The first 20 minutes are pretty cool. A white man (Edward Norton) is hiding out in a City of God-like place. He is trying to develop a cure for a disease rooted in his blood. The military tracks him down and we are given a breathtaking, rooftop chase a la The Bourne Ultimatum.
But we all know what’s going to happen next, and in fact, once the Hulk comes out of his shell, we wish Norton would come back. As Bruce Banner, Norton gives yet another consistently thorough performance. No matter the genre, Norton has proved that he is one of our best living actors. His face full of complexity and turmoil, his believability stunning through his yearning for lost love.
The Incredible Hulk directed by Transporter vet Louis Leterrier has thrilling action scenes and solid performances, but it may not live up to the hype. Liv Tyler, her career getting a boost with The Strangers and now this, is a good match for Banner as Betty Ross. Her father, the general, played by William Hurt carries a convincing scowl, as does Tim Roth, who develops an envious hatred for Banner.
The effects are good, and the setting (like a college campus) is refreshing in its destruction. But the question everyone wants to know is if this Hulk is better than that other Hulk a few years ago. The simply answer is yes.
Ang Lee’s much more talkative Hulk suffered from okay performances and a comic-book narrative that never really paid off. It had its decent moments, but its flaws got the best of it. Similar to Leterrier’s version, because the third act of his film takes a turn for the worst.
I’m not sure what the hell is going on here, but once Tim Blake Nelson’s manic doctor gives Roth a little hulk boost, the film completely switches gears. It begins to doubt itself and resort back to clichéd action-film faux pas.
Much has been made about the controversy surrounding the final version of this film. Norton and Leterrier didn’t get the final cut they wanted (they wanted it longer) but the studio wanted something faster. I’d be curious to know how much of a difference the long version would make. Would it fill in those monstrous plot holes left by the third act? We’ll have to wait for a director’s cut DVD to judge.
The best part of this film is the cameos. Old TV Hulks Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno have spirited moments. But it’s Robert Downey Jr. briefly reprising his Iron Man, Tony Stark character that gets us excited. Watch the way Downey Jr. strolls into a seedy bar, lifting his leg up with an effortless, playful bravado. For a moment we’re reminded of his revolutionary performance a view months ago, and given a glimpse that there may be more to come. B-