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The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/21/2008

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/15/2008

There are many common misconceptions about comic book fans. (In fact, there are so many that we aren't going to delve into them here...and not only because most of them are offensive.) Despite the fact that I'm a recovering comic book addict (13 years sober!), I still run into people who assume that if you like comic books than you like and know about all comic books. This simply isn't true. Back in my comic days, I was most a Marvel person, so I don't know a ton about DC or independent books. And, I didn't like every Marvel book, especially The Hulk. I just couldn't get into a story where the main character (when in Hulk form) was mono-syllabic. (And he was always changing color!) Therefore, I don't get too excited about Hulk movies. Perhaps it was this lack of enthusiasm which made The Incredible Hulk such a delightful surprise.

The Incredible Hulk falls somewhere in between a sequel and a re-boot of Ang Lee's 2003 film Hulk. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton), the scientist whose exposure to gamma radiation causes him to turn into the colossal green beast known as The Hulk, has been on the run for five years. Although he misses his true love, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), he feels that he can't return to her until he's gotten his problem under control. And, he knows that Betty's father, General Ross (William Hurt), will not stop searching for him. So, Bruce is hiding out in Brazil, working in a soda-bottling plant, and performing experiments to try and find a cure. He's been e-mailing a scientist who calls himself Mr. Blue who is offering Bruce advice. When gamma radiation is found in a bottle of soda shipped to the U.S., General Ross organizes a search team to head for Brazil. He calls upon the assistance of Major Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), a highly decorated soldier. Bruce is able to avoid capture and he heads to the States to find Mr. Blue. There, he will encounter Betty and learn that Blonsky holds a grudge and will go to any lengths to get his man.

Again, I've never been a big fan of The Hulk, but I enjoy a good comic book movie, and Ang Lee's Hulk wasn't a good comic book movie. The story took only what it wanted from the comics and discarded the rest, totally ignoring a mythos which has grown for over 40 years. The Incredible Hulk doesn't make this mistake.

For years, I've been saying that anyone who is adapting a pre-existing story should take the easy way out and just translate that medium into film form without getting fancy or making up a whole bunch of new stuff. So, The Incredible Hulk screenwriter Zak Penn is either lazy or a genius, because that's exactly what he did. While (as far as I know) The Incredible Hulk isn't based on any one storyline from the comics, it does take characters (even minor ones) from the books and situations to create a story. This works for two reasons; 1) It will appease die-hard comic fans who want a little something extra, and 2) the story here is very straight-forward, so that those who aren't familiar with The Hulk and his background will be able to follow with no problem. Bruce Banner wants to control The Hulk and he loves Betty and the Army wants to capture him -- that's the premise of this film. It may sound overly simplified but it works.

And it works because Director Louis Leterrier is then able to craft a very solid action movie around this story. When we see a movie about The Hulk, we want to see him go nuts and smash things, and this movie has that in spades. The action sequences are very well done, and despite the fact that we've seen The Hulk before, the movie does a great job of keeping him in the shadows in the beginning. Once the big fight happens, it's on a grand scale. The Incredible Hulk goes a step further by offering an equal foe for The Hulk to battle. We've seen The Hulk fight the Army before, but seeing him go up against another monster ups the ante considerably. These scenes must be well done, because we know that The Hulk can't be hurt and they're still suspenseful.

I can't say that The Incredible Hulk is the best comic book movie ever made, but it certainly stands as a textbook example of how to approach a comic book movie. Apparently, now that Marvel is calling the shots with some of their movies, they are exerting more control over how the properties are handled. As with Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk is able to stick close to the comics while still delivering solid characters and great action. (The stellar casts of both films certainly don't hurt either.) If you are like me and ignored The Incredible Hulk based on your views of the 2003 film, you should re-think giving it a chance. If you like action, you won't be disappointed.

The Incredible Hulk smashes Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The picture here is razor sharp and crystal clear. The image shows no grain and no defects from the source material. Colors look fantastic, especially greens (naturally) and blues. The image has a nice amount of detail, and it's a testament to the film that the CGI never looks hokey here. The landscape shots show a nice amount of depth. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. I hate to be crude and blunt, but this track kicks butt! If you love showing off your system, then this is the Blu-ray for you. Stereo and surround effects abound here, and there is rarely a moment when some kind of audio acrobatics aren't taking place. The stereo effects are highly detailed and the surround sound action immerses us into the movie. As one would desire, the subwoofer effects are great as well, and we feel each of The Hulk's booming steps. Overall, a great Blu-ray.

The Incredible Hulk Blu-ray Disc contains many extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Louis Leterrier and actor Tim Roth. The "Alternate Opening" (2 1/2 minutes) can be seen here, and it offers a further glimpse into Banner's despair. The Disc contains 23 (!) DELETED SCENES which run 42 minutes. Some of these are truly deleted scenes, while others are simply longer versios of scenes in the film. These scenes offer more of Banner in Brazil, more of General Ross and Blonsky planning to catch the Hulk, several scenes with Banner and Doc Samson (just for you, comic fans!) -- essentially a lot of dialogue scenes were cut out. "The Making of Incredible" (30 minutes) is a detailed look at the creation of the movie from the outset. We get comments from the cast and crew about how the actors and director were brought on-board, and how the production came together, including the involvement of the military and shooting in New York. "Becoming the Hulk" (10 minutes) explores the creation of the design of the character. We see some design concepts which were rejected, and some nice concept art. "Becoming the Abomination" (10 minutes) is similar to the previous piece as it shows how the monster was created. We see how motion capture technology was used to manipulate the action. "Anatomy of a Hulk-out" (28 minutes) looks at three action scenes from the film (where the Hulk attacks) and examines how the stunts and special effects were combined. "From Comic Book to Screen" (6 minutes) shows how a specific scene from the film was based on an actual comic story. Those comic panels are presented here to show the similarities. For this Blu-ray Disc, the "U-Control" features have four options. We get the usual "Picture in Picture" which offers behind-the-scenes pop-ups. "Thunderbolt Files" offers a heads-up-display which offers text files and maps detailing how General Ross has been trying to capture the Hulk. "Scene Explorer" will open a pop-up window which shows how various elements were used to create the visual effects. "Comic Book Gallery" will bring up comic art which resembles moments in the film (there are only four of these). "Animated Comic" takes us back to the "From Comic Book to Screen" feature.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long