By abbreviating the origin story in the opening credits, no time is wasted to make this Hulk simply incredible.
As well all know by now (or will by the end of the opening credits), Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) was working on a gamma ray experiment with girlfriend and fellow scientist Elizabeth Ross (Liv Tyler). Using himself as a test subject, an accident triggers Bruce’s transformation into a green-skinned “hulk” whenever he loses his temper. Now hunted by General Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross (William Hurt) who was funding the experiment gone awry, Bruce searches to find both a means to control the beast within and eventually a cure. To hunt Bruce down after a lucky tip, Ross turns to elite commando Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) to lead the capture, unaware that Blonsky’s need to excel is a bigger threat than the Hulk himself.
Even Lou Ferrigno returns to lend his voice to The Incredible Hulk (as well as appearing as a security guard), so for fans of the old Bill Bixby television “Hulk” series (including the trademark “walking down the road” theme), it feels like everything old is new again. With that as a launching point and a nostalgic opening credit sequence to bring us up to speed, no time is wasted giving us what we want; it doesn’t take long before “Hulk SMASH!”
Ed Norton nails the Bruce Banner mindset: I’m dangerous, and I put the people I love in danger. You would think a segment of the film might be devoted to the ultimate fix of doing himself in, but it’s said that while these scenes were indeed shot, they did not make the final cut to “trim the fat” from the film. If so, it would be nice to see those bits added back in for a special edition DVD, but where it’s missing from the film is seamless. The rest of the cast fulfills their characters with equal ability and lends the emotional base needed to make this Hulk transcend a big green wrecking machine into an actual super hero. Time has been good to the Hulk, too; the CGI looks better than ever, conveying emotion and action more realistically than before.
A scene where Liv Tyler climbs on top of a mid-transformation Hulk to try and talk him down is a prime example of characterization; neither she nor the audience thinks that this is a good idea, but she knows she has to do something and does it anyway. There are also other bits of great characterization derived from the immediate situations, exampled by the trailer clip of discussing taking the New York City subway in a city known for its aggression. No need to stay for the extras at credit’s end; they’ve been tacked on before the credits so nobody misses them. Like the final cut of Iron Man, the filmmakers guiding this new Hulk film know their characters, and just like that, Marvel Studios is two for two.
(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)