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Movies Review

The Incredible Hulk

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The Incredible Hulk
Released on Friday, Jun 13 2008

Director: Louis Leterrier
Screenwriters: Zak Penn, Edward Norton
Starring: Edward Norton, William Hurt, Tim Roth, Liv Tyler
Running time: 114 mins
Certificate: 12A

The Incredible Hulk is an impressive blockbuster that does exactly what it says on the tin. Thrilling and relentless set pieces punctuate a film that is refreshingly free from the tedious moralising and pretensions of profundity that often bog down superhero flicks.

A laboriously-explained backstory helped to scupper Ang Lee's version of Hulk back in 2003, but this new, improved version of the tale deals cleverly with the mythology. A masterfully fluid opening credits sequence conveys all the necessary information with a great sense of clarity and allows the film to hit the ground running.

Within a matter of minutes, we're exposed to a heart-pounding chase sequence set on Brazilian rooftops, as a team of US troops led by mercenary soldier Blonsky (Roth) aggressively pursues self-exiled scientist Bruce Banner (Norton), a man who turns into the destructive green Hulk whenever he gets angry. The commandos are under the weaponry-crazed General Ross's (Hurt) orders to bring Banner back alive so they can harvest his radiation-altered blood to improve their own army.

Before long, Banner gives way to the Hulk, but the sweetcorn-free green giant is wisely left lurking in the shadows and out of shot, emitting earth-shuddering roars and twisted metal projectiles. This allows our imagination to run rampant about the nature of the beast, in a similar way to Cloverfield.

Evoking the brutal and clinical direction from the Bourne franchise, helmer Louis Leterrier grips the audience straight away as the impressive camerawork plunges us into the heart of the action. We can almost feel the smoke encircling our skin and sweat coming out of our own pores.

Events quickly escalate once Banner returns to American soil in a bid to find a cure for his condition. Various types of machinery are wheeled out to damage the Hulk, including the rather inventive sonic cannons. However, the introduction of a love interest in the shape of General Ross's daughter Betty (Tyler) feels like a token gesture, as if the writers are trying to tick the right boxes for the genre.

The rekindling of Banner's relationship with the brunette threatens to grind the fast-paced narrative to a halt, but fortunately there's always an increasingly brash action sequence around the corner to have us back on the edge of our seats. The ongoing Banner versus Blonsky clash certainly makes for a jaw-dropping spectacle once the latter transforms into the superstrength Abomination creature.

Faultless CGI and Leterrier's superb direction enhance the entertainment factor, but the decision to cast Edward Norton in the title role ensures the film has an engaging and captivating star. Like in his career-defining Fight Club role, Norton manages to capture Banner's sense of deep inner turmoil while ensuring that the character remains a highly likeable figure.

Elsewhere, Tim Roth and William Hurt fare less well in their roles as the central villains. The devious chats they share, in which they outline their strategy, are awfully stilted and clich├ęd, with Roth in particular struggling to transcend the creaky dialogue. At times, one half expects the pair to put their little fingers to their mouths and break into Dr. Evil style laughter. Liv Tyler also deserves credit for giving Betty a real tenderness that ultimately makes us care for her fate.

Never taking itself too seriously - just witness Lou Ferrigno's cheeky cameo - The Incredible Hulk delivers some of the finest visceral thrills in recent times, barely allowing us to draw breath as the bulbous hero tackles threat after threat. Apart from a midway lull, as the movie effectively reloads and refuels, this is ideal cinematic escapism that contains a very neat sting in its tail in the final scene.

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