Sunday, June 22, 2008

THE INCREDIBLE HULK: MOVIE REVIEW

Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt
Director: Louis Leterrier
Rating: **
Runtime: 114 min.
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Superhero

I wholeheartedly agree with Tony Stark, hardware is a much better bet. Even at the box office. The thing is, these hardware guys – Stark, Bruce Wayne – are interesting in a way these guys with mutative powers thrust upon them can never be. Especially this Hulk guy, who cannot muster too many shades of his character save the ones impinged with green. Like the erstwhile werewolf who feels like a distant cousin to our tremendously high-tempered friend here. He does either of two things – crash into valuable government property oblivious of the hard-working middle class citizens and the pains they take to pay the taxes, or hide in some remote corner of the world – and both involve running. He is essentially running in a paradox, it is his mutative ability that has him on the run. And if we relieve of his troubles, well, there wouldn’t be anything interesting left to him to buy the admission tickets in the first place.
And with that super anger too, you know, there isn’t much to him. That is the movie’s failing, more than anything else. You cannot, simply cannot, make the Hulk universe interesting enough, say like that of Batman or Superman or his Marvel counterparts Spiderman and Iron Man. With him, you’re essentially dealing with the only angle along which you could develop your plot. Much of it would consist of running amuck, and the rest would inevitably have to involve some other guy with a malicious intent who somehow gets the power. And a resultant clash at the end, which would involve a terrible waste of property just because someone didn’t pay attention at the anger management class. I heard Edward Norton had worked on the screenplay initially, but much of it was re-written Zak Penn (Behind Enemy Lines, X2, Elektra). I’ve no idea how either of them have differed at the template level, but at the end of the day we have a Hulk movie that is just about as bereft of energy as its predecessor, and at the added expense of true emotion and sincerity, which by the way made the woefully underrated Ang Lee version a much better film.
It is all the more unforgivable that the makers here have decided to distance themselves from its predecessor, first by marginally altering the origin storyline, with Bruce Banner (Norton) having been handed the credit of creating his angry version. And second by laying more emphasis on the action part, which would have been for the better had they done it well with any dosage of style and imagination. They do not, the action sequences are banal, they’re repetitive, we grow tired of the roaring Hulk, and I bet it is practically impossible to stifle a yawn during the climax, which dragged for so long I yearned for NYC local Spiderman to turn up and sling a few webs and puts these two naughty boys into a cage for good.
The strong intermittent parts are what made the Marvel fun bonanza Iron Man such a great experience, and here there is neither any fun nor any insight. Standard issue attempts are made to generate humor, like a cab ride involving Bruce and Elizabeth (Tyler), which labor for laughs without much success. The rest feels like an assemblage of lethargic bits and pieces, an observation quite amply proved by the ever changing color of Norton’s hair, and its style, and sometimes in consecutive frames. Gone is the vulnerability that Bruce had in Lee’s Hulk, and gone is the warmth that accompanied the tender romance he and Elizabeth shared then. Tyler is no Connelly, but Norton braves through it all, and alongwith Roth gives the only noteworthy performances. I wonder the intelligence behind casting Norton though, for he’s an actor of a rather calm demeanor. He isn’t one who can show raging anger, which Bana did so effectively, and I believe that significantly takes a lot of gravity away from the Bruce/Hulk predicament, whatever of it there is. The inspiration, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, sure were polar-opposite split personalities, but they inherently felt related. Here, the two personas never ever seem entities of the same person.
The filmmakers have kept more than a thread alive for the inevitable sequel, though I’m not sure if there’s much box office potential left. The way I see it, this $150 million contraption doesn’t seem to have long legs. The Hulk better face it, any filmmaker/studio executive whose interest lay not just in the commercial angle of a venture would admit that there’s nothing left in his universe worth exploring apart from the prospect of spending millions of dollars on CGI hokum and then blowing it all up. Maybe making the guy control his anger and use it as a weapon is an angle. I know, that would be another paradox as well, for the more the anger the more is the brute force that would surround him. What foresight would advice though is plan in advance for a destruction of this rather expendable element, and my guess is with a genius like Tony Stark taking rein of matters from General Ross, the way to do it is implanting an anti-virus to do the trick. Tell me, how does Norton sound?