'The Incredible Hulk'
(Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell, William Hurt, et al / NR / 89 mins / Universal)
Overview: Still stuck with the ability to turn into a raging behemoth, Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) desperately searches for a cure that will rid him of his gamma-irradiated alter ego once and for all. However, he's barely given a chance to stop running from the obsessed General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt), who will use the entire might of the U.S. military to find Banner and kill the Hulk. Meanwhile, Banner also must deal with his tortured relationship with Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), as well as contend with a new opponent, another gamma-created monstrosity called the Abomination (Tim Roth).
Review: If you’ve ever gotten angry, I mean really angry, you feel a kinship with The Incredible Hulk. First he gets mad, then he gets even, flattening everything in sight. Even being green seems a small price to pay for power like that.
The people at Marvel Entertainment also have a soft spot for this problem child of superheroes. They've brought the monster from the id back to the big screen, attempting to reanimate the franchise after 2003's lackluster The Hulk, directed by Ang Lee. The result is solid and efficient, if unadventurous, illustrating both the lure and the limitations of comic book extravaganzas.
Going as far as possible from the thoughtful Lee, the producers hired French action director Louis Leterrier, responsible for The Transporter and the Jet Li-starring Unleashed. And, with Ed Norton as scientist and Hulk alter ego Bruce Banner and Tim Roth as his rival Emil Blonsky, at least a hint of strong acting and dramatic interest was ensured.
The hook of the Hulk franchise is that far from reveling in the destructive power he literally has at his fingertips -- the character's origins are briskly recapped in the opening credits -- Banner would rather do without it.
So we find Banner hiding out in one of Rio de Janeiro's teeming favelas, learning Portuguese with the help of "Sesame Street" and celebrating 158 days without an incident of murderous rage.
Unfortunately, Banner's perennial nemesis, the wooden Gen. Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt), believes "that man's whole body is the property of the U.S. Army." He tracks Banner down and recruits Blonsky from Britain's Royal Marines to spearhead a standard snatch-and-grab operation.
As anyone could have predicted, nothing is standard when the Hulk is concerned. But as it turns out, the Rio setup followed by the requisite chase through the favelas' narrow lanes make the film's crisp, purposeful opening half-hour the most satisfying part of the film.
The chase also offers Blonsky a glimpse of the Hulk's power, and once he witnesses it he must procure a piece of that action for himself. The scheming general, of course, is all too happy to oblige, which sets up a final reel confrontation between the Hulk and something called the Abomination.
Norton and Roth are strong actors, and Liv Tyler is properly empathetic as Banner's longtime girlfriend, Betty Ross, whom the scientist reunites with because (a) he really loves her and (b) he is in desperate need of some stretchy pants, having shred several earlier pair in his violent transformations.
Although Norton is good at playing Banner's ambivalence, he doesn't do the creature moments, which come courtesy of motion capture combined with CGI.