Directed By: Louis Leterrier
Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth
Tag line: "You'll like him when he's angry"
Trivia: David Duchovny was an early consideration to play Bruce Banner
I wasn’t one of those people who hated Ang Lee’s 2003 movie The Hulk. At least I don’t think I was; truth is, as I’m sitting here, I can’t remember a single thing about that film (and say what you will about the recent string of Marvel releases: “forgettable” isn’t a word you’d use to describe most of them). Fortunately for the studio, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk got the big guy back on track, giving fans the kind of action-packed movie they were expecting the 1st time around, and featuring a lead actor who’s plenty strong in the part.
While hiding out in Brazil, Dr. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton), the victim of a gamma ray experiment gone awry, is tracked down by the U.S. military, which has spent the better part of 5 years trying to find him. Gen Ross (William Hurt) is particularly anxious to take Banner into custody, hoping to conduct tests that will shed some light on the awesome power locked inside him (the gamma radiation in Banner’s blood causes him to mutate into a giant green monster whenever he becomes agitated). Luckily for Banner, he once again eludes capture, and returns to the States to meet with a mysterious scientist (Tim Blake Nelson) who believes he’s found a way to cure him of his unusual “condition”. Aided by his former fiancé, Betty (Liv Tyler), who also happens to be Gen. Ross’s daughter, Banner does his best to stay out of sight, but when Russian-born soldier Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) agrees to undergo a similar gamma ray experiment, Banner and his alter ego, Tthe Incredible Hulk, find themselves facing off against an adversary strong enough to defeat them both.
The first action scene in The Incredible Hulk (which also marks the Hulk’s first appearance in the film) comes early on, while Banner is hiding inside a Brazilian bottling plant. It’s one of many exciting sequences (the Hulk loose in a bottling plant? What’s not to love?). Yet just as intriguing as the film's action is the mystery surrounding Tim Blake Nelson’s scientist, who promises to cure Banner and return him to normal. Norton perfectly captures his character’s enthusiasm at the prospect of finally dumping his goliath-sized alter ego, though his eagerness is somewhat tempered by the fact that all previous “cures” have failed. There’s also human drama in The Incredible Hulk, as Banner rekindles his relationship with Betty, who’s now romantically involved with psychiatrist Leonard Samson (Ty Burrell). Admittedly, the CGI is a little sketchy at times, but with plenty of thrills, a top-notch adversary (Tim Roth knocks it out of the park as super soldier Emil Blonsky, who gets a whole lot stronger as the movie progresses), and Norton’s excellent turn as Banner, The Incredible Hulk proves a worthy entry in Marvel’s cinematic Universe.
I’m certainly not taking anything away from Mark Ruffalo, who did a fine job stepping into the role of Banner/The Hulk in 2012’s The Avengers (and, from the looks of it, is set to play the character again in future installments of the series). That said, Norton was both effective and believable as the tortured genius who’s constantly on the run, and despite the fact he’s been replaced, he’ll be remembered as the man who finally gave fans the version of The Incredible Hulk they’ve been waiting to see.