Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Incredible Hulk Review


Overall Grade: C+


Much of the time, grading a film comes pretty easy and naturally to me. Having seen several films, I’ve gotten a good sense at what I tend to like and don’t like, as well as what is well made and what is crap. Every now and then certain films will pose a problem for my grading system and The Incredible Hulk is one of those films.

What makes Hulk such a tough film to grade is the fact that I found it to be a very uneven film. The first half of the film is a marvel (no pun intended). Accomplished in the first half is the introduction of the characters, their relationship to each other, and the entire hulk origin story. We find our Bruce Banner (played decently by Edward Norton), hiding out in a South American slum still trying to find a cure for his radiation poisoning. Eventually the government finds out where he is and a capture attempt ensues. This leads to the film’s best action sequence, a foot chase through the alleys, and rooftops of the slum, culminating in Banner turning into the Hulk and laying waste to the government soldiers. The chase is well shot, extremely kinetic, and the obscuring of Banner’s first moments as Hulk (we don’t get to see him in his full glory till much later), is really a smart move. This whole first half is breathtakingly paced, well scored, and a pleasure to watch. In fact, much of this half really owes a lot to the Bourne series, and particularly Paul Greengrass’ direction of Bourne Ultimatum. Nothing in this chase scene is as well made as anything in the Bourne series, but its inspiration is directly derivative of it; from the camera work, the editing work, and even the scoring.

Unfortunately for the film, once it leaves South America and Banner returns home, the film comes to a screeching halt, and really goes nowhere. From here on out, the editing feels sloppy; certain scenes play for too long, or shouldn’t be in at all (like Hulk’s attempt to sap some of the emotion from Peter Jackson’s King Kong by creating a scene, that completely rips it off. Unfortunately for Hulk, Peter Jackson sucked that well dry); and the action becomes mundane and boring.

In my opinion, if your going to use a lot of CGI for an action scene, you have to be the first to plow the field, or at least up the bar to a height no one has seen before. Instead, we get CGI action between monsters that has been filling cinema screens throughout the 2000s. Jurassic Park introduced us to CGI dinosaurs, Twister introduced us to CGI tornadoes, Titanic gave us CGI ships, Matrix gave us bullet time, Lord of the Rings gave us Gollum and entire armies, King Kong gave us Kong battling 3 T-Rex’s, Transformers gave us giant transforming robots leveling cities, and The Incredible Hulk gives us…well, Hulk (which we’ve seen before). It was a mistake for the filmmakers to spend all that money on hulking smashing up some stuff, when we’ve seen all that stuff smashed before, and better. You’ve seen one CGI car get smashed, you’ve seen it all. In this year alone, Iron Man gave us that awesome suit, Caspian gave us that epic water god, and Speed Racer gave us those mind rattling races. The second half of The Incredible Hulk is content with giving us nothing original or even envelope pushing, and that’s too sad, because the first half was really a great 45 minutes of cinema.

The Incredible Hulk ultimately grades as a little above average (C+) for me. If the film had held to the pace and standard of the first half, we could’ve been looking at a really enjoyable B to B+, but its uneven second half is just a drag. I suppose that the great beginning did a good job to obscure the obvious about this film and this plot, the Hulk story is really about a big green guy who smashes things up. No matter the window dressings, you can’t hide the fact that the film is ultimately about smashing things.

3 comments:

Maria said...

Okay - I mostly agree with what you are saying. However, I would give this film an overall B- rating. I thought the movie did an incredilbe job portraying the Hulk. He was ferocious, yet kept his humanity. His facial features were montrous and still drew me in to see his pain and confusion. I did not enjoy Liv Tyler's performance at all. She was not believeable as a cellular biologist. The fact that she wore a white lab coat, dark glasses, and was pictured in front of a chalkboard filled with mathematical equations, did not overcome her teary, doe-eyed dipiction of an independent, intelligent scientist. Why wasn't she stronger? Smarter? More intelligent? Why wasn't she in touch with Mr. Blue? He worked in the same building! Okay - and what about this super soldier turned monster? Why didn't he lose his memory like the Hulk did when he changed? He knew exactly who he was, what he was doing, and who the Hulk was. Not only that, but what happened to him at the end of the movie? Did he change back to his human form? Did they capture him? Lastly, there is not one military branch in the service that would allow facial hair, bushy mustaches, and long hair on their enlisted men or officers. If the military are going to be portrayed, they should be portrayed correctly. What Army general has control over Air Force helicopters? OR all the military equipment in a public forum - what power that general had! All that aside, the action was great, and the technology was super, so B- it is. :)

Kyle Leaman said...

I can understand your B- ranking, but if you see in your comment, you really only praised the film for a few lines and spent the rest of the time with criticisms and questions. I thought the animation was alright for the Hulk, but as far as the character of the Hulk, let me pose one or two more questions. How does he get the name Hulk? Why do people call him that? Who coordinated that name?

Second, don't you think he would've been a much more interesting Hulk if he was conflicted about getting rid of the Hulk part of him. There is never any second thought about it, but what if he actually enjoyed the power? What if it was more like the ring of power in Lord of the Rings, where it gave you this great power that was tempting to use, but would ultimately lead to destruction. Now we have a complex character! Instead, Banner is just a guy trying to get rid of something that the entire audience wants to see and would kill to experience once. Where is the joy, the exhileration that we would all relate too?

Julie said...

I have to agree with pretty much all you said. I wasn't expecting much going into it but I really enjoyed the first half (maybe more, about to the part where they meet Mr. Blue) and then the last bit was a let down. I thought that maybe if I was more of a comic book person and knew all there was to know about the Hulk I would have enjoyed it more because there seemed to be a lot of inside-Hulk stuff. Mainly the two signature moves. Maybe if they had explained why he was being called Hulk they would have explained the 'Hulk Smash' or whatever. Also, the guy playing Mr. Blue just bothered me, I wasn't expecting him at all. I was expecting some Anthony Hopkins type character from Mission Impossible 2. Apparently he plays a big role later on as some big brain guy? I don't know, he bothered me. I think it would be a C+ for me as well.