I am thoroughly impressed by the mulligan taken with The Incredible Hulk.
Different director, different cast, including the dude playing the Hulk, completely different attitude taken towards the movie--but they go with the same title, running it out there like Ang Lee's version never existed at all.
It's ballsy, is what it is. It's like asking a girl out, getting turned down flat, then asking her out again the next night -- and rather than discovering the effects of a vodka martini when flung into the eyes at high velocity (it hurts), she says yes.
This is not normal studio behavior, investing in a franchise that's already flopped. But I guess when all your other superhero properties are raking in enough money for you to build a Death Star out of dollar bills, blow up the Earth, then rebuild that with dollar bills too, the rush is on to get any character who wears a cape or his initials on his chest into the theater before this latest cash well dries up.
In the new and improved Incredible Hulk, scientist Edward Norton's accidental transformation into the Incredible Hulk put girlfriend Liv Tyler in the hospital and general William Hurt hot on his tail. Months later, Norton's hiding in Brazil, learning to control his anger and searching for a way to reverse the gamma radiation that turned him into a monster.
A mishap at Norton's day job exposes him to Hurt, who dispatches a team led by commando Tim Roth to capture Norton and bring him in for study. Norton Hulks out, heading home, where Tyler's data may hold the answer to his cure.
Roth, a born warrior, knows he can't beat the Hulk as a puny human. He begins to take some treatments of his own. The next time they fight, Roth gives Norton a run for his money--and he's only getting stronger.
We all know the bigger question here, however, is whether Hulk smashes. Hulk indeed smash! Hulk smash trucks, buildings, cop cars, even his Hulkish rival. As usual with comic book movies, The Incredible Hulk's got strong action and CG, particularly in the physics of the Hulk's ultra-powerful rampages.
Also as usual, it's got a good cast. Things is, in the script of Zak Penn (writer of X-Men 3 and The Fantastic Four), they're not given a whole lot to work with. The best of these movies humanize their superheroes, getting into how Spider-Man's a good-natured dork or how Batman's a borderline sociopath. Norton's character doesn't really come through at all: he's a science guy who feels bad about accidentally beating up his girlfriend (wuss), but other than that, I'm not sure I could tell you much about the man inside the Hulk.
So sure, cool stuff happens. Monster-men fight. The story clips right along. Norton's quest for a cure just doesn't carry much weight, and since we never saw him and Tyler spend any time together before he had to run away, their love story doesn't register, either.
Eventually, I just started imagining Liv Tyler talking dirty in elvish (but then again, I imagine that nine or 10 times a day, so what's new).
Those are the kinds of things you think about once the movie's over, though. While it's playing, The Incredible Hulk is consistently entertaining (at least, right up until it fumbles the ending) -- it's got a lot of spectacle and a clear superhero vs. supervillain angle that feels like a faithful adaptation of its pulpy source.
But without an effective human struggle at its center, it never finds a way to rise up into anything more.