Graaagghh! The "green goliath" has returned. Following the disastrous CGI romp that was Hulk, the version gets things back on track, with Bruce Banner in South America, dodging the hand of General "Thunderbolt" Ross and enduring plenty of mishaps.
Fans will notice the Hulk theme tune from the 1970s TV series, a more sinister portrayal of General Ross et al, and a reclusive, tormented Banner (whose isolation is portrayed to perfection by Edward Norton), which are all in the spirit of Stan Lee's original. Then again, with Lee on hand to produce the movie (and to make his usual cameo appearance in the film), you know that the story has half a chance.
Thank goodness the director, Louis Leterrier, had the sense to explore Banner's personal side, rather than rely on visuals. Liv Tyler's play on Betty Ross's tender side adds some heart – although she's a little too sincere at times – and the weedy, apologetic Banner portrayed by Norton isn't quite the Bruce that you may remember. But there's enough characterisation to make us believe in them.
Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky doesn't hold me, though. He may well be playing a cold and calculating villain, but there's something about Roth versus Norton that doesn't click – perhaps Norton should have been tougher by contrast. But then, the Jekyll and Hyde-like relationship between Banner and the Hulk wouldn't have been so obvious.
The studio bosses can't afford to scare people too much here, so instead of a real-life Mr Universe in green make-up, we once again have a Hulk created in CGI. At least Leterrier's direction makes more of the sheer menace of the creature. At times, it does feel as if there's something scary about Banner's transformations (as there should be, surely), and although the action tries to take over towards the end, the suspense gives the film more to live up to. As the story moves along, the clashes between the Hulk and the military personnel pose a question: who are the real monsters? Hence, Stan Lee's moral message in the comic book about power in the wrong hands is conveyed quite well. If there's one thing that's definitely wrong, it's that the humour takes too long to get going. By the time the jokes and one-liners come in, the story has already grown too serious. Ty Burrell's Dr Samson proves to be annoying rather than amusing light relief.
The Incredible Hulk is not in the same league as the other summer blockbuster, the masterful Iron Man. On the other hand, it's about 10 times better than the last Hulk flick, and at least this one feels like a Marvel movie.
James Megarry, registration support assistant, WorcesterReuse content