Shiny Shelf

The Incredible Hulk

By Jim Smith on 13 June 2008

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

A short movie that nonetheless seems a trifle long ‘The Incredible Hulk’ is utterly, almost desperately, okay.

Good points first. The movie scores in a number of areas early on. The cutting is sharp and frenetic, suggesting the ‘Bourne’ series or ‘Casino Royale’. Director Louis Leterrier shows an admirable willingness to convey plot and character information through visuals alone which is rare in directors called upon to serve popcorn. Opening with twenty minutes in which almost no English-language dialogue is spoken at all also demonstrates a certain chutzpah. The effects are impressive throughout. In fact, Hulk smashes. Hulk smashes good. The final knock-down fight between Hulk and The Abomination (a sort of anti-Hulk who used to be Tim Roth) is splendid.

However, the dialogue really is excruciatingly bad. I’d go as far as to call it some of the worst ever uttered aloud in a major release – and I’m someone who can often stick bad dialogue without a shudder in this kind of movie. The actors, perhaps as a consequence of this, perhaps as a result of dealing with a director who does not have English as a first language, essentially fail to turn up. Ed Norton (who also co-wrote) spends so much time showing off his sad eyes and trying to make his face look like that of Bill Bixby (the 70s Hulk) that he forgets to act. Liv Tyler is pretty and vacuous, her performance reminiscent of that of Denise Richards in ‘The World is Not Enough’ in the sheer implausibility of its attempts to convey an eminent scientist. William Hurt fails to convey either the hard ass grit or the bizarre integrity of the comics’ General Ross. Hurt seems a little puzzled by events and never looks comfortable, or natural, in his uniform.

It’s Tim Roth, though, who is the biggest disappointment. Stuck delivering dialogue written in an entirely American idiom (‘He threw him around like he was a softball! or ‘Bring it on!’) in his own accent, he never seems quite comfortable, never seems quite there. The idea of Roth as Emil Blonsky, a crazed Russian soldier with some pretty sick ambitions, is really enticing. His performance in this film in no way delivers on that appealing notion.

This is a straightforward rendering of the comic book character’s world – filtered heavily through the 70s television series – which is periodically entertaining if entirely unremarkable. They probably should have called it ‘The Largely Okay Hulk’ instead.

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