Entertaining, not ‘Incredible’

The fact that the descriptor “incredible” went missing from the title of Ang Lee’s 2003 rendition of The Hulk could have been considered a disclaimer to moviegoers. Don’t get me wrong, this new Hulk isn’t exactly incredible, but it is a step in the right direction for the series. If anything, The Incredible Hulk is Marvel’s way of redeeming itself for its biggest flop since the comic book movie revival began.

Unlike Ang Lee’s Hulk, a C-movie with a pseudo-artistic façade, this take on the comic book hero is a straightforward action movie. The visual effects are astonishing, when violence and explosions take the lead. But that’s not to say that there is no substance to the film’s dialogue, which includes some brief, witty back-and-forths expertly delivered by the all-star cast.

The Incredible Hulk is Edward Norton’s first film as a screenwriter, though he is uncredited on the film’s final release. Assisted by Zak Penn (co-writer of X-Men: The Last Stand), Norton has done well. The plot of the film flows smoothly, and it’s clear that Norton knows how to write roles for himself. Having that kind of liberty with his role as Bruce Banner easily makes The Incredible Hulk Norton’s best film in the past five years. This film has successfully pulled him out of the slump of forgettable movies he’s had since 2003, including such box office bombs as Red Dragon and Kingdom of Heaven.

Norton isn’t the only actor rising out of the ashes for this movie. Lead actress Liv Tyler has not starred in anything notable since the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and main villain Tim Roth’s last significant appearance in an American film was in the 2001 remake of the 1968 classic, Planet of the Apes. This film is all about redemption, and Norton’s script has brought the entire cast back to the forefront of Hollywood stardom.

The Incredible Hulk follows the parallel stories of Bruce Banner’s (Norton) attempt to get rid of his brutish mutation and army commando Emil Blonsky’s (Roth) quest to obtain that very same power. In the midst of this quest, Banner is reunited with his former lover and lab assistant Betty Ross (Tyler), whose father is leading the mission to take down Banner and use his mutation as a weapon of war. In a nutshell, you have a typical battle of good vs. evil with sprinklings of a generic forbidden love story scattered throughout.

As overused as this plot may be, it is actually enjoyable. However, Marvel knows most fans want to see “the big green monster” and not the goody-two-shoes Casanova. For that, they may have to wait for Marvel’s The Avengers, slated for release in July 2011, which will feature an ensemble of comic book characters including The Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America.

All in all, The Incredible Hulk is promising. The movie ends with definite hints at sequels, and in the future, Norton could afford to focus more on story elements. But for viewers who can’t get enough of The Hulk’s smashing, this one probably won’t feel like as much of a rollercoaster ride on the small screen. The Incredible Hulk is worth seeing in theaters, but don’t expect another piece of Marvel magic like Iron Man.

Runtime: 114 minutesRating: PG-13Grade: B