Monday, 28 July 2014

The Problem Child

To follow the bombastic box office beater Iron Man, Marvel chose to tackle their most unpredictable property.  Ang Lee's 2003 effort at bringing Marvel's Jekyll and Hyde to the screen is politely ignored as the shadow of Bill Bixby stands tall over Edward Norton's incarnation.  Although this time he's Bruce and not David thankfully.

As a TV series, The Incredible Hulk was a mainstay of childhoods anchored around a mere four television channels.  It's for that reason that a heavy dose of nostalgia would help Kevin Feige truly incorporate Hulk into the newly established Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Lou Ferrigno is, not entirely, replaced by CGI as Edward Norton takes the role of the tormented scientist who eats odd meals in bowls as Bill Bixby appears in South American imports.  Norton was no stranger to duality after Fight Club but with the clever incorporation of breathing exercises and anger management techniques keeps the gamma fuelled beast at bay.  For a while at least.

The leading players are vaguely established and the origin story glossed over; this is a movie for fans.  Hulk fans will know all about the gamma rays, Thunderbolt Ross and Betsy but the lab accident and Banner going fugitive could have done with a bit more backbone.  The US military is cast as the enemy as it seeks to get its hands on an uncontrollable weapon.  It's a seemingly age old plotline that has been brought to life by Weyland Yutani and many others.  It's often been said that Hulk was a reaction to The Cold War and the military-industrial complex even if he was a reinvention of Jekyll and Hyde.  A harsh juxtaposition in more recent times to DC's Dr Manhattan.  However, let's face it, allegory is displaced by explosions and green screens in the Noughties and so we have The Abomination.  Thanks very much Wolfgang Peterson, Michael Bay et al.

No, The Leader is alluded to but we are presented with The Abomination.  Woefully miscast is Tim Roth who gamefully gets his Hulkamania on only to be splatted all over the screen.  The Abomination looks like a steroid addicted version of Dogma's Golgothan. 

Just add gamma rays
It feels like a concession, what started off as a reasonably cerebral exercise in story telling soon gives way to smoke filled conservatories and footprints we haven't seen since Jurassic Park, the formula is exemplified by the tacked on end credits scene.  You can almost feel the frantic phone calls getting William Hurt and Downey Jr into a room to introduce a 'team.'

The Incredible Hulk is missing the sense of ambition and grandiose that Marvel gave Iron Man and, later, Thor.  However many nice touches and nods to the past are made Marvel can't quite shake the notion that The Incredible Hulk is a place filler, burdened with lost love, a warm up act for something yet to come.  The lack of continuity as Norton is exiled in favour of Mark Ruffalo in time for Avengers Assemble proves this.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe may be expanding after its Big Bang but quantity isn't a substitute for quality.