A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 234 – The Incredible Hulk (2008)

The Incredible Hulk (1998) – October 20th, 2010

After watching the 2002 Hulk movie on Monday we decided to put this one in today so I could get a full dose of Hulkamania this week. Wait. Wrong Hulk. No matter. This still has plenty of Hulk in it. The big green kind, with the smashing and the angry and the gamma radiation. It’s a reboot attempt for Marvel, which I can work with. I mean, look how many incarnations the Hulk has had over the years. It’s not like we’re talking about something with a single “right” canon to work from, so a second movie adaptation that’s not a sequel of the first is fine in theory. Though really, it’s a pity they didn’t find a way to work off of the ground laid down in the first movie. It had its flaws, but it did set out some meaty background for Bruce Banner and I liked that.

I had one big problem with the 2002 movie. I note it here because this movie, for all its’ flaws, doesn’t do it so much. My problem was the split between the baddies. In the 2002 movie they brought in this weenie, Talbot, and had him be the one who wanted to get Bruce subdued and chained up for testing so he could weaponize whatever made him all Hulky. This, I think, was so that they could have General Ross not be a total dick. After all, they had this whole father and child dynamic going on for both Betty and Bruce, so where Bruce’s father took the villain route, Betty’s got redeemed. Sort of. They didn’t want to make him an unsympathetic character. This movie? Does not shy away from making Ross a total dick. Ross in this movie is responsible for a whole lot of bad shit going down and while there’s still plenty of moral ambiguity, none of it has to do with whether or not Ross steps over a few more lines than anyone should. I like that about this movie. Instead of faffing about with a secondary villain who’s just a plot tool in the form of a twerp in a suit there’s Ross and what he’s set in motion, and what he’s set in motion is both the Hulk, and the eventual big bad: the Abomination.

Now, there is a sort of secondary source of bad shit. And that’s our friendly mad scientist. He’s in it for the discovery and the science and the consequences aren’t his problem. He’s also a nod to a comic villain, so I can deal with him. His whole role in the film ties in directly to the plot and he’s pulled in right from the beginning. Overall, I really did feel like the plotty plot in this movie, setting up Bruce and Betty and Ross and the Abomination and all, was much more tightly scripted and laid out than in the 2002 movie. Unfortunately that comes at the cost of the deeper story for Bruce’s background. And I did miss that. He just comes across as an unfortunate dude who was being used as a military pawn here. There’s almost no background for Betty and her father. There’s very little to go on for backstory at all. Everything about how Bruce got his powers is shown under the opening credits. Really, that feels very similar to the opening to Wolverine, except I think it worked better there than here. It ends up making this movie all about the conflict between Bruce and Ross, and whatever Ross has at his disposal, without any of the background that makes that conflict matter in any way other than Bruce Good, Military Bad.

I’m a little ambiguous when it comes to the whole conflict here. As I said, I do like that this movie rolled up its sleeves and took a deep breath and made Ross the root of the bad shit. Yes, we get a monstrous baddie who can go toe to toe with the Hulk, but we wouldn’t have him without Ross, and Ross only realizes he’s backed the wrong horse at the very end. I like that he’s the source of it all. I like that he’s doing it all For the Greater Good and that he’s lost sight of how dangerous that can be. But without the background that fills in who Ross is and why he might be making the decisions he’s making and why he made the decisions he’s made, he just comes through as unsympathetic. It’s possible to make a character a total dick and still make the audience sympathize with him for being in a position where that’s just how he’s got to be. And I don’t think this movie managed it. They set up a black and white situation. I want more grey.

There were a lot of things I did like about this movie. I liked Bruce’s work on controlling himself. I liked the big baddie being on his level. I liked a lot of the cast. I’m a sucker for Ed Norton, so I’m more than happy with his performance as Bruce. I liked the cameos a lot. But it didn’t gel as well as the other one did for me. Oddly, I’d probably put this one in for background noise before I’d put in the other, but that’s the thing. It would be good background noise. Largely because of Ed Norton and the lack of a pointless petty villain and that last teaser scene in the bar. Though that last teaser scene does kind of piss me off because it seems to be asking for the audience to see Ross as a good guy and the movie just never bothered to build him up there. It’s a real pity this one was a reboot and not a sequel. There’s just enough in it that ignores the groundwork in the other one that I can’t really view it as even a pseudo-sequel. But anyhow, I’d put this in as background. But if I wanted to really watch a movie and care about the characters, I’d put in the other one.

October 20, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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