I've admitted before that I'm not a big Hulk fan, yet I managed to self-fulfill my prophesy by going to see The Incredible Hulk Sunday night. The film has gotten a fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes, but nowhere near the level of Iron Man, which I think anyone will admit, is a superior movie. But that doesn't make Hulk unenjoyable, it's just that Iron Man came first and was better than anyone expected. The Incredible Hulk is much better than the first try at the comic, and a solidly entertaining movie, but it should definitely not have Iron Man warming up the crowd.First, I'll compare the two subjects, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. Tony Stark is a tech-savvy billionaire playboy who guzzles woman and alcohol and quips like a comedian. Bruce Banner is a poor scientist living in isolation who is desperately trying to find a way to contain or get rid of his monstrous alter-ego. Now which one sounds like a lot more fun to watch? Hulk is funny, clever, and witty, just not at the same level as Iron Man, and it shouldn't. One of the many homages paid in the film (to Lou Ferrigno, Bill Bixby, stretch pants, etc.) to the original TV series which got the character right was the inclusion of that series' lonely piano theme early in the film. It says almost everything you need to know about the character; he is alone, he is a noble hero trying to protect the world while those hunt to exploit him for their own gain. That said, there are many sly dialogue exchanges that lend humor to his decidedly unglamorous tale (the first that leaps to mind is Banner's unsuccessful attempt to warn off South American thugs in Portugese, "You won't like me when I'm... hungry.") and intelligent demonstrations of what it is like to wake up after each "incident" and not only be without food or money, but be in an entirely different country.
Now for the main character casting. The reaction to most fans when Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Tony Stark was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. He fit effortlessly into the role. He was made to play the role. Not the same with Edward Norton, who had a dissimilar challenge of playing a character whose personality was not known for its flair. And yet, he still managed to bring a lot of energy and wit to his role.
Conversely, the burden of CGI challenges was squarely on Hulk to improve on its predecessor's. Unlike Iron Man, this film needed to create non-mechanical super-beings for its main attractions, a feat which adds another level of difficulty. On this, the film succeeds brilliantly, and on that scale, I would say has to be given superior marks.
The more I dwell on the film, the more I realized how good it is. The Incredible Hulk succeeds as solid entertainment, and was well worth my $10.