By Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald
Careful not to repeat the past, The Incredible Hulk does a lot of things Ang Lee’s 2003 The Hulk didn’t: It’s lighter and faster-paced, it’s funnier and it embraces (instead of ignoring) the 1970s TV series that furthered the character’s popularity. Even the requisite (and often tiresome) business of recounting the hero’s origin is dispensed with over the opening credits. When the movie proper starts, it already feels like you’re into the second chapter of the story.
Gone is the dreariness and talky angst that weighed down Lee’s anger-prone Dr. Bruce Banner, played by Eric Bana. In his place is a more resourceful and athletic Banner, played by Edward Norton, who hopscotches over the roofs of a Brazilian favela like Jason Bourne and throws it down when he absolutely must.
The Incredible Hulk is closer in spirit and tone to the comic books that spawned it, and the action sequences, directed with ferocity and a welcome tactility by Louis Laterrier (The Transporter, Unleashed), do an excellent job of conveying the monster’s fearsome strength and power. Even though he’s entirely computer-generated and not always completely convincing, you still don’t want to be in this guy’s path when he’s on a rampage.
If The Incredible Hulk never quite soars, it is because the story of Banner’s romance with Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) and the persistence of her military-general father (William Hurt) to keep them apart has been told a few times too many. It feels vaguely old hat, despite the introduction of Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) as a hotshot soldier who, in hopes of being able to stand toe-to-toe with the Hulk in a fistfight, becomes the even more monstrous abomination.
What The Incredible Hulk does best is rescue the character from the realm of failed comic-book adaptations and prime the stage for another Hulk picture, one that will hopefully venture into a yet-undiscovered story, at least as far as movies go. It’s a sign of the studio’s frantic desperation to distinguish this Hulk from its tainted predecessor that the TV ads for the film have already spoiled a cameo by Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. But the anticipation that scene instills is a testament to how effective The Incredible Hulk is. Welcome back, big guy.
Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell.
Director: Louis Laterrier.
Screenwriter: Zak Penn.
Producers: Avi Arad, Gale Anne Hurd, Kevin Feige.
A Universal Pictures release. Running time: 115 minutes. Brief vulgar language, violence, adult themes.