Oh, I don’t know. I was up for a marathon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (gonna get bored of saying that: M.C.U. hereafter), enjoyed Iron Man (2008), then bumped into this trifle of many layers. Some of them tasty. Some of them tiresome. Most of them lacking the joie de vivre the M.C.U. has become known for. God, is this film earnest and…weird and wrong. I get it: an opening montage of a lab experiment, an old soldier trying to bake a Super Soldier out of his daughter’s boyfriend, who turns green, and angry, and properly limited on the fun front…so, yeah, it’s all a bit grim and frowny, but, come on, they’ve called it The Incredible Hulk. So incredible me.
Look, the first hour of this is interesting, pretty as hell and kinda tragic. Bruce Banner, said boyfriend, acted and secretly written by Edward Norton, is on the run. His nearly father-in-law, General Ross (played in a range of twisty head movements, narrowed eyes and odd expressions by the glorious William Hurt), is after his blood and obedience. Naturally enough, Banner has hidden himself in a bottling factory in Rio de Janeiro. With this comes an industrial gloss to die for, a kindly factory manager using the scientist to keep the electrics on, some angry and unreformed old-world men making passes at a beautiful lady colleague (2008, okay – a time when ‘me too’ was an invitation), said beautiful lady colleague (Débora Nascimento as Martina, not an object until our hero flies through her private space), and a cut finger that drips through pleasingly shot layers of conveyor belt into a bottle of pop… subsequently swigged by a shocked Stan Lee, far far away.
Norton is impressively tense throughout, trying to keep his heart-rate below EMERGENCY-GREEN despite stress, bullying, occasional fights and said finger. We later discover an over-eager erection and close-up lady softness can tip him over the edge.
Anyway, the swigging Stan gets slightly irradiated from his bottle of pop and – aha! – Hurt gets to swagger his stick at Rio and sends Tim Roth‘s Blonsky and a crowd of dispensables to fetch Banner. Blonsky is a baddy. Born in Russia, raised on the sloppily vowelled shores of the Thames, and allowed into the Royal Marines despite psychological issues so obvious they’d startle a focused sloth out of its tree… he bad. Banner is triggered and a rampage of CGI rips up the factory, bludgeons Blonsky’s chums, and leaves Banner waking up several countries away. Blonsky snarls and wants revenge. Really. He also twitches a bit.
So Banner walks to his old girlfriend’s university…and where the experiment on his blood began.
Norton’s Banner is a bit shot away, to be honest. Prone to yoga to control his rages, or excitement, it turns out he’s got nowhere to go but further away. His return to the scene of his radiation poisoning, stalking of his ex in a manner as forlorn as recently challenged scenes in Love Actually, and cheerfully using a laptop to communicate with an unknown and massively high-risk Mr Blue (he is Mr Green) in the hope of being cured…nope, he’s stupid. Really, really stupid. He never ponders on whether General Ross’s approach will cure him. And goes back to where Ross will need to do his work. So…again.
Let’s ignore this bit of the plot and focus on Dad issues. Much like in Iron Man (2008), this second episode of the M.C.U. has a hero pissed at a Dad figure; his ex, Liv Tyler playing breathy Betty, is pissed at the actual Dad, and not overly-loyal to new flame Ty Burrell, who she speedily moves on from to snog Norton ’til his Fitbit goes off… And Hurt’s performance doesn’t help: he’s a dick in a uniform, whose callousness gets exposed by Burrell’s ownership of the one believable character moment in the whole thing. That’s just before Betty beds Banner, but the film glides over the moment with noisy gloss. Echoes of Daddy Stark abound…
Nope. Old Jack here was in a bad mood after the first hour. Roth’s Blonsky is played in sneers to make a plot escalate from annoy-boom-here’s-the-Hulk, to really-really annoy and threaten the girl and boom-HERE’S-THE-HULK to WE HAVE NOWHERE ELSE TO GO SO LET’S HAVE A THIRTY MINUTE CGI FIGHT OF UNAPPEALING MONSTERS. WHO HAVE BOTH GONE BOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM!!!!!!! THE NICER ONE IS THE HULK, BUT WE DON’T KNOW WHY?!?!?!?!
So, lot’s of problems with authoritative men, a sappy and offensive love thing, clunky characters, and all of this before we get to meeting Mr Blue and the inconsistent Hulk. I may be over-egging this, but we go from a creature of blind rage to a man who shouldn’t get too horny to a beast who defends the beauty for no apparent reason. Liv Tyler’s breathy Betty is a damned good reason for the chap’s adoration, but, how, why, when…gah!
Even the after credits sequence is slightly off by being just before the credits. Really.
On the bright side, Tony Stark turns up and Robert Downey Jr signposts the wit of the future M.C.U. releases in under a minute.