The Incredible Hulk

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            “The Incredible Hulk” is the story of a chase. The chaser is the U.S. government, led here by the sour General “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) and his fleet of helicopters, missiles, tanks, and armed soldiers. The chased is Bruce Banner (Edward Norton), a gentle man who voluntarily became a lab experiment with the help of Betty Ross (Liv Tyler). Whenever the newly minted and likable Bruce becomes angry, he morphs into The Hulk, a frightening giant who reflects Bruce’s anger with growls and howls of rage. An angry man becomes an angry hulk.

            The filmmakers obviously love the morphing process. So much so that they create a second monster from malleable clay: Blonsky (Tim Roth, able to catch evil in a single expression). Blonsky invites an injection of the blood serum that will put him on equal footing with his adversary. Of these two guys, one nice, one nasty, one of them is always in a state of transmogrification.

            Early on, the movie promises to be a nice thriller with periodic appearances by Hulk, but as time passes and the filmmakers become enthralled with their own special effects talents, the battle between the army and Hulk swallows the picture whole. We lose Edward Norton who we were ready to follow on the road to curing himself of his monstrous self. Along with the movie, Mr. Norton disappears into the barrage of special effects set to a score of relentless machine gun fire. It’s a little pathetic that we find ourselves waiting hopefully through the gunfire for Bruce to succeed with his anger management techniques so he can be with Betty – anything but those machine guns.

            We learn rather gradually that the general wants to extract “It” (the transformative serum) from Bruce in order to make all powerful weapons and that Bruce, wants to destroy “It” even if his research buddy Mr. Blue wants to use it to help humanity. And so it always goes: if something can be used for evil, it will be. Fairly straightforward, that. And genuinely dull.

            There are some nice shots of 4WD vehicles jumping hedges, but after a while we question our tolerance for watching the two hulks pick up and slam them together as if they were tiny barbells. When the gentle giant clasps Betty in his hand and saves her from a roaring inferno, we know this scene belongs to King Kong alone and deserves no comment. We watch a brief, very brief, love scene of tangled limbs knowing that if Bruce gets too excited, he will Hulk.

            If only the story had absorbed us, we might be thrilled to watch two Hulks racing toward each other in the climactic battle in front of the legendary Apollo Theater. Because the movie has none of the charm of the wonderful “Iron Man” it’s hard to get our hopes up as Bruce races across the rooftops of New York straight into the making of a sequel.


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