This is the second film to be released based on the Marvel comic book series The Incredible Hulk about scientist Bruce Banner who becomes infected with gamma radiation and turns into a hulking green monster when he gets angry. It´s a much more entertaining movie than Hulk, the 2003 Ang Lee directed effort which was somewhat ponderous and a little too arty. This time around it´s action packed entertainment all the way with some great references to the comic and the television series which ran from 1978 to 1982.
The background is quickly dealt with during the opening credits as we learn how Banner became the hulk and we pick up with him hiding out in Brazil and working frantically to find a cure for his condition. The insane General Ross is hunting Banner hoping to weaponise his abilities and he recruits Major Emil Blonsky, a mercenary badass to lead the extraction team. Banner is working at a bottling plant to make ends meet and when he cuts himself and a drop of his blood lands in one of the bottles the government are able to track him via a cameo by Stan Lee as the unsuspecting chump who drinks the supercharged hulk juice.
A small squad of soldiers led by Blonsky descend on the ramshackle maze of the favella where Banner is hiding and cue an excellent chase sequence which ends with Banner losing his temper and hulking out. He quickly smashes the troops with ease and makes his escape. Since Blonsky is battered the General decides to even the odds by giving him spinal injections so that he will develop some power to enable him to face the hulk in battle again.
Banner works with a scientist back in the US and his true love Betty, the daughter of the General, to try and cure himself but when Blonsky loses the plot completely the only hope of stopping him ends up being his raging alter-ego.
The script is pretty sparse and the situation is revealed with the minimum of fuss so that director Louis Leterrier can focus on the impressive action sequences. His direction is very effective and the pace pulls you along. The CG is superb and this is definitely the closest the comic book hulk has ever come to being realised on screen. Story wise it is probably more faithful to the television series than the comic book but I was a big fan of the television series so that´s no bad thing. There´s even a cameo from Lou Ferrigno as a security guard and he does the voice for the hulk.
The cast is excellent, Ed Norton can turn his hand to anything and he makes a convincing Banner, Liv Tyler was good as Betty, William Hurt did his best to bring some emotional depth to his clichéd baddie general (this is based on a comic after all) and Tim Roth is superb as the snarling combat obsessed Blonsky. There´s also a nice turn from Tim Blake Nelson as the scientist who helps Banner work towards a cure.
There´s no doubt this is pure entertainment all the way so don´t see it if you expect any real depth or drama. The typical Hollywood plot points were a little grating and the romance between Bruce and Betty is somewhat dull. It is also typical of them to create another even bigger hulk type baddie for him to fight but this is standard Hollywood convention (the Iron Man film was exactly the same).
Whatever the flaws as entertainment this is top notch and by the time he uttered the immortal words "Hulk smash!" in the big spectacular end fight I was grinning. A small appearance from Stark (Downey Jr.) at the end set things up for a sequel or crossover film of some kind, Avengers perhaps?
The Incredible Hulk isn´t particularly clever and apparently Ed Norton was displeased with the final cut, he wanted a slower and more considered movie. While I wouldn´t complain if they stuck an extra fifteen minutes of character development into this the studio clearly had Ang Lee´s effort fresh in their minds and were determined to keep this light and fun with the focus firmly on action. Still what is here is so well done that it´ll entertain most people and if you want to chill out and watch something non-taxing this is perfect.