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?”
Watch and listen!
In honor of HSM3, test your memory of musicals with high school settings:
1. What number is on Troy’s basketball uniform?
2. What is the name of the high school musical they perform in the first movie?
3. What 1978 high school movie musical set in the 1950’s featured real-life 50’s star Eve Arden?
4. What 1963 high school musical begins with a song where teenagers calling each other to talk/sing about about a couple going steady?
5. Who was the “Rock and Roll High School” named after?
6. What rock group was the favorite of the kids in “Rock and Roll High School?”
7. Which popular high school musical has been filmed twice?
8. What musical was about teenagers who wanted to have a dance in a town where rock music was banned?
9. Which superstar duo appeared in several different movies as teenagers who put on musical shows?
10. Which movie with a best-selling and Oscar-winning title song was set in a high school where music and dance were at the heart of the curriculum?
This week, as the powerhouse franchise that is known as “HSM” moves from television to CD (top-seller of the year), DVD, stage show, video game, ice show, birthday party decoration theme, and now feature film theatrical release, it’s time to take another look at the original that became the unstoppable hit of 2006, the original Disney Channel movie, “High School Musical.”
When Troy (Zac Efron) and Gabriella (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) find themselves singing karaoke together at a resort on New Year’s Eve, they feel a connection. But then it turns out she has transferred to his school. Vacation is one thing, but at school people tend to stick to clearly defined roles. He’s a basketball star. She’s a math whiz. Their friends all think anyone outside their group is not worth talking to, and the idea of liking anything different is not tolerated.
But they still have music in common — and a lot of chemistry (Efron and Hudgens became a real-life couple). Despite the best, or perhaps I should say worst efforts of bother-sister scene-stealers Ryan and Sharpay Evans (Lucas Grabeel and Ashley Tisdale as HSM’s version of Team Rocket) to hold onto the lead roles in the…high school musical, talent and integrity win the day.
My favorite number in the show is the joyous salute to being yourself, “Stick to the Status Quo.” Can’t wait to see HSM3. Go Wildcats!