The Incredible Hulk Review: The Worst Bruce Banner Yet

Posted: 11/03/2013 in Movie Reviews
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By Keith Crandell Jr.


As the second movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Incredible Hulk had its work cut out for it. Not only did it have to try to get out of the shadow of its predecessor, Iron Man, but it also had to deal with Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk, to which it supposedly has zero connection. Edward Norton stars as Bruce Banner, a man on the run from the United States military after an accident during a lab experiment turns him into… THE INCREDIBLE HULK!

The Incredible Hulk is the model for how to handle weird crosses between reboots and sequels. It (somewhat) acknowledges the existence of Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk, plays around with it a bit, and then hits the ground running. The Incredible Hulk is by no means an origin story; the opening credits give us all the background the viewer needs. It establishes Banner’s relationship with Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), the accident which transformed him into the Hulk, and the decision by her father General “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) to hunt down Banner and bring him in. The movie did all this in the span of a few minutes, and it was brilliantly done.

Flash forward five years, and Banner is living in a gorgeous favela in South America where he works at a soda-bottling company as a part time janitor and electrician in order to fund his real work. In superhero movies, we almost never see a hero rejecting their abilities. Banner is not only rejecting them, but he’s trying to destroy the Hulk for good. Banner’s blood is full of gamma radiation which he tries to get rid of through numerous experiments and correspondence with a man known only as Mr. Blue. Knowing that he might be in it for the long haul, Banner also works with martial art instructors and monks in order to keep his anger in check, and to learn how to fight without transforming into the Hulk. This concept is very well done, and a huge change from traditional superhero movies.

Other than Fight Club, I’ve never liked Edward Norton. The Incredible Hulk is no exception. He doesn’t do anything wrong in his portrayal per se, but his acting just comes off as Edward Norton being Edward Norton. Tim Roth portrays Emil Blonsky, a middle aged Russian born but British trained soldier who is brought in by General Ross as part of a strike team to track and locate Banner. Roth steals the show in this movie as Blonsky, as Norton plays a very dull Bruce Banner, and Liv Tyler is way too sweet in her portrayal as Betty Ross. Though to be fair, Tyler’s character portrayal may have been intentional in order to fully portray the dynamics between Betty and the Hulk himself. Though Blonsky starts as a military man with a mission, an experimental dose of the Super Soldier Serum used on Captain America himself renders him with far greater abilities than a normal human being, and yet they aren’t even close to enough to help him take down the Hulk. Blonsky’s descent into power hungry madness is by the far the best part of this movie.

Banner and Blonsky’s story is both exciting and tragic. As Banner sees himself as a monster, but ultimately embraces Hulk in order to save lives, Blonsky starts off as a man trying to save lives and ends up turning into quite literally a monster. The final fight is exciting and much better executed than in Iron Man, to say the least. One of the weaker parts of the movie, however, is the special effects, and that’s unfortunate because, for the most part, Iron Man did them so well. Hulk himself looks pretty good, but some of the other effects are laughably awful. The Incredible Hulk doesn’t lack for humor, but some of it is clearly unintentional, but that might just be my own twisted sense of humor desperate for a laugh.


Blonsky confronts the Hulk

Wrap Up

The Incredible Hulk is full of good ideas, albeit ideas that will only work once. Unfortunately it doesn’t step out of the shadows of Iron Man, but it actually does a decent job of referencing the broader scope of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s good, but not great.

+Tim Roth’s portrayal of Emil Blonsky steals the show.

+Enough Marvel Cinematic Universe references to keep fans happy.

+Sets itself up nicely for a sequel..

-Which we may not have for a few more years, and it’s already been five since The Incredible Hulk debuted.

Score: 7/10

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