The Incredible Hulk

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The Incredible Hulk

Release Date: June 13
Director: Louis Leterrier
Writer: Zak Penn
Cinematographer: Peter Menzies Jr.
Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth
Studio/Run Time: Marvel Studios, 114 mins.

It’s a common misconception that Marvel Studios’ The Incredible Hulk is a sequel to Ang Lee’s 2003 film, Hulk

. It’s not. In fact, it has nothing to do with that movie at all. Rather, it’s a franchise reboot, intended to re-launch the character under Marvel’s new in-house movie production company. But the film’s marketing efforts either failed to address the relationship (or lack thereof) with the 2003 Hulk film, or else willfully ignored any potential confusion.

The differences between the two films are fairly vast, and in truth, they don’t merit much comparison. Ang Lee’s Hulk starred Eric Bana and spent altogether too much time pondering the hostile psyche of the titular character, who made his first angry, green appearance nearly an hour into the movie.

The Incredible Hulk is different in every way, starting with Edward Norton's portrayal of scientist Bruce Banner. Norton’s involvement elated fans when it was initially announced, as he’s developed a reputation for playing high-strung powder-keg characters in movies like Fight Club and American History X. The veteran actor actually had considerable creative input in The Incredible Hulk, helping to rewrite the script and lobbying to include more scenes with Banner. Marvel Studios ultimately chose to edit the film as a summer blockbuster, keeping the action upbeat and the characterization merely functional. The end result, however, is quite accessible and visually keen.

The film opens in media res, with Norton’s Banner living a cloistered existence in Brazil, where he spends his days working and training his body to control the Hulk. We learn through flashbacks that his initial “incidents” back in the States brought only destruction and heartache, leading to his self-imposed exile.

This first segment of the movie is requisite if only to help establish Banner as a character, but director Louis Leterrier deserves credit for his decision to set the opening scenes in Rio de Janeiro’s mountainside slums. The sweeping helicopter shots are top-notch, giving viewers a real treat as they plod through the essential back story.

Once the authorities—in this case, the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, or S.H.I.E.L.D.—discover Banner’s location, the action quickly ramps up, moving from Brazil to Mexico, then on to locales on the U.S. East Coast. The Hulk’s nemesis comes in the form of a genetically engineered super-soldier named Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth). And if S.H.I.E.L.D. sounds familiar, it should: It’s the same shadowy government agency first glimpsed in Iron Man.

In that respect, Marvel Studios is firing on all pistons this summer. The Incredible Hulk, while not quite executed at the same level as Iron Man, nonetheless features myriad plot hooks and Easter eggs sure to excite diehards. The mere fact that Marvel seems to have finally gotten its cinematic act together means viewers can count on more top-notch comics-to-film entertainment in coming years. If Iron Man was this summer’s blockbuster cake, The Incredible Hulk is the icing on top.