Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell, Christina Cabot, Peter Mensah, Lou Ferrigno
This summer, our only hope is something incredible.
Scientist Bruce Banner must find a cure for the monster he emerges whenever he loses his temper. However, Banner then must fight a soldier whom unleashes himself as a threat stronger than he.
$55.414 million on 3505 screens.
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby Digital 2.0
French DTS 5.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
Runtime: 113 min.
Release Date: 10/21/2008
• Audio Commentary with Director Louis Leterrier and Actor Tim Roth
• “U-Control” Interactive Feature
• 23 Deleted Scenes
• Alternate Opening
• 17 Deleted Scenes
• “The Making of Incredible” Featurette
• “Becoming the Hulk” Featurette
• “Becoming the Abomination” Featurette
• “Anatomy of a Hulk-Out” Featurettes
• “From Comic Book to Screen” Featurette
PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.
The Incredible Hulk [Blu-Ray] (2008)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 17, 2015)
When Superman returned to movie screens in 2006 after a 19-year break, the film decided to offer a continuation of earlier events. Indeed, it went back even farther than its immediate predecessor, 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Superman Returns ignored Peace and 1983’s Superman III to extend the tale found in 1981’s Superman II.
On the other side of the spectrum, we find Marvel Comics’ Hulk. The franchise made its big screen debut with 2003’s Hulk, the cinematic equivalent of a crash and burn. While the flick scored big with $62 million during its opening weekend, it garnered terrible word of mouth and immediately plunged to earth. After this huge launch, Hulk only made an additional $70 million as it wound up with a decidedly disappointing $132 million gross.
To the surprise of many, this relatively poor performance didn’t kill the franchise. Instead, the folks at Marvel and Universal decided to reboot the series. Reboots aren’t all that unusual; indeed, the Caped Crusader went through his own restart with 2005’s Batman Begins, a flick that followed its immediate predecessor by eight years.
That’s not much more than the five years between 2003’s Hulk and 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, but we find one crucial difference. The Batman series rebooted after four films, but the Hulk restarted after only that one. While Batman lost his way under Joel Schumacher's campy direction, most viewers simply didn’t care for Ang Lee’s semi-esoteric take on the Hulk. Lee didn’t make a bad movie, but his work failed to satisfy many and it left most cold.
Enter director Louis Leterrier and the reboot represented by Incredible Hulk. On paper, this one didn’t do any better than its predecessor, as its $134 million take was virtually identical to the $132 million of Hulk - or actually less if adjusted for inflation. However, Incredible Hulk had to combat the movie-going public’s negative appraisal of Hulk, so similar numbers come across like a victory of sorts.
So Incredible Hulk’s $134 million doesn’t dazzle – especially compared to the $525 million of and the $318 million of Iron Man, its summer 2008 superhero competition – it seems pretty good when viewed against the backdrop of the series’ negatives.
In Incredible Hulk, an experiment gone awry leaves Dr. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) with gamma radiation poisoning – and a curse. When he becomes too agitated, he turns into the Hulk, an enormous and powerful beast. To avoid capture by military forces led by General “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt), Banner goes on the lam and ends up incognito in Brazil.
There Banner attempts to find a cure for his situation and he stays under the surface as a day worker in a soft drink factory. However, Ross’s forces track him down and head to Brazil to nab him. Ross brings in a commando named Major Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) to assist with this operation, but it doesn’t succeed. Banner turns into the Hulk and escapes.
With some promising leads in terms of a cure, Banner returns to the US because he needs to consult his old research. To succeed in this vein, he must reconnect with Dr. Elizabeth “Betty” Ross (Liv Tyler), his former partner – and old flame. The film follows Banner’s relationship with Betty and his work toward a cure as well as his attempts to stay out of Ross’s clutches, a task made more difficult when Blonsky undergoes a powerful transformation of his own.
Given the proximity in release dates between 2003’s Hulk and 2008’s Incredible Hulk, it becomes natural to make direct comparisons between the two. After all, both essentially attempt to tell the same tale. They provide origin stories for the Hulk – though they create him in very different ways – and they follow the government’s attempts to capture him.
We also get a lot of the Bruce/Betty/Ross triangle and its impact on matters. To be sure, Incredible doesn’t rehash the first film’s story, but the nature of the reboot makes commonalities inevitable.
Although I don’t much care for Ang Lee’s Hulk, I do think it has some superior elements when compared to the reboot. My main preference comes from its cast. Both flicks boast very good actors, but for the most part, I think the Hulk actors better fit their characters. Sam Elliott offered a great General Ross, while Hurt is just a little too one-dimensional and monomaniacal. Jennifer Connelly also produced a grounded, wounded touch to Betty largely absent from Tyler’s take. Tyler pulls off the character’s occasional playful moments well, but she often falters during the more serious scenes.
In terms of our lead, Incredible wins by a nose. I think Norton is more talented than Eric Bana, but somehow the latter feels a little more like Banner. Nonetheless, Norton creates a better overall performance, so while Bana fits my concept of Banner in a more adequate way, Norton’s acting fills out the role in a superior manner. It’s nearly a draw, but I prefer Norton.
I’m not especially wild about Tim Roth’s work as the skilled soldier Blonsky. He’s a fairly little guy and not one who seems suited for any sort of military role. He doesn’t convince as a commando, though he comes to life a bit when Blonsky starts to change. Still, I’d prefer someone with a more traditional “soldier” feel in the part, as Roth just never seems right.
Both flicks use computer-generated Hulks, and that’s one area in which Incredible wins – though it’s not a landslide. I understand why the films chose not to go the Lou Ferrigno-style “bodybuilder painted green” approach to the character, as the use of CG allows the movies to create a truly larger than life Hulk. However, computer imagery couldn’t produce really convincing humanoid characters.
That was particularly apparent in the 2003 flick’s lighter-than-air Hulk, but it remains a problem here. The 2008 Hulk feels weightier and more substantial, but he still doesn’t seem real. Granted, one could argue that a huge green monster shouldn’t come across as perfectly real, but if the film wants us to accept the Hulk as part of its universe, it needs to render him in a more believable manner. The 2008 Hulk continues to come across like a piece of comic book art rendered on screen, and that makes it tough to suspend disbelief.
At least Incredible creates a more active, involving flick than the semi-Freudian Hulk. Some will turn up their noses at Incredible as they tout the earlier movie’s pretensions and malign the newer film as brainless, but neither seems true. Hulk wasn’t as smart as it aspired to be, and Incredible doesn’t seem as dumb as the knee-jerk reaction would indicate. Incredible is more straightforward, but that doesn’t make it brain dead.
And it does manage greater visceral pleasures when compared to its predecessor. We get a few good fights; in particular, the battle in the college quad produces some nice thrills. The climax is a bit of a letdown, unfortunately. It’s not bad, but it seems a little flat, and it also reminds me too much of the finale to Iron Man in which the hero essentially fights an evil version of himself.
Ultimately, I take some enjoyment from The Incredible Hulk and think it’s a worthwhile superhero movie, but I can’t claim it does a ton for me. The flick offers moderately superior entertainment when compared to its polarizing predecessor, and it keeps us interested. It just doesn’t go beyond that level and become anything special.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio A/ Bonus A-
The Incredible Hulk appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not exceptional, the transfer usually seemed positive.
Sharpness was the closest thing to a “problem area” here, as occasional wide shots looked a little tentative. However, those weren’t a notable issue, so the majority of the movie showed good clarity and delineation. I saw no jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes caused no concerns. Source flaws failed to create distractions, as the movie was free from defects.
As for colors, Hulk went with a hot South American palette during its early scenes. It cooled somewhat as it progressed, but it maintained a pretty obvious green orientation much of the time. All of these fit the design and looked good. Blacks were dark and dense, while shadows showed fine clarity and delineation. Overall, this was a largely satisfying transfer.
And the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of The Incredible Hulk worked even better. To put it simply, this mix rocked! From the opening ghost credit/origin sequence through all of the fight scenes, the track blasted all five channels through much of the film. Music showed nice stereo presence and delineation and miraculously held its own up against the effects.
Nonetheless, the latter dominated the mix, as they took control of the spectrum. These elements swirled about the spectrum and strongly enhanced the film. The louder action scenes offered terrifically involving and active audio. The surrounds provided plenty of discrete sound that seemed appropriate and blended well with the forward elements.
Audio quality also appeared excellent. Dialogue seemed natural and distinct, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music sounded bright and vivid. The score showed nice depth and solid fidelity; the track replicated those elements quite well. Still, the effects remained the strongest aspect of the mix. From the environmental bits to the sonic assault of the fight sequences, the track featured clear and accurate audio that remained rich at all times.
Bass response was simply terrific, as the track boasted deep, tight low-end elements; look to the campus battle for some serious subwoofer-pumping information. Overall, Incredible Hulk gave us a fine sonic affair that just barely fell below “A+” levels; this was a consistently great track that should act as demo material.
How does the Blu-ray compare to the original 2008 DVD? Audio showed greater power and range, while visuals looked smoother and tighter. This became a decent step up in quality from the DVD.
Most of the DVD’s extras repeat here, and we open with an audio commentary with director Louis Leterrier and actor Tim Roth, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. They discuss visual design and effects, cast and performances, sets and locations, story issues and differentiating Incredible from 2003’s Hulk, influences and references, stunts and action, and a few other production issues.
Roth and Leterrier mix well to create a strong commentary. They cover a nice variety of subjects and do so with humor. Quite a few nice insights emerge across this engaging piece, so it definitely is worth a listen.
The disc includes 23 deleted scenes that run a total of 42 minutes, 45 seconds. In addition, the set presents an Alternate Opening (2:34). With 23 deleted scenes and an alternate ending, Incredible treats us to a massive array of edited shots. The “Opening” is moderately interesting, mostly because it would’ve revealed the Hulk much earlier in the film. It was probably unnecessary, though, and it’s not a particularly interesting scene.
As for the rest, they vary in quality. Many simply pad existing scenes, while we also get a lot of exposition. Those elements expand characters like Mr. Blue and Betty’s therapist boyfriend. These are interesting, but I expect they would’ve slowed the film’s pace. That’s especially true for the stuff with Betty and her boyfriend, as those elements really plod; they’re cool to see as bonus features but would’ve been dull in the final flick.
We also get a few neat jokes. I like the scene in which Bruce delivers pizza to a few different college locations, and the bit in which Blonsky discusses the Hulk’s color is a clever nod to his early look. While I can’t say that any of the cut sequences should’ve been in the theatrical cut, many are interesting to see.
With that we head to a documentary entitled The Making of Incredible. In this 29-minute, 54-second show, we find the usual mix of movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from Leterrier, Roth, producers Kevin Feige, Gale Ann Hurd and Avi Arad, executive producer Jim Van Wyck, production designer Kirk M. Petruccelli, visual effects supervisor Kurt Williams, Canadian Forces Base Trenton public affairs officer Captain Nicole Meszaros, special effects coordinator Laird McMurray, stunt coordinator John Stoneham, Jr., second unit 1st AD Andrew Robinson, second unit 2nd AD Joel Hay, and actors Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, and William Hurt. The show discusses the series’ “reboot” and bringing Leterrier on board, story and character issues, cast and performances, sets and locations, the use of military elements, effects and camerawork.
Given that a car manufacturer sponsors it, I expected a cheesy fluff piece from “Making”. Happily, it turns out to be more substantial than I anticipated. It zips through its subjects rapidly but it explores them reasonably well. The show doesn’t solely accentuate the positive, as it acknowledges some problems along the way. “Making” moves quickly and provides a good program.
Four featurettes follow. Becoming the Hulk goes for nine minutes, 22 seconds and features Leterrier, Norton, Feige, Williams, Hurd, Rhythm and Hues senior animation supervisor Keith Roberts, character designer Aaron Sims, and Mova founder/president Steve Perlman. “Becoming” looks at character design and execution. The program offers a great examination of the techniques used to bring the Hulk to life. I especially like the parts in which we see Norton’s active involvement in the process. We learn quite a bit in this fascinating show.
A sister piece comes to us via the 10-minute, 16-second Becoming the Abomination. It presents remarks from Leterrier, Roth, Feige, Williams, Roberts, movement coach/motion capture Terry Notary, Rhythm and Hues visual effects supervisor Betsy Paterson, Rhythm and Hues lighting supervisor Greg Steele and Rhythm and Hues character rigging supervisor Matt Derksen. As expected, this show works like its predecessor; it simply focuses on a different character. It proves nearly as interesting as the prior program.
Anatomy of a Hulk-Out lasts 27 minutes, 50 seconds and actually consists of three shorter pieces. These include “Hulking Out in the Bottling Plant” (9:44), “Hulking Out on Campus” (10:09) and “Hulking Out in Harlem” (7:57). We find notes from Leterrier, Norton, Feige, Stoneham, McMurray, Roth, Williams, Petruccelli, Paterson, Roberts, stunt commando John MacDonald, FTSI operator Alex MacDonald, second unit special effects key Gary Kleinsteuber, high pressure key Daniel Gibson, special effects coordinator Arthur Langevin, Soho VFX visual effects supervisor Allan Magled, Rhythm and Hues animation supervisors Matt Shumway and Chad Shattuck, and Rhythm and Hues lead animator Amanda Dague.
The “Anatomy” components provide details on various aspects of the movie’s three big Hulk scenes. Many more good notes emerge here, and I continue to enjoy Roth’s refreshing self-effacing side; while most actors claim to do all their own stunts, Roth is more than happy to discuss his limits and all the work he didn’t do.
Finally, From Comic Book to Screen goes for six minutes, 33 seconds and shows part of a comic book that influenced one of the movie’s scenes. It does this in a semi-animated manner. I’d prefer more extensive comic material, but this is still an interesting bonus.
Unique to the Blu-ray, U-Control breaks into five areas. “Thunderbolt Files” updates us on the Hulk’s status/whereabouts with maps and text. The feature adds some decent information and can be a fun way to keep tabs on the various participants.
Only available four times during the film, “Scene Explorer” lets us see these sequences via four stages. We can look at storyboards, computer-generated animatic, the VFX plate and VFX “stage 2”. Though we don’t get many of these “Explorer” moments, they offer a cool look at the different phases of completion.
Also available only four times throughout the movie, “Comic Book Gallery” simply flashes some art – and very little art at that. This feature becomes a waste of time.
In a similar vein, we get an “Animated Comic”. This pops up once during the movie, as it comes alongside chapter 11. When you get there, it branches off to show us part of Hulk: Gray Book 5 so we can view a sequence that inspired the movie’s grotto scene. A running affair, “Animated Comic” goes for six minutes, 33 seconds and becomes a decent addition, though a simple still-frame gallery probably would’ve been more efficient.
Lastly, “U-Control” brings us a “Picture in Picture” component. This mixes shots from the set, behind the scenes materials and interviews. We hear from Kevin Feige, Kurt Williams, Kirk Petruccelli, Louis Leterrier, Tim Roth, William Hurt, Chad Shattuck, John Stoneham Jr., Jim Van Wyck, key stunt rigger Marco Bianco, special effects key Marcus Rait, boom operator Pat Cassin and effects technical director Nathan Ortiz. The notes cover sets and locations, production design, stunts and action, various effects, and related areas.
Though not without value, the “PiP” function doesn’t live up to the format’s potential. The infoirmation seems moderately useful but I don’t think we get enough of them to fill the time well. While this isn’t a bad feature, it’s a bit of a disappointment.
I never counted the Hulk as one of my absolute favorite superheroes, and I can’t say that The Incredible Hulk changed my opinion. The movie packs some fun action and keeps us involved, but it fails to turn into anything more engrossing than that. The Blu-ray provides generally good picture along with excellent audio and a broad array of bonus materials. While I’m not wild about the movie itself, I feel pleased with this Blu-ray release.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of THE INCREDIBLE HULK