The Incredible Hulk 2-disc DVD review

Simon loves Ang Lee's Hulk. Simon was scared of Louis Leterrier's take. How did the two get on?

The new face of the Hulk is going down well...

It’s me. I’m the person who loved Ang Lee’s original take on Hulk, the same film that garnered primarily crappy reviews on its original release, and has since been continually punished and slammed for making an intelligent family drama in blockbuster movie clothing. I then sat through the pre-press for The Incredible Hulk, where many writers and even one or two involved in the film couldn’t distance themselves enough from Lee’s movie enough, with the feeling that they were talking about it as if it was a Rush Hour flick or something.

I wasn’t, then, expecting to be too impressed with The Incredible Hulk, a film that seemed to suck the substance out of the earlier outing, and give people the big, dumb, Hulk-smashing film they wanted in the first place. And, after finally catching the film on DVD, that’s exactly what it does.

But – whisper it – it manages to do it quite well.

Some ground rules first: The Incredible Hulk is not a great film. It’s not an ambitious film, and it’s an entirely predictable one. It appears to be set after the first, with all the genesis stuff covered in the credits, but the action itself kicking off in the South American jungles where we appeared to leave Eric Bana last time round. An on-screen counter makes sure that we know that Bruce Banner – this time looking remarkably like Edward Norton – hasn’t had a Hulk episode for some time, but it doesn’t take too long to get him angry, and for the big green man to appear.

Ad – content continues below

And guess what? Remember all the grumbling about the CGI Hulk in the first film? Every bit of it applies here too, and it’s just as irrelevant. In the context of the film itself, you buy it enough to give the effects a pass.

The limited plot elements soon slot into place (with anything more substantial to be found in the deleted scenes we’re coming to later). William Hurt is General Ross, presented here as the usual two-dimensional army guy, while Liv Tyler then struggles to do much with the underwritten role of his daughter – and Banner’s love interest – Betty (again, the cutting room floor is where the bulk f her performance seems to lie). Then, it’s enter stage left Tim Roth as Blonsky, who fights the Hulk a couple of times, and figures he wants an unfair advantage. Hence, a quick trip to a science lab, and the butt-ugly Abomination is born. Hulk and Abomination fight, you struggle to see what’s going on, things go the way you expect, and that’s pretty much that.

Louis Leterrier, behind the camera, does an entirely functional job with all of this, rarely coming across as someone with a passion for the material, but staging his blockbuster scenes effectively enough. Norton is a tempered Banner, however, and you can see how his role may have been stripped down for the contentious final cut. He adds nothing here to Eric Bana’s take on the character, and if anything, feels a bit like a diluted version of him.

And yet the film still manages to entertain. It doesn’t have too much in the way of logic, so it satisfies itself by looking at you with a huge grin, grunting, and then smashing some shit up. For Saturday night six pack fodder, it just about works.

Of course, the ultimate irony is that it’s done equitable business to the Ang Lee version of the film, which we suspect will curtail the Hulk’s big screen career. But while it’s not a shadow on the first Hulk, The Incredible Hulk is still a decent, unambitious way to lose a couple of hours in the company of routine Hollywood fodder.

THE EXTRAS

Ad – content continues below

Kicking off with the commentary, and producer/writer/star Edward Norton is notable by his absence here. Reportedly extremely unhappy with the final cut, with stories of raging arguments about the direction of the film, he thus leaves commentary duties to director Leterrier and co-star Tim Roth. That the pair barely mention Norton perhaps tells a story of its own, although Leterrier does note at one point of Norton that “he’s good at directing himself” (not the only allusion to that on the DVD). Still, it’s a fun commentary, with the pair clearly enthused about talking through the film. They do discuss some interesting making of details, and also squeeze in discussion of Abomination’s genitals. Some talent.

Then it’s over to disc two, where the statutory Making Of documentary is, staggeringly, sponsored by a major car manufacturer. We’re not giving them the clearly balance sheet-altering pleasure (ahem) of a name check here, but we wonder if they’ll be selling sponsorship on subtitles next. It’s not a bad half hour documentary, but it’s very junket-driven, and all the key talking heads are in place (Norton included). We learn that Liv Tyler thinks Betty Ross is the best part that has ever been written for her, and that Louis Letterrier wears gloves to direct actors. It’s that deep.

Then, to the deleted scenes. Remember when The Incredible Hulk hit cinemas, and there was talk of another 50 minutes of material? Well, there are shedloads of extra scenes here, adding up to 42 minutes in total. Not tatty ones, either: these are final print quality additions that spread over several pages of the DVD menu system.

We cheated and hit the Play All button rather than access them individually, but here’s a digest of some of the excised scenes. There’s an extended opening, an early sequence where Banner dreams of Betty Ross, and more scene-setting material of Bruce in South America. You also get William Hurt ranting that he wants what’s inside of Banner, him going before his superior office to explain the problem of the Hulk, some smart early scene-setting stuff with Tim Roth and Hurt (which sets up more firmly that Roth is a soldier at the end of his career, but one who still wants to fight) and Edward Norton delivering lots of pizzas (primarily for comedy reasons, it seems, but a nice cameo from Martin Starr of Freaks & Geeks is in there).

Then you get, again, some further early material with Liv Tyler’s Betty (which all goes part-way to explaining why she’s barely in the finished film), including Bruce Banner breaking down in tears at her dinner table.

Then there’s a bit of manipulation behind Tim Roth’s Blonsky (again from General Ross’ superior), and enough scenes to pull together a subplot about Betty’s other half, Dr Lennord Samson.

Ad – content continues below

None of the material is anything that would go anywhere near the third act, and it’s not to hard to work out why it was left out. While it beefs up some of the side characters – particularly Betty, General Ross and Samson – you wonder if fear of an Ang Lee version-esque backlash cost them their place in the film. Instead, Leterrier’s movie seems more interested in getting to the action a lot quicker, and thus that’s why what’s here was surely excised. We’d have been waiting a long time for the Hulk to get angry, and you’d imagine that much of the audience would have beaten him to it.

A couple of further featurettes round off the disc. Twin, brief, pieces on making the Hulk and the Abomination are worth a little spin. Seeing some of the early Hulk test material is fun (and it’s interesting to see Ed Norton seemingly directing elements of the film and effects), and both go into surprising depth on the process, with involvement from the two actors concerned.

Next up is an Anatomy of a Hulk-out, which charts the sequences that turn Norton into the big angry green man. It basically pieces three scenes together in its constituent parts, and while it’s quite interesting to watch,

Finally, there’s From Comic Book To Screen, which puts comic book frames again music. It only runs for just over six minutes, and we doubt you’ll spin it again.

While there’s nothing radical in the extras package, it is a beefed up special edition, and with supplements that are generally worth checking out.

It’s clearly, however, not the special edition that most of us want to see. Perhaps in ten years time, we can get a definitive DVD that digs into what went on behind the scenes, and why Norton is ever-present in the promotional featurettes, but not seen in the commentary recorded after the film was released. Because one way or another, there’s a hell of a story there, which this release doesn’t even begin to try and tell.

Ad – content continues below

The Film:

3 stars
The Extras:
3 stars

 

Rating:

3 out of 5