The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

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I actually hadn't seen this one until I rented it for this review. I don't know why I didn't see it, it just wasn't on my priority list. I figured now, though, if I'm going to call the 2003 version to the carpet, I better see what the 2008 one did, at the very least for comparison's sake.

The Incredible Hulk is part reboot part sequel that cuts right to the chase, giving us Bruce Banner and the Hulk's backstory in a Cliff's Notes version in the opening credits. Bruce is now played by Edward Norton, Liv Tyler takes over as Betty Ross, and William Hurt is her father. Hurt wants Banner so he can make super soldiers with him, and tracks him down in Brazil. Of course, as the Hulk, he wastes them all, but the leader of the special forces group sent to take him in, Tim Roth, wants a second crack at him. He's given the super soldier serum, and it works okay, but it's not enough. Anyway, Banner makes it to the States, where he and Liv Tyler run to New York to find a scientist who might be able to cure him. It's a collision course to wackiness when the army meets him there, and everything looks perfect, until Roth stays behind and gets that scientist to turn him into the Hulk too, only with the super soldier serum in him too, he becomes the Abomination instead. I smell a showdown.

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Right away I liked this one better for its CG Hulk. He wasn't green enough, but he also didn't look like a giant tool like the 2003 version did. I still like the idea of a real person like Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk, but I can see that maybe that end fight would've been difficult, because how does one do the Abomination without making him CG? Going the Godzilla route might be too much. I also liked how the plot of this one fit in with the Marvel universe better, especially with Robert Downey jr.'s cameo. One of the cool things about the old TV movies was how they used other Marvel characters too; but also the Marvel universe in general is one contiguous entity, and I understand if some of them would prefer to stand alone, but I like this approach better of crossing them over.

That doesn't mean this was the greatest thing ever. I did like Edward Norton better than Eric Bana as Banner, but none of them capture that mixture of cool and geek that Bill Bixby brought to the role. Norton was closer than Bana, though. Liv Tyler was wholly unconvincing as a scientist. There's not much else to say about that. Tim Roth was kind of weird too as a special forces guy. I understand indie actors need to make a living too, but they need to find the right role. Here's a great place for a Gary Daniels as a cheaper replacement with less suspension of belief. Finally, this film tried to replace the 2003 version's slowmoving plot with more action, but that action did little to move the story forward, making it just as useless, and not much of an improvement if you ask me.

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William Hurt was much better as a villain than the 2003 version's directionless Sam Elliott. Hurt is a better actor anyway, and at no point did I confuse his lines with things like "Beef: it's what's for dinner", and had Norton stabbed a note that read "It was Tails" into his dead body with a knife, it would've made no sense either. The key to the better performance wasn't just how much better defined the character was. Hurt embraced the role more. Elliott can only do one role: haggard cowboy. Road House was the best attempt anyone made to make him play something else-- haggard legendary bouncer.

One major difference between this one and the 2003 one was the use of a major villain for the Hulk to fight, even though it didn't happen until the very end. What makes all action movies great are multiple fights, and the Hulk destroying a couple waves of soldiers in pitched battles doesn't count. Look at Spiderman. He fights the Green Goblin a couple times. Bring these villains out sooner. The only one I can think of that really worked without an earlier confrontation was Fantastic Four, but that went in a totally different direction as a comic book movie. Again, if the idea here was to right the wrongs-- perceived or real-- from the 2003 version, replacing a meandering plot with meandering action scenes isn't the great improvement it purports itself to be.

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The best part of the movie to me was the Robert Downey jr. cameo at the end. Perhaps that's not saying much about the movie, but I love RDj. I think what made that Iron Man film so good was having a talent like his embracing the role of comic book hero, and the fact that he's embraced it to the point of playing the role in cameos in other comic book movies is even better. I can't wait for Iron Man 2, and it's been a while since I said "I can't wait" for a comic book movie. (If you're wondering, it was Spiderman 3. How well did that work out for me?)

As a comic book movie, perhaps this one works better than its 2003 counterpart, but like I said before, the latter's aimless plot is replaced by a lot of action that doesn't move the story forward any more than that. I also think for all the improvements-- and there were many-- the fact that the film couldn't decide if it was a reboot or a sequel was a bit of a sticking point too. Overall, though, this was a much more fun time, and for a comic book movie, unfortunately with their track records, a fun time is a pretty solid accomplishment.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0800080/

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