It begins with a zippy credit sequence that dispatches with the backstory Ang Lee’s lumbering 2003 version took more than an hour to slog through. And we’re off! Who cares what kind of gamma rays turned Bruce Banner into the Hulk? We just want to see stuff blow up and crash!
You need to know that while I am a Comic-Con-attending fangirl, Hulk never did much for me, so keep that in mind when I tell you this is only a pretty good superhero movie. I like a superhero who is smart as well as strong. David Banner is a scientific genius, but when the Hulk is hulkified he’s too beasty. On the other side he mostly fights a lot of soldiers with a lot of guns and artillery, not as interesting as one worthy adversary.
There’s the obligatory cameo by Stan Lee. There are the obligatory cameos from former Hulk portrayers Bill Bixby (glimpsed on television in “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father”) and Lou Ferrigno and a cheeky variation on Hulk’s signature line. As always, Hulk has to deal with the bursting seams problem and find some stretchy pants. And as often happens with Marvel heroes, a cure seems within reach just as a greater evil based on the same transformative power requires him to get his Hulk on.
In movies like these there is usually a moment where the hero and heroine have to consult some scientist and Tim Blake Nelson is terrific as the professor who is “more curious than cautious.” Edward Norton is fine as Banner, who must plot and run while keeping his heart rate down to avoid an untimely Hulkization. Liv Tyler is lovely as the love interest but as is customary in these films she has little to do. There are some terrific action sequences. I particularly liked it when the Hulk used a car broken in two as boxing gloves. But it all seems a little antiseptic and over-CGI’d. There are echoes of current events — a reference to Homeland Security, some anti-government talk, and echoes of stories like “King Kong” and “Beauty and the Beast,” but they seem derivative and uninspired. Overall, it’s a forgettable popcorn flick with a too-brief appearance by Robert Downey, Jr. as a reminder of what a great superhero movie feels like.
Parents should know that the film has a lot of action violence, crashes and explosions, firing of weapons, bombs, brief non-sexual nudity (side view in shower), a brief non-explicit sexual situation, and some strong language.
Family discussion: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being “more curious than cautious?” Should Banner allow himself to be “cured?”
If you like this, try: Iron Man and the Spider-Man trilogy. And the Hulk always makes me think of the classic anger rampage scene from Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories: