Saturday, June 14, 2008

Well, I Don't Know That "Incredible" Is The Right Word, But "The Acceptable Hulk" Doesn't Work As A Title

As Scott is away with Stacy this weekend to celebrate their anniversary – congratulations, by the way – we aren’t planning to see The Incredible Hulk until Tuesday evening.
Of course, I didn’t really want to wait, and figured that I probably wouldn’t mind seeing it twice, so I decided to see it by myself today.
While in many ways it may well be an example of inferior filmmaking in comparison to its predecessor Hulk – which it is not a sequel to, or connected to in any way – overall I’d say it’s a better movie.
The story is much faster-paced than the slow unfolding of the 2003 version, though it really can’t be described as “action-packed,” either, striking a balance between long, slow character and story development and frenetic action.
Overall I enjoyed it, as it does have some great action sequences, but still manages to explore some of the pathos of Bruce Banner’s Jekyll and Hyde existence.
I don’t want to delve too deeply into the movie’s plot until after Scott has had a chance to see it, but there are a few things I wanted to mention:

The origin sequence – which was handled really well as a sort of opening montage – draws very strongly from The Incredible Hulk TV series, and there are a lot of other little references to the show, such as a cameo by Lou Ferrigno, and the inclusion of, as Stewie on Family Guy put it, “that sad walking away music.”
There was also a nice nod in the form of the name of a college student – a student journalist at that – who managed to record a bit of one of the showdowns between the Hulk and the Army on his cell phone.
The “cameo” by the late Bill Bixby was also clever, and a nice touch.
Before I get on to some of the other homages, though, I want to talk a little about source material in comic book movies.
The story of the Hulk as presented on the TV series is likely to be the one that the general population is most familiar with, and from that perspective it makes a lot of sense draw on that material to a certain extent. However, if you consider that by the time the series came along, Hulk had already existed in comic book form for almost twenty years, and it’s been more than twenty years since the series ended. Given how many comics Hulk has appeared in over the course of more than 40 years, it seems silly to focus too much attention on the TV show as a source for material, given that it is, comparatively, pretty scarce on material.
Also, there’s a very good chance that a significant percentage of the movie-going public doesn’t even know that there was a TV series, or at least never actually saw it.
(I remember being amazed as a kid to discover that there had been a Superman TV series in the 50s.)
Besides, once you start pulling from other sources like TV shows, you start making an adaptation of an adaptation, which can cause you to veer pretty far away from the character you’re ostensibly making a movie about in the first place.
I’m not the kind of hard-line “stick to the comics and only the comics” absolutist I once was, and I recognize that long-running characters who have been adapted into other media have a vast history and mythology that should be drawn from to create an “iconic” version for a big-budget movie, but I do think that when the question of “Where do I draw most of the material from?” comes up, the comics should win out, period.
(On the flip side, too often the mass-media adaptations start to have an impact on the comics themselves, and this is almost never a good thing. For example, Perry White should never, ever, under any fucking circumstances, say “Great shades of Elvis!” on the printed page. Ever.)
Reviews of the movie that I’d read before seeing it led me to believe that it was the case with The Incredible Hulk that it drew almost entirely from the TV show, but while the show’s influence was readily apparent, as noted above, I was thankful to find that such was not actually the case. (I think the reviewers who thought it was probably just didn’t recognize the comic book source material that it drew most heavily from.)
Of course, that could still be considered a negative, as much of the story did draw from the run of the comic scripted by Bruce Jones. People rave about that run, but I have to say that I wasn’t a fan. Definitely had its moments, but ultimately proved to have more promise than it was able to deliver, though I do think the elements that were used in the movie worked very well.
Beyond that, the movie also drew pretty heavily from The Ultimates, including one very specific scene from a story that was titled “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Hulk.”
I also saw some homages in the visual design of Hulk himself. In one sequence, he looked like a Herb Trimpe drawing brought to life, which is only fitting as, perhaps even more than that of Hulk’s co-creator Jack Kirby, Trimpe’s take on Hulk is one of the most iconic.
(Of course, for me, when I visualize a generic/iconic image of the Hulk, it’s Sal Buscema’s version that comes to mind.)
I also saw elements of Dale Keown and Mike Deodato.
(Personally, I would have liked to have seen a little Byrne and Dwyer, and of course Buscema, but that’s just me.)

I like William Hurt, and I think he did a fine job playing the character he was given (the same holds true for Sam Elliott in the 2003 version), but the problem is that the character who appeared in the movie and was called General Ross was not General Ross. Ross should always be presented as a puffed-out, bombastic blowhard, his face almost perpetuallly purple with rage as he spits and sputters. There is a reason his nickname is “Thunderbolt,” after all.
And The Abomination without a pair of Speedos? WTF? Also, why wasn’t he green?

Random Coolness:
The coolest aspect of Marvel starting their own film studio and making their own movies is that this allows them to make movies that cross over with each other. For example, there are a lot of references to Stark Industries in the movie, and a cameo by Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark. The plans are, of course, more ambitious than simple cameos, though, as eventually the movies about the individual heroes will serve as springboards for an Avengers movie that brings all of them together. Also, while the much-talked about Captain America cameo was cut from the movie, there were frequent – albeit subtle – references to Cap and his origin, and, while avoiding spoilers, I will say that we did get some tantalizing glimpses at what we can expect to see in a future Cap movie.

Okay, so I actually ended up writing more about the movie than I’d intended to, so I suppose I should move on to something else.
After leaving the theater I stopped at Best Buy, even though I had no particular reason to do so, and didn’t end up buying anything. It just seemed like I should so something while I was out in the world. After leaving Best Buy I stopped at Giant to pick up a few things, which, naturally, meant that, thanks to the time wasted at Best Buy, by the time I headed out to my car the promised thunderstorm had hit, and I was caught in the deluge.
More than the fact that I got completely soaking wet, and the panic of other motorists at the sight of OMG! FALLING WATER! meant that my drive home took about ten minutes longer than it should have, the thing that annoyed me most about the rain was that, after having been mowed on Wednesday, my grass, as a result of the oppressive heat and the brutal, unrelenting sun, had dried out quite nicely and was looking like it might not need to be mowed again for a long time to come. Now, with the rain, it’s perked right back up, and will no doubt need another mowing this week.
Stupid nature.

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