Monday, June 16, 2008

Seeing Green

“If at first you don’t succeed….”

That has got to be the saying that inspired Marvel Studios to commission another Hulk movie, considering the box office and story dud Ang Lee’s The Hulk, starring Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly, was, don’t you think?

Nevertheless, The Incredible Hulk opened last Friday to boffo numbers – to the tune of $54 million – and even better, to positive word of mouth. And that’s priceless...and what studios really like.

There was some behind-the-scenes drama that seemed to point to failure for director Louis Leterrier’s reboot, but, as the Great Comic Book Adaptations Gods would have it, success was achieved instead.

Edward Norton stars as Bruce Banner, a scientist desperately seeking a cure to the gamma radiation that poisoned his cells and unleashes the unstoppable force of rage that lies within him otherwise known as The Hulk.

Removed from his life and from the woman he loves, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), hiding in a Brazilian favela, he struggles to avoid Gen. Ross’ (William Hurt) obsessive pursuit, and the military machinery that seeks to capture him and exploit his power.

As all three grapple with the secrets that led to The Hulk’s creation, they are confronted with a monstrous new adversary known as The Abomination (Tim Roth), whose destructive strength exceeds even The Hulk’s own.

To stop it, one scientist must make an agonizing final choice: accept a peaceful life as Bruce Banner or find heroism in the creature he holds inside – The Incredible Hulk.

Leterrier may not have Lee’s esteemed pedigree, but he knows how to deliver a crowd-pleasing summer blockbuster.

Working from a script by Zak Penn (whose credits include the X-Men sequels), the director of Transporter 2 gives our fantastic hero something fantastic to fight – and something fantastic worth fighting for, too.

This isn’t some heavy-handed meditation on I don’t know what. (Hey – Lee’s Hulk movie came out in 2003. And it was a snoozer. Do you remember it?)

There’s action in The Incredible Hulk, natch, but there also is a tenderness to it that is rather straightforward and effective.

And that’s why this version works, and that’s why it rocks. At long last, Hulk, welcome. May you do the Hulk Smash for many movies to come.

My Rating ***

Photo: Universal Pictures.

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