The Incredible Hulk, 12A
The Happening, 15
The comic-book monster fails to convince in computer-generated form
Sunday 15 June 2008
It's been only five years since Ang Lee was commissioned to make a film about the Hulk, and delivered a psychedelic art movie about a Shrek-lookalike who wrestled a mutant poodle. That should have put paid to the franchise for a decade or two, but Marvel – a comics company that's recently turned movie studio – calculated that the Hulk was too valuable a property to be left on the shelf, so the incredible one has been rebooted, with a new cast and a new director, Louis Leterrier.
Mercifully, Leterrier doesn't include le poodle. Even more mercifully, the Hulk himself has been redesigned to look less like a cuddly ogre, and more like the steroidal Schwarzenegger of the comics.
The explosions, the kinetic action and the daft espionage plot are all closer to the spirit of the comics, too. Dr Bruce Banner, now played by Edward Norton, is living incognito in a Brazilian favela, trying to synthesise a cure for his extreme case of split personality. He realises that his only hope is to return to the US, and to his former lab partner and girlfriend, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler). But Betty is the daughter of General Ross (William Hurt) – the Captain Ahab to the Hulk's Moby Dick – and Ross has a new sidekick, Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), who will do whatever it takes to beat the Hulk in a fight, even if that means being transformed into a less than jolly green giant himself.
The film is packed as tightly as the Hulk's jeans with references to the comics and the television series, but, like Ang Lee's version, it's keener on nodding and winking to people who are already Marvel superhero fans than bringing new ones into the fold. It ambles from place to place, picking up supporting characters along the way, but it never builds any momentum, and it never seems to have any purpose except to set up a sequel.
We know that Banner won't ever find the cure that he's researching, and we know that General Ross won't succeed in killing him, so The Incredible Hulk is one of those rare, perplexing films in which the audience can be certain that none of the characters will get what they want. Maybe it's just not feasible to make an exciting adventure about a creature who's utterly invulnerable. Or maybe the problem is that you can never forget that he's an unreal, computer-generated presence rather than a physical one.
At the film's climax the Hulk has a punch-up with another CGI monster, so we're left watching two special effects thumping each other. It feels as if we've switched channels from a live-action film to a cartoon. What's wrong with hiring a bodybuilder and painting him green?
This week's other would-be blockbuster is The Happening, the latest portentous chiller from M Night Shyamalan. In the opening minutes – by far the best part of the film – people are seen chatting and reading and walking their dogs in Central Park. Then, all at once, they stop what they're doing, stand stock still for a moment, and kill themselves. It's an authentically creepy scenario, and it deserves the thoughtful, crafty treatment which the maker of The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable might have given it. But that writer-director, along with his trademark twist endings, has left the building.
The Happening goes through the disaster movie motions, but any shivers it might have induced are turned into convulsions of laughter by the acting and scripting. Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel have two facial expressions – wide-eyed and wider-eyed – and the unwieldy dialogue is beyond parody. Deschanel has the worst of it. Humanity is being wiped out in a catastrophe, and she has to babble, "I love you, Elliot, but I don't like to put my feelings out there for everyone to see!"
Jonathan Romney is away
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The scientist who takes 100 drugs a day so he can live to 150
- 2 The Visit: Trailer for M Night Shyamalan's latest horror film is terrifying
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 5 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark finale review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
The Visit: Trailer for M Night Shyamalan's latest horror film is terrifying
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3 - review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton, really?
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds