After the overwhelming critic and fan response for Marvel Studios’ “Iron Man,” people couldn’t wait to feast their eyes on what was coming next. At the time, the only Hulk film we had was the not-so-well-received Ang Lee’s 2003 version starring Eric Bana. When it was announced that this film was going in a different direction replacing Bana with Edward Norton, people became more enthusiastic.
Starring Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, and William Hurt, this film follows Bruce Banner as he is continuously avoiding the U.S. government while also trying to find a cure for what turns him into The Incredible Hulk.
Following its initial release, the response wasn’t the greatest, although it was generally liked. According to Rotten Tomatoes, fans and critics seemed to have been on the same page. Coming off the high of “Iron Man,” it was a big disappointment to a large portion of the audience walking out of “The Incredible Hulk.”
Although there are quite a few bleak moments in this film, there are a few positive takeaways. One thing that seemed to have worked right away was telling the origin story of how Bruce initially became the Hulk in the opening credits. This was a good idea for a couple of reasons; for one, it saved at least an hour of screen time. Secondly, it would have been counterproductive anyway, because we had already seen the origin story in Ang Lee’s “Hulk” just five years earlier.
Another thing that worked quite well was the cast. Edward Norton did a fantastic job as Bruce Banner as you felt a sort of humbleness about him. The way director Louis Leterrier was able to captivate the essence of Bruce Banner throughout was an important feat for the audience to be attached to the hero. One of the ways Leterrier did this was utilizing subtle visual aspects of Banner that were explored by him learning to control his breathing to wearing a heart-rate monitor.
The rest of the cast done a fantastic job throughout, however, it felt at times that Liv Tyler (Betty Ross) was in a different movie altogether. It almost became displeasing whenever she was on screen because she couldn’t get any words out without whispering and that’s extremely disappointing because Tyler has proven herself to be a stunning actress. As for her dad, General Ross, portrayed by William Hurt, he does an amazing job as he brings a military demeanor to the role but it would have been nice to have more of his character in the film. Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky, who’s the main antagonist (Abomination) was a great character who is severely overlooked in the MCU even to this day.
Although “The Incredible Hulk” can feel more of a character-study at times, it does a good job at bringing the action. There are only three main action set pieces, but each of them is equally entertaining. The first battle sequence gave a strict “horror” vibe, giving the notion that the audience were the soldiers hunting the Hulk. The second battle sequence in broad daylight was quite amusing as we’re able to see the Hulk just wreak havoc on Ross’s soldiers. The third and final battle sequence involving Hulk and Abomination was the least enjoyable fight. Given that it was set in night-time Harlem, there were some critical moments where the CGI became visual noise and was hard to tell exactly what was going on.
Overall, this film contains a good story, a stout cast, some entertaining action sequences, but unfortunately, it stops there. There’s nothing spectacular to take away from this film, nor it provides any real emotion which is something “Iron Man” done quite well. The film didn’t get you invested enough in Bruce Banner as much as they did with Tony Stark so you never felt that emotional weight, but it is enjoyable enough for the story itself, or if you want to have kill time while eating some popcorn. By itself, “The Incredible Hulk” it’s a pretty solid film, but it doesn’t fit within the MCU as a whole.