Iron Man has already left the theaters around here, so I checked out the remake of “The Incredible Hulk” this afternoon.
After the intense silliness of the Ang Lee version of a few years back, one can understand Marvel’s desire to try again and do it right. I mean really, that long episode of Hulk jumping from mesa to mesa in the desert, swinging tanks around by their barrels, etc. etc. had all the drama and tension of an apple falling off a tree. “Oooh, do you think it’ll hit the ground?”
Of course, with any superhero movie the plot is almost incidental. Sometimes they’ll hit a motherlode with one plot development or another, but in general they’re all the same: origin, crisis, a sight gag or two, hero saves the world (or something), humorous coda. I find the ones where the hero saves the world to be in general the most tiresome. The smaller drama is more effective. Superman stopping one nuke in the first movie was more enjoyable than watching him stop all of them in the third (was it the third? I couldn’t even keep track after a while).
So first of all, Hulk saves a few blocks of Morningside Heights in upper Manhattan. Chalk one up in the “pros” column. For levity, a very funny scene involving a taxi on Chambers Street. The origins are glossed quickly under the opening credits, and assume you suffered through the first one (or read a comic book or two in your youth) and don’t need any further briefing.
Then there’s the casting. The hero himself is critical, of course; but the supporting cast is perhaps more important. What would the first Superman movie have been without Gene Hackman’s hijinks as Luthor? More boring, that’s what. On the other hand, give them too much leeway and you end up with Jim Carrey as The Riddler, and who wants to put up with that again?
Chalk another one up in the “pros.” You’ve got the dependable Edward Norton giving his usual nicely layered characterization. Plus, Liv Tyler looking convincingly rumpled and un-perfect as his scientist crush. Also doing nice work are Tim Blake Nelson as the man with the cure, Bill Hurt as Liv’s imposing military dad, and Tim Roth doing a fine job as the just-on-the-edge-of-psycho antihero. Also, a few neat cameos. Norton shaking Lou Ferrigno’s hand and telling him, “you’re the man,” a brief shot of Bill Bixby, and one very amusing almost-throwaway in the last scene. I won’t spoil it.
As an extra bonus, there’s a nice opening sequence set in a picturesquely dense Brazilian slum. At least, I think it was supposed to be a slum. Perhaps a slum peopled with cute children and beautiful Brazilian models? The chase sequence that takes place here after the military types track Banner down is pretty cool.
I really haven’t gone to the movies much lately, so I’m in no position to tell you whether this is a better use of your ticket money than “Wall-E” or not, but it wasn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon. Give it three stars.