Film Review ‘Anger Mismanagement’ (The Incredible Hulk)

Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, and William Hurt

I have never seen a film deliberately premiered on Friday the 13th, but it seems strikingly apt for an outbreak of mayhem, chaos and explosions, as The Incredible Hulk bursts back onto the big screen this week.

Marvel Films are on a triumphant roll, and deliver the goods here with a surety and confidence which is filled with excitement, adventure, and still manages to tell a damn good story without taking itself too seriously. Not a bad achievement for a film about someone’s 9 foot tall, bright green, raging alter ego!

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is a follow on to the Hulk film of 2003. Although a worth attempt, the Ang Lee movie was too derivative away from a story most of us know pretty well, and was widely criticised for the fact that the big green guy didn’t appear until well on into the films screen time. This new movie effectively really kicks off the Hulks movie franchise, with a vengeance, and it does so with real zip. Sequels are planned, and I for one am seriously glad to hear it.

Here marvel wisely followed the lead of the phenomenally successful TV series about the Hulk in the 1970’s, which starred Bill Bixby as Dr. Banner, and the unbelievably massive body builder Lou Ferringo as his hot tempered other self.

As a result, the film starts with a hectic 3 minute info dump of previous events. With a very neat economy, this manages to not only recreate the series opening credits with enormous affection, but neatly tells us what we want to know, so that we can then comfortably jump to Dr. Banner being a fugitive on the run in Brazil, without wondering why he’s there! It really is very nicely done, and if you are old enough to remember the series, the shots of the unfortunate Banner being blasted with Gammer radiation will surprise you by a sudden surge of warm familiarity. What it was to have a seventies childhood!

Edward Norton is well cast as Bruce Banner, and is satisfyingly skinny and haunted when himself. Norton is a big fan of the Hulk, (if you will excuse an unintentional pun), and was gradually persuaded to take on the role. Having done so, and being assured that Marvel wanted to go in a completely different direction to the pervious film (and more in line with the TV series and comic book); he not only accepted the part but rewrote the script himself.

The guy deserves one big slap on the back, as it absolutely sparks along, and is filled with a lovely sense of humour which is not afraid to take the mickey out of the story, as it is done with genuine affection. There are some lovely touches.

When rescuing a girl from vicious factory workers in Brazil, Banner has not yet learned to speak Portuguese, and his warning translates as “Don’t make me … Hungry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry.” (The shot of him learning the language whilst watching Sesame Street dubbed into South American, and cross referencing with a Dictionary, was just fantastic.) There is also a really wonderful bit where his girlfriend Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) is trying to keep him calm during a wildly insane cab journey across New York. When they get out she absolutely does her nut at the driver, and Banner, very quietly, takes her arm and says “Y’know, I can teach you some exercises that will really help you manage that anger….” I would have watched the film for that alone!

The Hulk is all about finding the strength within to overcome bullies in life, a message the film delivers in spades, particularly the message about knowing how to control that anger, and when to let it out. But it is also a big, slam-dunk monster-come-adventure-movie, and here, too, the film delivers with more than satisfying panache.

Well cast and fast moving, The Incredible Hulk offers Edward Norton sterling support in the likes of Liv Tyler as his girlfriend Betty Ross, and two superb baddies. Tim Roth is very nicely understated as the rumpled, Black Op’s soldier Emil Blonsky, who becomes The Abomination. The scene where the two roaring aggressive monsters charge at each other in the street, and start a fight which takes them through walls and downs a Helicopter, put me in mind of WWF, and I wondered if one of them would tag The Undertaker! But there was even more sinister work afoot in the person of General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, (played by William Hurt.) Technically responsible for the whole dam mess, Ross is a serious career soldier and patriot, whose obsessions in his job have taken him right off the edge of the permissible and into areas of serious unaccountability….

Described as resembling Captain Ahab, this is a guy who could easily become General Jack Ripper in Doctor Strangelove, and is a man whom Strangelove would have seriously liked to work with…

The Incredible Hulk delivers on all levels, even down to the “Lonely Guy” theme music when Banner is out on the road, and there is a cracking reference to Iron Man right at the end. Don’t miss it, seriously don’t, and if you wonder who nicked your favourite shirt off the washing line, remember… The Hulk is BACK.

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