The Incredible Hulk ** (out of ****)

Director: Louis Leterrier
Writer: Zak Penn and Edward Norton Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, William Hurt, Lou Ferrigno
Rating: PG-13 (sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images and brief suggestive content)
Running Time: 114 min
Release Date: 6/12/08

My first issue with yet another version of The Incredible Hulk is why? Was this comic presented in major live-action film only five years ago? Yes, the Ang Lee production on 2003. So why make yet another one? There is a major clue at the end of this one.

This version starts after Dr. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) has had his fateful laboratory transformation which gives him the uncontrollable ability to become the Hulk. He has fled the country and the clutches of Gen. Ross (William Hurt) who considers Banner and his alter ego as Army property. His hide out is in one of the less prestigious neighborhoods in Brazil. By day he works in a beverage bottling plant as a technician. But, by night he studies breath control under his “guru” and works on a cure for his condition by collaborating with a mysterious scientist via the e-mail.

One day he cuts himself while fixing a control switch for the production line. A drop of his blood falls into a bottle before it’s filled with soda. In the predictable cameo appearance of Stan Lee plays a hapless man who falls dead after taking a drink from the bottle. This incident tips off Gen. Ross to the location of Banner setting the stage for the Hulk meets is opponent Capt. Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth). Blonsky is an overage Special Forces operator who has mysteriously escaped the Army’s up or out promotion system and lives for the fight. Blonsky and his team are dispatched to Brazil to capture Banner. They are overwhelmed when Banner “hulks out” in the middle of their ambush. This event establishes the rivalry that will dominate the action for the balance of the film.

Banner returns to the U.S. to meet the scientist (Tim Blake Nelson) with whom he’d been communicating via the internet in search of cure. On the way he meets up with Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) who is the daughter of Gen. Ross. She becomes alienated from her father when she learns of his plan to capture Banner and use the Hulk formula to create as unit of super-soldiers. She obviously has no real appreciation for the pure genius of her fathers program. One the other hand, Banner’s need to keep his heart rate low hardly makes him the perfect lover. Sexual arousal can cause his heart rate to reach the level at which he would “hulk out” and most likely causing her serious bodily injury.

The film’s ultimate showdown occurs when Blonsky gets injected with Hulk blood and is transformed in a monster powerful enough to do battle with the Hulk. The basic plot here is very reminiscent of the finale of Iron Man with the substitution of biotech for super exoskeletons. At some point the battle becomes more tiresome that exciting. I found the early battle in the Rio slums of more interesting than the finale in Harlem. Maybe that was due to the more exotic locale. However, what The Incredible Hulk lacks in story line it makes up for it with special effects.

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