Movie News & Reviews

This 'Hulk' is better

So, in case you're wondering, "The Incredible Hulk" is something of an improvement from "The Hulk," Ang Lee's widely loathed movie version of Marvel Comics' green-eyed, green-skinned, green-everything behemoth. But not much.

Yes, this version of "Hulk" doesn't suffer from Lee's wacked-out camera moves and dull daddy issues that made the movie something you just want to forget afterward. (I know that's what I did; it wasn't until I sat down in the screening of this "Hulk" that I remembered that Nick Nolte was in the last "Hulk," camping up a storm as Bruce Banner's out-to-lunch dad, who I believe turns into a beam of electricity at the end after chomping down on a wire. I'm still trying to figure that one out.) It's a straightforward, meat-and-potatoes actioner, yet it still has its flaws.

For this movie, we have Louis Leterrier, director of the "Transporter" films that more or less brought Jason Statham to action-hero status. And while he shows off his gung-ho penchant for composing manic, action set pieces, he's mostly working from a script that, like the Ang Lee "Hulk," has a budding superhero who's afraid to come out of the closet.

With professional superhero-movie screenwriter Zak Penn (the "X-Men" sequels) mostly getting credit for the script star Edward Norton reportedly put his foot in, "Hulk" is more like the "Superman Returns" of the Marvel movie set. And just like "Returns," it has a superhuman guy who spends most of the movie denying who he is, while still pining for his ex-girlfriend (Liv Tyler).

Instead of redoing the first movie, the film opens with an odd, quick-cutting opening-credits sequence of scenes the filmmakers would show if they were reshooting the first movie. Then, it slides into this new chapter. We find Norton's Banner living in Brazil, working in a run-down soda factory and trying to control his lime-green id. When Gen. "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt) gets word of his whereabouts and comes gunning for him, Banner has to get back to the States to find a way of ridding himself of this creature inside him. But not before we get a couple of instances of him in Hulk mode, reminding the audience what happens when you get him angry.

As always with a superhero movie, "Hulk" 2.0 throws in a bunch of stuff for the fanboys. Most important, the movie gives Hulk a familiar nemesis in Tim Roth's special-forces soldier, who gets a heaping of what the Hulk has and later becomes longtime Hulk nemesis the Abomination. (When he's not doing the monster thing, Roth is locked in a teeth-grinding acting battle with the cigar-chomping Hurt to see who can be the most insanely macho while still exuding homoerotic tendencies.) So I'm pretty sure the comic-book junkies will be thrilled. As for everyone else, you may be just slightly pleased at what you're viewing.

For a movie about a rippling, rage-crazed brute, "Hulk" never fully comes with the fury. Norton spends so much time trying to be at peace, he comes off more mopey than menacing. And, as the true love who alone can tame this savage beast, Tyler is mostly locked in the doe-eyed, concerned girlfriend role. (She showed more brass screaming for her life in "The Strangers.")

But hey, what do I know? I wasn't that nuts about the universally beloved "Iron Man" when I first saw it. (Since new TV ads have let this cat out the bag, I should mention that Robert Downey Jr. shows up as Tony Stark, practically giving his stamp of approval with a walk-on.) "The Incredible Hulk" just may be another superhero movie to tide you over this weekend -- that is, until the next superhero movie comes along.