Welcome to a the third and final part of the Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second Avengers liveblog! Tonight it’s the turn of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk to come under scrutiny. Check out the previous instalments of the liveblog here and here, and check back tomorrow night for our review of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers!
Feel free to join in on twitter and in the comments section below using the hash tag #HopeFlies (thanks to Ali Bianchi for that). This post will be updated throughout the evening.
The Incredible Hulk – Louis Leterrier (US, 2008)
*The opening credits of The Incredible Hulk go some way to setting up the semi-complicated (for a mainstream audience) premise: is this a sequel to Ang Lee’s Hulk of 2003? Or is it a standalone work? Well, the answer, somewhat unhelpfully, is somewhere in-between. While not strictly a sequel per-se, one could easily view the Ang Lee film as a predecessor to this work, but by the same reckoning the opening credits serve as a handy revising of the background mythos.
*Edward Norton is Bruce Banner mk.2, taking over from Eric Bana in the Lee film. Not one to break with tradition, the Banner of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers is played by a third actor, Mark Ruffalo. For our money Norton nailed the gaunt Banner of our favourite period of Hulk comics, in Peter David’s Americana-skewing 2005 run on The Incredible Hulk. The writer arguably defined the modern Banner twenty years earlier with his initial run on the comic in the mid-1980’s.
*Leterrier’s film opens in Brazil, with the imposing scope of the favela the architectural equal to the Hulk himself. In the same way that Banner hides a secret, so does the unique contained cityscape of the Brazilian locale.
*The film originally opened in the Arctic, with Banner attempting to commit suicide (the intense colds of the area being the only place able to contain the Hulk). This scene gained something of a notoriety when it was included as an extra feature on the home video release of the film, thanks to claims made by Leterrier that Captain America himself could be seen in the ice. Click here for more on that.
*As with many a latter-day Ed Norton project, The Incredible Hulk was said to have been plagued by a number of creative discrepancies between the star and producers. While never officially commented on, many have taken this to be the reason why Norton is the sole original Avenger not to be returning for the cross-over movie.
*While the overall tone of The Incredible Hulk remains in keeping with the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the film itself is notable for the absence of the likes of SHIELD and any other Marvel Cinematic Universe trademarks.
*Tim Roth is this films antagonist. His Emil Blonsky shares more than one similarity to Captain America. Both are military men injected with the Super-Soldier Serum, with the fore-warning of Dr. Erskine from the latter’s movie ringing true (the super-soldier amplifies the nature of the specimen, ergo, bad people become badder, and good people, er, gooder.
*Director Leterrier is an odd one. The son of Gallic acting legend François Leterrier (he who was A Man Escaped), Leterrier made his name in the Besson factory, directing the first couple of Transporter films and 2005’s Unleashed. All three are fairly awful movies. He continued in that tradition in the wake of The Incredible Hulk, with the ill-judged reimaigining of The Clash Of The Titans.
*Joe Harnell’s iconic “Lonely Man” theme from the Incredible Hulk television show is nicely reworked in to Craig Armstrong’s score for the film. One of the greatest surprises we’ve picked up from this rewatch is just how strong the individual scores to each film are.
*Betty Ross is played by Liv Tyler this time around. As with Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger the emotional angle is played to a surprisingly effective end in The Incredible Hulk. Ross’s father, General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross is portrayed by William Hurt. Unfortunately for Hurt, Sam Elliott played “Thunderbolt” Ross to perfection in Ang Lee’s iteration.
*Ty Burrell plays Doc Samson, a character whose role within this film seems to have been drastically cut down in the editing studio. Footage of the character not used in the film appeared in the the trailer, and saw Samson conversing with Banner. Samson is an interesting character in the original books, and that rarest of things: the psychiatrist turned superhero.
*Speaking of unlikely superheroes, both “Thunderbolt” and Betty Ross are currently Hulks themselves in the comic-book series. In spite of how hokey and contrived it might sound on paper, Thunderbolt Ross’s Red Hulk is a surprisingly great character, moulding the power of the Hulk with a militaristic mind.
*The campus brawl remains impressive, even if the same cannot be said of some of the special effects work. Bronsky going toe-to-toe with the Hulk coupled with sonic-ray guns and helicopters being blown from the sky makes for an impressive scenario.
*The cave. Some have speculated that the lightning might be the work of Thor.
*As if it were some mid-90’s Kevin Smith movie the subject of Hulk sex comes up. Banner refrains, Betty is safe. By this point we’re firmly in road movie territory, as Bruce and Betty make their way to New York to meet with Mr. Blue, the alias for Tim Blake Nelson’s Dr. Samuel Sterns. There are a lot of Doctors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
*Dr. Samuel Sterns will eventually become The Leader, one of the Hulk’s great adversaries. The initial stages of his transformation in to The Leader can be seen in this movie. Who knows if the character will show up in a future film, but Nelson is contracted for further pictures.
*Sterns is attempting to cure Banner. Another Captain America parallel can be found in the fact that they are the two Avengers (of the initial gang) that were transformed in to their superheroic state via science.
*It’s time for the Harlem brawl. We get the feeling that this is the kind of super-battle that many had hoped for in the Ang Lee Hulk, hence the dominance of the sequence for much of the third act of this movie. It’s an impressive sequence, led by our favourite entrance to any such scene in the whole series, as Banner jumps from a helicopter in an attempt to unleash the Hulk from within. The sight of a Hulk literally wearing a police car as boxing gloves and using them to pummel The Abomination outside of the Harlem Apollo is the kind of thing that our childhood dreams were made of. That probably sums up the great difference between the two recent Hulk movies actually: one is a beautifully made creative interpretation of the series, while the other is a straight(ish) adaptation of the source material. We like them both in their own ways.
*The Abomination is defeated. But not killed. Presumably he’ll reappear at some point too (theme the rules after all).
*The Hulk leaves the scene of the final fight, flanked by a helicopter. There’s a genuine sadness in the characters face during his final moments with Betty: you can see that he wants to stop running, but is resigned to the fact that he can’t. As the film closes we see him out in the wilderness, living alone in a cabin, with the hint that he’s finally figured out how to control the Hulk. Meanwhile….
*Thunderbolt Ross sits alone at a bar. Tony Stark joins him, suggesting that “we” are putting a team together that might be able to help with his problem….
And that is that! The end of our 11-hour, 3-day long liveblog. Thanks for joining us along the way, and stop by tomorrow night for our review of The Avengers.