Incredible Hulk, The (UK - BD)
Marcus Doidge gets gamma radiated with The Incredible Hulk on Blu-ray...
Sequel... re-imagining... starting from scratch, call it what you will, Marvel brings the Hulk back to the big screen and now he's of the incredible variety.
Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) has been on the run since being subjected to high levels of gamma radiation and finds that his anger now unleashes his inner rage, turning him into the Hulk. Working in a bottling factory in Brazil, Bruce spends his days trying to cure his problem and keep his greener side under control. After some of his blood from a cut finger makes its way into a soda bottle and causes an unseen incident with its consumer (Stan Lee), General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt) sends in his troops to take Banner down. As expected, this doesn't go to plan at all and the team just end up bringing about the Hulk again, with devastating effects.
Head of the not so prepared task force that Ross sends in is Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), who soon discovers what Banner really is and opts to take the super solider serum in order to boost his own strength, agility and reflexes for a rematch with the green giant. Add to that some of Banners own blood and we soon have the Abomination on our hands and a super villain to go head to head with our angry green hero.
Well to get the movie that sparked this change of pace for the franchise out of the way first, I personally adored the Ang Lee Hulk movie that preceded this instalment, despite the general consensus that it was a failure. It was brave, it was fun and for me it totally got inside the mentality of Hulk as well as having him taking out tanks in the only way Hulk can. It may have gone for a less epic gamma explosion, which this new movie also opts to leave out, on and it may very well have been slightly too long for its own good, but for me it simply felt right for a first chapter and as someone who is a big fan of the Hulk and usually hates when movie studios mix stuff up for the sake of it, that's some big words of praise.
So when Marvel announced that they were going with a more original TV show inspired re-boot I was a little worried. Don't get me wrong, I dug the TV show when I was a kid, but I never saw it as the definitive Hulk or anything like that. In addition to that, I'm so over superhero origin stories at this point, I much prefer a full up and running hero rather than yet another event and coming to terms with the changes plot. I was a little worried we were just going to get more of the same and retread old ground. In fact for the longest time, the only thing really keeping me locked in to this new project was Ed Norton's involvement, who I think is one of the best actors out there and about the only actor on earth who I could accept replacing Eric Bana.
So with all of that back-story out of the way, does The Incredible Hulk make the impact the new fangled Marvel Studios assured us it would? Well I for one say, hell yeah... for the most part.
Thankfully this isn't a re-hash. We get a nice little back story which is short and sweet and then we're pretty much off and running from where Ang Lee left us with a few minor changes. Ed Norton immediately owns the role, making it his own and adding his Norton-isms in all the right places. The new movie maybe takes a little while to get going but when we do get the Hulk, it's stylised and dark and in many ways a bit of a riff of Batman's first appearance in Batman Begins. However it's not really until the rematch with Thunderbolt Ross's soldiers and a super solider'd up Blonsky that it really feels like this movie has something new to offer. This broad daylight action sequence is what a Hulk movie does best. It throws everything it has at the not so jolly green giant and he smashes the crap out of it. However this time Marvel have some say and they bring in some full on sci-fi weapons to test our Hulk—Sonic cannons. The moment they turn up is the moment Hulk steps into this all new Marvel Studios plan of bringing their comics to life. This is fantastic comic book stuff with some incredible visuals and one hell of series of events that set up the rest of the movie. This stuff is insane amounts of fun (Hulk landing on a Humvee makes me giddy) and watching it again on Blu-ray really gave me time to take it all in.
From here on in it's all about Bruce and Betty (Liv Tyler) and them trying to cure the Hulk problem. Liv's Betty is a nice addition to the Hulk; she softens the story a little and even brings in some humour when the movie needs it the most. Admittedly not all of it worked for me, but she really was a welcome surprise here as I didn't quite get the casting decision when it was announced. Same goes for Tim Roth. I really like a lot of his movies, but a Hulk villain? Happily I thought Roth was brilliant here in a very understated way. He's slimy and obviously a bad guy and he seems to be having a ball with it. The role needed a little bit more exploration to be truly memorable but what Roth does with what he has to work with, is brilliant.
Then comes the event I didn't even realise I was waiting for in a superhero movie. Two super powered giants kicking the crap out of each other. Now I know what you're thinking—this happens all the time in superhero movies. But does it really? Spider-man has a few scraps, but they're usually in enclosed spaces, same goes for the painfully underused X-Men. Batman has tussles, but he's not exactly a city devastator and Superman hardly even lifted a finger in Superman Returns. The closest we ever really got to a full on battle between high powered super folk was the last Matrix movie, which doesn't really count and Superman 2, which was twenty eight years ago. So to say that this final battle was an absolute joy is an understatement. It may not be on the level Hulk could muster up if they really wanted him to, but to see and even more so hear (more on that later) these powerhouses hammering on each other in some of the most violent action sequences I've seen in a 12 certificate was a comic book fan's dream come true.
At the end of the day, I enjoyed this new Hulk movie. I don't think it was better than Ang Lee's attempt, but I did find it a lot more rewarding than I did Iron Man. This is mainly due to the fact that I think Hulk is probably one of, if not, the most interesting characters in Marvel comics. Unfortunately both movies have failed to grasp just what exciting possibilities there are with Hulk and both have confined him to a fairly standard set of story perimeters. Neither have really delved into the relationship between Hulk and Bruce Banner or what each part of the Jekyll and Hyde relationship means to the other. Also what both movies have really failed to do is let Hulk off the leash.
What we really need to see if just how much of a threat the Hulk is to the world around him as well as his friends and loved ones and really get to see what devastation unleashed anger can bring, especially for Bruce Banner. It would seem by the inclusion of Tony Stark at the end of this movie and the hint that the Avengers may very well have their first mission in trying to take the green guy down is that all of this is in Hulk's future and we may yet get to see a fully realised Hulk unleashed.
On a side note to this, I think the Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) cameo placed as the closing scene of the movie (rather than after the credits, which would have been way cooler), undermines everything we've just seen. Its inclusion as the closing scene makes The Incredible Hulk feel a little like a side order to run alongside a main Avengers set up and I think it shifts the focus away from everything they attempted to set up with Hulk in this reboot for the sake of a grander Avengers picture. It's a shame because the scene preceding, which hints at a new twist on Hulk, was some interesting stuff but it just gets brushed aside for the sake of spectacle.
The Incredible Hulk has an incredible transfer. Colours are bright and everything is rich in detail. The Brazilian streets hit you initially with their bright colours and layered structures but even the grey and darker interiors of the bottle factory impress. All the dark moments handle blacks with ease and actually have moments where pure darkness matches the black widescreen bars, which rarely happens.
All of the tiny details within the CG character designs are also plain to see here as well. Abomination's blood pumping around the protruding veins really shows up in this HD transfer and all the hard work that's gone into Hulk's muscle structure and body mass really shines of the screen, which I have to say didn't pick up half as well when I saw it in the cinema.
Everything here is impressive without feeling too clean. There's still the presence of film grain making this feel like a movie and not a cartoon. Sunlight makes everything glow beautifully and the use of light (mainly from fires) in the darker closing scenes really makes everything look great. Hulk has genuinely never looked better than this.
Once in a while a sound mix comes along that fits the subject perfectly. The Incredible Hulk has one of those mixes. The sheer amounts of power on offer here is insanely impressive. I remember thinking at the cinema that the use of bass in the closing fight scenes would be one to listen out for when I watched it at home and to my delight it's still as impressive on Blu-ray. It's fantastic—every thumping footstep these powerhouses take feels like they are in the room. You feel their weight, you feel their power and it adds that extra entertainment value to the entire movie.
Watching it again on Blu-ray I really picked up on just how good this mix is throughout. It seems to nail everything, whether it's score, atmospherics, everyday sound effects or big set pieces. It all just matches the feeling of the film perfectly and despite the lack of any sort of memorable score (outside of the occasional hints at the original TV show theme) I really can't fault this mix on any level.
I said before in my Iron Man review that I look forward to superhero special features because they cover all the aspects of what I love about these characters. Unfortunately, The Incredible Hulk doesn't really bring the goods like I'd hoped it would.
The commentary by director Louis Leterrier and Tim Roth is a bit bland. It's mostly run by Leterrier, who is obviously very excited by the project and its potential future, but there really isn't much detail beyond little stories about what we're seeing on screen and Tim Roth giving a few funny insights but not really getting too involved.
The first, and probably only thing that really is exciting, is the 'Alternative Opening' (02:34), which I believe is a far better opening sequence, involving Banner going out into the iceville nowhere and attempting to shoot himself only to have Hulk wig out and prevent it. I like this because I've always gone with the theory that Hulk is a failsafe to Banners emotional state and this would have made the scene where Banner falls out of the helicopter far more poignant. Oh, and there's also a blink and you'll miss it frozen Captain America in the collapsing ice—nice touch.
The Deleted Scenes (42:13) are more extended scenes than deleted ones, but they really do show off what the makers were trying to achieve here. The main thing that was missing from the final cut is a more in-depth Thunderbolt Ross arc, which really shows off why Hurt was cast and might explain why I was a little underwhelmed with his inclusion in the final movie. He really had all his good stuff removed for the sake of timings and whilst I agree that these moments would have hampered the pace, they add a lot of weight to the character.
The Making of (brought to us by Volkswagen) (29:54) is glossy made for TV fluff. There are a few little insights that make it worth watching but overall there is too little on offer here to be considered in-depth.
'Becoming the Hulk' (09:22) and Becoming the Abomination' (10:16) are little featurettes that get into the design and development of the two big stars of the movie. They also show us the input Ed Norton and Tim Roth had and give glimpses of Ed Norton finding his character—which there really should have been more of.
'Anatomy of a Hulk Out' (27:50) is split into three chapters and covers the work that goes into each of the big Hulk moments in the movie. It's a lot of stunt work and formulating the scenes and quite typical extra feature stuff for this sort of big event movie. To finish up the main bulk, is 'From Comic Book to Screen' (06:33), which shows a comic book storyline that inspired a scene in the movie.
After 'My Scenes' and the 'BD-Live' selection there's the Universal 'U Control' features, which I'm still torn on. I sort of see what this feature does and how it takes advantage of this new wave of technology, but I'd much prefer a lot of this stuff in its own featurettes. On the Incredible Hulk U Control, you get the following:
Thunderbolt files—essentially pop up video with character profiles, maps and back story in text form.
Scene Explorer—key scenes with multiple angles of animatics and levels of animation.
Comic Book Gallery—shows a couple of comic book covers connected to moments in the film.
Animated comic—is same as the 'From Comic Book to Screen'
Picture in Picture—to enable all this stuff to show while the movie is running.
It’s not that I don't think this is cool, it’s just that when I watch it I feel like I might have missed something all the time and end up going into the individual selections from the U Control Scene selection. This is just a personal thing really and comes down to preference rather than dislike.
For me, these features were a letdown. I wanted stories about Ed writing his version of the screenplay and arguments about what trailer should have been put out like was much publicized on the film's build up. There's nothing on Hulk comic history or comic artists or writers and all in all this is a very typical batch of features—especially given the fact we all knew there was a whole lot more to this production that what we've been shown.
For all the excitement over this re-boot and getting the second chapter in the slow building Avengers story arc, The Incredible Hulk doesn't really progress the character much further from where we left him at the end of the Ang Lee movie. There is no denying that this is tons of fun and even more so-on this re-watch. We finally get to see two super-powered juggernauts duking it out, which has frankly been a long time coming and this is some of the finest audio and video I've seen on the Blu-ray format to date (especially the audio).
The Incredible Hulk deserves to be enjoyed as much as the massively hyped Iron Man has been and really brings some old school comic book action out for everyone to have fun with, without letting the story suffer. For me, it's not the best Hulk movie, but thankfully it wasn't that much of a turnaround from the last. Hulk is still a character I love seeing on screen and I hope he gives the Avengers a bloody good fight when they get round to 'trying' to take him down, which at this point seems to be what the future holds. If this happens and Marvel's plan does takes us down this road, I for one will be standing in line with my replica Hulk hands on, ready for some true comic book greatness.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 13th October 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 English, DTS Surround 5.1 Italian
Subtitles: English, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, krean, Norwegi, Portuguese, Traditional Mandarin
Extras: Alterantive Opening, Deleted Scenes, Making of, Featurettes, U Control, my Scenes, BD Live,
Easter Egg: No
Director: Louis Leterrier
Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, William Hurt, Stan Lee
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama and Sci-Fi
Length: 112 minutes
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