Super Movies – The Incredible Hulk, Part 2

Continuing our recap of The Incredible Hulk starring Ed Norton and Liv Tyler. But first, I mentioned last week that this film departs from the Ang Lee film in several ways to draw more inspiration from the 70’s/80’s TV series starring Bill Bixby. And one other way in which it does that is structure.

The TV series had a simple structure that it almost never deviated from. As David Banner tried to help the Guest Star of the Week with the Problem of the Week, he would turn into the Hulk twice: once at the halfway point, and once at the climax.

This film added to that with an action opening to introduce the monster, but barely showed glimpses of him in the dark. Now we’re halfway through and finally getting our first real look at the Hulk as he battles Ross’s troops on the college campus.

And although I briefly talked about the differences between the Hulk in this film from the Ang Lee version, I want to show it with pictures. Industrial Light and Magic created the Ang Lee Hulk, and made him mostly smooth-skinned and a bright emerald green. There are twenty layers of effects you really can’t see in this shot trying to make this Hulk as completely realistic as possible, but they don’t quite pull it off.

And here’s the Hulk from the later film, created mostly by Rhythm and Hues.

There’s a hell of a lot of detail in this shot: fine lines and wrinkles, pores, blood vessels showing through translucent skin, stubble, yellowed teeth with a tint of green. And grain. I’m not sure why–maybe it’s a purposeful effect to match the grain of the live action film stock, or maybe it’s just light scatter from all the pores–but beyond all the veins and striations, this Hulk just seems grainy, like fast film in low light. I don’t entirely like the effect, like grit in my eyes.

So now the soldiers attack in earnest with rifles and vehicle-mounted .50 cals. When those don’t work, super-Blonsky comes running in, with a nice physical effect meant to suggest super-fast running speed. He does all kinds of acrobatics around the Hulk, but his bullets can’t hurt the beast. Then he leads Hulk into the kill zone of two sonic cannons, but Hulk overcomes their force as well. Then Blonsky faces off against him again, and we see one way in which this Hulk has maintained continuity with Ang Lee’s: he’s big.

Blonsky taunts the Hulk, so Hulk kicks him across a field, shattering nearly every bone in his body. Next, Betty approaches Hulk, who starts to calm down. But then a helicopter gunship attacks, so Hulk downs it in a big, fiery explosion, which apparently sets off the sprinklers, because it starts to rain.

Hulk flees with Betty to a cave, where she manages to calm him down enough to sleep. The next morning, he’s Bruce again. They find a cheap motel, where Bruce suffers a bout of PTSD in the shower, flashing on the guns that had been firing at Hulk before. Like the begging scene earlier, it’s a well-done moment that illustrates the ongoing pain of being the Hulk, and I wish the film had explored this more. Betty brings back clothes as Bruce is coughing up the flash drive with the data. Betty thinks the Hulk has Banner’s good heart inside and perhaps can be dealt with on some level, but Banner just wants him gone. Bruce contacts the mysterious Mr. Blue to set up a meet.

Meanwhile, the General is using S.H.I.E.L.D. to monitor e-mail traffic, and they find out where the meet will take place. So they put a team together to intercept, including Blonsky, who has not only recovered from his injuries thanks to the super-soldier serum, but had a second round of juicing up. Which has unfortunately left him with a little back trouble.

Although they don’t mention it directly in this film, I’m thinking this relates to the scene in Captain America: The First Avenger where Erskine mentions that the serum makes you more of what you are. Blonsky is obviously a monster. Also, a bit of trivia: although the Captain America movie changes the name of the doctor who creates the super-soldier serum to Erskine, the label on the vial that Ross uses on Blonsky is the original comics name: Reinstein.

After a couple of misadventures to avoid detection and some comedy relief in a cab, Bruce and Betty meet Mr. Blue, who turns out to be Samuel Sterns, a cell biologist who is just a little bit too interested in the power of the Hulk. But he tries the antidote he has developed, after he has induced Bruce to Hulk-out with a little electroshock therapy.

The antidote works (and in a nice touch, it’s once again the eyes which signify the start of the change, turning blue to herald Hulk’s change back to Banner), not only turning Hulk back to Bruce, but slicking his hair back as well.

As they’re discussing the results, Sterns reveals that he has created dozens of batches of blood containing Banner’s secret ingredient and begins waxing rhapsodic about curing diseases and whatnot. Bruce insists they destroy it all, to keep Ross from weaponizing it. Which is when Ross’s snipers hit Bruce with tranq darts and Blonsky bursts in. Ross leaves with Bruce and Betty in custody, while Blonsky stays behind to force Sterns to inject him with Banner blood.

Sterns happily obliges, although he brings up the possibility that the interaction between Banner’s blood and the super-soldier serum Blonsky already has could create “an abomination.” Which it does. Blonsky smashes up the lab and knocks Sterns down. A bit of Banner’s blood drips down into an open wound on Sterns’s head, causing Sterns’s head to warp (and setting up a possible sequel down the line featuring the Leader).

And from here on, it’s just pounding and whatnot, because Blonsky is now a completely monstrous Abomination…

With his ribcage poking through his chest and shit. He starts smashing things up, and Bruce realizes the only force strong enough to oppose him is the Hulk. So now Bruce has to do what he has been completely opposed to throughout the film: become the Hulk voluntarily, in order to use him as a weapon.

Hulk and Abomination spend 20 minutes grainily pounding on each other and everything around them.

The fight finally ends when Betty stops Hulk from breaking the Abomination’s neck (and in a truly bizarre twist, Abomination doesn’t suddenly jump up for one final attack after being beaten). But when a helicopter appears and shines a spotlight down on Hulk, he runs away, mimicking Bruce’s earlier parkour chase across the rooftops of Brazil instead of taking the miles-long leaps of Ang Lee’s Hulk.

So the story’s over, except for two postscripts. In the second and more popular one, Tony Stark appears to tell General Ross about a team being put together (to foreshadow this summer’s Avengers blockbuster).

But the other one is more interesting: in a remote cabin in British Columbia, Bruce Banner is once again working on the meditation techniques he was using when we first met him in Brazil. But where he was previously trying  to learn how to keep from turning into the Hulk, he seems to have a different purpose now.

I’m guessing that this foreshadows a Hulk more like the later comics versions, where Bruce Banner could control the changes and even retain his own intellect and personality. And if the Avengers tie-in toys are any indication, a Hulk who also talks. We’ll all find out soon.

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One Response to Super Movies – The Incredible Hulk, Part 2

  1. Sargon says:

    The first time I saw the movie on DVD I HATED the big final battle, because it looked so cartoony and fake. I still don’t love the arc of the fight so much – I think the rhythm is off – but the effects look so much better in HD. Something about the compression on the CGI just does not suit DVD resolution, and the whole sequence looks miles better on Blu-Ray (and I mean, other than just looking sharper. I find that iffy effects actually often look worse in Hi-Def)

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