After watching The Incredible Hulk, and after watching the 2003 iteration as well, I’ve come to a conclusion: The character of the Hulk is one of the most boring superheros, partially because of his Jekyll and Hyde personalities. When he’s Bruce Banner, he’s just a random smart person who is not allowed to get his heart rate above 200 beats per minute. When he’s the Hulk, he’s someone who can only win a fight by being the strongest character on-screen. That’s ultimately not all that entertaining to me.
The opening title credits give us all of the origin story we need. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is injected with some sort of serum, and it turns him into our titular creature, voiced by Lou Ferrigno. He hurts General Ross (Willam Hurt) and his girlfriend, Betty (Liv Tyler) in this transformation, and then flees. We next meet him in Brazil, where he’s learning to control his anger and heartbeat. He works at a soda bottling factory, while also trying to figure out just what is wrong with him, and if there’s a way to cure it.
This is now at least two years later, and now the General and Betty are now fully recovered. The General has decided that he wants his property back, and after locating where Banner might be, he employs Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) to bring him back to America. After a shootout resulting in Banner transforming into the green monster, and escaping. Eventually, Banner gets to America and the army still chases him. A couple of more set-pieces ensue, but none of it is all that interesting or exciting.
The Hulk smashes things, is green and is the size of about three people stacked on top of one another, with arm and leg muscles to match. He can’t speak much, if any, English, and apart from being incredibly strong, agile and durable, is a lifeless character. It’s like having a giant, yet really angry, monkey as your superhero, in terms of how he acts, which leads to you feeling nothing but boredom whenever he appears on-screen, even though that’s when action scenes occur.
There are actually only a few action scenes in this film, which gives me a mixed feeling. On one hand, it means that things go boom and I shouldn’t be feeling bored. On the other hand, it means we have to look at the Hulk, instead of the deeper character of Bruce Banner. I get torn to the side of the latter because of how uninteresting the action scenes end up being, with the first being the highlight, and the showdown between two CGI monsters being the most boring.
But when in control of his emotions and thoughts, Bruce Banner is a character that’s not actually that difficult to watch, even if he is uninteresting. Without becoming the Hulk, there’s no reason we’d watch this person’s life, because all of the drama and tension comes from this transformation. At least his relationships with the characters are intriguing, even if they are far more basic than they should be.
I’ll give you an example. When Bruce returns to America, he seeks out his ex-girlfriend, Betty. Betty, as we learn, is in a relationship with another man, a psychologist who is one of the best in the world, one character explains. But as soon as Bruce comes back, she instantly decides to get back with him, even after seeing the monstrosity that he has the potential to transform into.
Everything just seems to happen too quickly and easily for it to feel realistic. The same rings true for almost every element in the story, with the entire film feeling like there should be a lot more to it. With that said, by the end, I didn’t want any more. I didn’t want to see more of human Bruce Banner, and I definitely didn’t want to see more of the Hulk. In fact, in the final dust off with another CGI monster, I was cheering for the supposed bad guy, if only because it would mean the film would end abruptly.
The best thing to be said about The Incredible Hulk is that the Hulk actually looks pretty good, and the CGI and motion capture used to place him in the real world is almost seamless. The film doesn’t reek of bad CGI or special effects, so if all you want to see is the Hulk superimposed into the real world, you’ll at least get your fill here. The other CGI monster, which I’ve referred to a couple of times, looks worse, but we don’t see it as often so it doesn’t really matter.
Maybe the Hulk just isn’t a superhero that has a place on the big screen. I’m curious at this point, if anyone can make him an interesting hero, without him becoming boring after his first transformation. Maybe this is someone who needs to stay on comic book pages, or in cartoons, where I won’t feel the need to pay it any attention. Not even someone like Edward Norton can bring Bruce Banner to life, and I’m thinking that it may need to be a few more years before this character is rebooted again.
In a time where really good superhero films are made with great regularity, The Incredible Hulk just isn’t worth your time. The action is dull, the situations begin and get resolved far too quickly, and the Hulk is a character that simply bores me. Compared to the likes of something like Iron Man from earlier in 2008, this is a bad movie with lifeless characters and an almost non-existent plot.