Review - 'The Incredible Hulk'
One of the most underrated films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in my opinion, is Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk. I don’t understand why people are so inclined to sweep this one under the rug. Is it because it came out in the wake of Iron Man and can’t help but come off as inferior? Or is it because Edward Norton turned out to be a one-and-done? Who Knows.
The Incredible Hulk follows Bruce Banner/Hulk (Edward Norton) who has secluded himself in Rio de Janeiro where he tries to control his condition and find a permanent cure. Thunderbolt Ross (WIlliam Hurt) is hellbent on taking him down and through a mishap at Banner’s work, is able to track him. When confronted by Ross and his squad, Banner is forced to retreat thus kicking off a cross-country chase spanning from Brazil to New York City.
For me, The Incredible Hulk is a lean-and-mean experience and a pretty great chase film with a sincere, understated performance from Edward Norton, who is, in my unpopular opinion, a better Bruce Banner than Mark Ruffalo.
The Incredible Hulk is a well-structured monster movie, almost in the vein of the classic Universal films and King Kong. Leterrier wisely keeps the Hulk shrouded in darkness during his first appearance, which amps up the excitement for the big reveal later on. The movie is also no slouch when it comes to ramping up the action as things go along. The first action beat in the bottling plant is an exciting tease for things to come, and it actually has elements of horror that really make you understand why the Hulk is such an imposing and unstable force to reckon with. Over the course of the film the action spills out into larger arenas, putting on full display the devastation that the Hulk is capable of, and what happens when more evil entities get their hands on the serum that originally turned Bruce Banner. The culminating fight between Abomination and Hulk is a knock-down-drag-out slug fest filled with creative and brutal exchanges and is everything a Hulk movie finale should be.
The cast is also great. Edward Norton is an excellent Bruce Banner/Hulk; he is fully committed to the role and really seems like he is exploring how emotionally and physically taxing it would be to be afflicted by a serum that makes you “hulk out”. Tim Roth also plays a convincing and formidable villain. His turn as abomination is a little rushed, but still convincing. Liv Tyler plays Betty Ross, she turns in an earnest performance and her unflinching love for Bruce seems genuine, she also has agency of her own, which is always nice seeing as how so many love interests come off as disposable in films like this. Finally, William Hurt strikes a convincing figure as Thunderbolt Ross, a cut-throat general that will stop at nothing to take down Bruce Banner.
I suppose if I really had to criticize The Incredible Hulk I would say that there’s nothing truly exceptional about the film and I can’t particularly call it a memorable movie, it’s just solid. It comes in, gets the job done and then leaves. There are some inspired moments, but nothing that gives the film its own identity.
Overall, The Incredible Hulk isn’t one of the best films ever made, but it gave me just about everything I needed out of a Hulk film, and I honestly don’t know how much of it i would change to make it better. I suppose a little more color would have helped, it is a bit of a grey movie and doesn’t have a distinctive style, but that’s more of a nit-pick. As far as action films go, it’s an impressive accomplishment and it’s a shame Edward Norton wasn’t able to reprise his role in later movies.