in the movie, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in a sequel.
Again, with disappointments like Spiderman 3 and The Fantastic Four (all of them, EVAR), Hulk stands up very nicely. I’ve heard the DVD is supposed to restore a large amount of cut footage, so that’ll be something to look forward to. As much as I liked this movie, it still wasn’t as good as Iron Man, so I can’t rate it that high, but it gets right up there. If you’re still one who gets giddy at watching superheroes onscreen, this is definitely one to check out in the theaters.
7.5 out of 10 stars