Review: The Incredible Hulk is a Solid Flick

I think one can't help but compare this film to Iron Man. There's The Avengers connection, of course, and the salient release-date-proximity equation. Norton and Downey Jr. are more alike then I would have thought at first blush; both actors lend a humanity to the central character that's worthy of some love. Both films do have slight problems -- but as it turns out the problems are in very different places.

Frankly, it's going to be much easier for me to compare the two than to judge The Incredible Hulk on its own merits. And because I'm quite sleepy (having caught the midnight screening after missing the press screening due to birthday related travel) I say we go the easier route, eh? Iron Man has a stronger middle section but Hulk has a stronger ending. Hulk drips into melodrama more often but has a bit more realism and nuance in the lead slot. Iron Man probably looks better overall but The Incredible Hulk has a far better villain. Man, all in all it's close. I don't know what I'd do if I had to say which one is better. Luckily, as the most important reviewer in the Milky Way Galaxy I can just equivocate until the cows come home and no one will be the wiser.

Wait! Okay, okay, I'll answer your questions. Fine. Should you see Hulk? That's a fair thing to ask of a movie reviewer and I commend your attentiveness. I would say this is more of a standalone movie than a superhero film, so if you're the sort who just wants things to go *boom* you might come away wishing there was less exposition and drama. I think fans of the original comic book / television show character will be pleased, though. Edward Norton is very good (and tortured) here, and the film reminded me of the Jason Bourne series with the way it used camera angles, graphical overlays and fighting styles. It's also worlds apart from something like Superman Returns which is so glossy as to be Willy Wonka-ish. Yeah, you should see it. It's probably a top twenty film for the year.

Now then, I do have to point out a few flaws (my contract stipulates). First off, Liv Tyler isn't great. It's hard for me to ascertain if that's due to the words she was handed or her incongruity with the part. She seems to be better off in movies that have a lot more patience to them -- Reign Over Me and Lord of the Rings come to mind. Here, when she's called upon to take center stage it seems very forced. It's the Mary Jane syndrome -- because she's asked to be one-note throughout most of the running time, she ends up being a caricature of a real person. I'll grudgingly admit that near the end she's actually very good, when she gets to do something besides look troubled.

HULK SMASH! Hmmm, that's just fun to say. And really this is a fun movie. I think we'll all get over a bit of the stilted dialogue and commend Marvel for choosing action over more back story. Speaking of, the opening montage of the film is highly recommended because it gets you right into the vibe in less than three minutes. The Incredible Hulk feels a bit like you've walked into the middle of a movie, but not in a bad way -- the film starts with nice momentum due to that montage. So see this one in the theater. It won't change your life but you'll walk away smiling ... and I'm told it's very important to maintain a sense of joy in these troubled times.

Grade: B+