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IN SHORT: The Marvel nods in this film are much more clever than the film itself. [Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images, and brief suggestive content. 114 minutes]
We'll get the Fanboy stuff out of the way first, pissing off all those who really would care too much to know that:
Emil Blonsky is now an American and that Dr. Reinstein left notes and that Dr. Samuel Sterns made the final cut of this film but Dr. Leonard Samson did not and that Stan Lee steals the movie (though Lou Ferrigno comes close behind, according to our audience reaction) . . . oh, and the Hulk is now ten feet tall, as opposed to nine feet in the 2003 misfire and no, Captain America does not appear in this movie. <whew> give us a second to catch our breath . . .
[The non-Fanboy stuff is that Edward Norton did rewrites on a lot of the script, but not enough for the WGA to give him title credit. Something about "not giving title credits for rewrites" and/or "the rewrites being not significant enough to merit credit". Don't ask us to explain. We're DGA and that's a whole different union. And that's enough of that.]
This all-new, all-different (well, mostly different) reboot is honorable to Marvel Comics history, except where it's been rewritten to fit the realities of the 21st Century (meaning Blonsky can't be the Communist response to an "American" creation). Given that we have worked for fourteen years under the guiding rule that you should not have to know the Source Material to understand the movie, we applaud The Incredible Hulk for doing its best to recap the important points of Hulk history, though it's done far too quickly during the title credits: a scientific experiment gone wrong transforms mild mannered geek Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) into a snarling monster. The devastation caused by that transformation injures scientist Elizabeth "Betty" Ross (Liv Tyler), thus sparking an unending hatred on the part of Ross' father, U.S. Army general General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt). So much for movie number one.
The Incredible Hulk picks up the five years since Hulk ended with Bruce Banner hiding out in Brazil, communicating via the Internet with a misterious benefactor code named "Mr. Blue." General Ross, of course, determined not to to overlook the military potential of Banner's experiment hasn't given up on the hunt, bringing in a Special Ops "Alpha Team," led by one Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), to pick up the hunt. They fail miserably and Blonsky, never one to take failure lightly, convinces General Ross to allow him to be injected with the closest thing the Army has to the original "Hulk formula," a recreation of the WWII "super soldier" serum previously thought lost to the world after the murder of its creator, Dr. Reinstein. You'll have to wait for 2011's promised Captain America movie if you want to know more about that one. Said serum endow Blonsky with super-strength and the abilities needed to battle the big green monster.
Oh, wait, we skipped the part where "Mr. Blue", a scientist named Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson) [who becomes The Leader, if there is a Hulk 3], manages to subjugate the Hulk transformations and "cure" Banner, thus providing a potential happy ending for Bruce and Betty. It is the same scientist who oversees the transformation of Blonsky warning him that the result of such a transformation could turn him into "some kind of an abomination." <heh, heh> The ensuing battle between the Hulk and (said) Abomination destroys a good hunk of New York City.
Yes, we've given away most of the story but, push comes to shove, The Hulk has always been about destruction. Zak Penn's gives props to the television series of a lot of years ago, including cameos by series stars Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. We won't spill how Bixby manages it, since he's long dead, but will add that in addition to his appearance, the latter provides the "voice" of the 2008 Hulk -- "Hulk Smash" finally tickles the eardrum as does a mis-scripted "Leave me Alone!" (Hulk always speaks in third person, meaning it should be "Leave Hulk Alone!" oops, the fanboy leaks out) -- but the film improves far too late to make us go all rah rah in its defense. The dramatic portions are outgunned by the animated battle sequence between Hulk and the Abomination that fills the last 20 minutes of the film, and those are thoroughly trumped by the no longer surprise appearance of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), in this film's tease for a forthcoming The Avengers movie. Forthcoming as in 2011, or so we've heard.
The Incredible Hulk works overtime to set up many more films in a still to be determined film franchise. We think more time should have been put into making a drop the jaw winner. Then again, if we knew how to do that without fail, we wouldn't be writing reviews.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Hulk, he would have paid . . .
Push comes to shove, The Incredible Hulk fits our date movie categorization. Guys will want to see it. Girls will endure. Fans wanting more stories in this series should buy a whole lot of tickets. Promised character Dr. [Leonard] Samson (Ty Burrell) didn't make the final cut. That's why dedicated fanboys should buy a lot of tickets; 'cuz we don't know who Ty Burrell is and we're sure he can use the work.<g>
28 Weeks Later
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