The Incredible Hulk

Release Date: June 13, 2008

Movie of the Day for Sunday, May 25, 2008
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Ed Norton is forced to watch Ang Lee's The Hulk.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
22/31 Les Winan Leaps and bounds better than the Ang Lee version, but something's still missing. At least we got a "HULK SMASH!" out of the deal.
29/52 Sean Collier Will be forgotten against Iron Man and The Dark Knight, but not bad.
35/98 David Mumpower My low expectations were easily surpassed by the opening sequence alone. The "days since incident" counter is a great inclusion.
145/196 Max Braden I liked Norton on the run, and Tyler has a great outburst scene, but the action is all noise and not much substance.

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There are mistakes. There are miscalculations. There are box office bombs. Then, there is The Hulk.

Upon first blush, Ang Lee appeared to be the perfect choice to helm the project. The noted director had just created the most financially successful foreign language film in North American box office history. If he could make $128 million with a movie spoken in an unused form of Cantonese, how much money could he bring in with The Hulk? $250 million? $300 million? The logic was sound. Also, Lee demonstrated a masterful understanding of cross-promotion. At a time when Clive Owen’s BMW The Hire ads were the coolest thing on television, Lee made sure to sneak in a Hulk doll at the end of his to remind people about his upcoming project.

There was only one problem. The Hulk never smashed. Instead of focusing upon action and state-of-the-art CGI animation, Lee created a Shakespearean tale of a tormented son desperately seeking the approval of his icy, driven father. Lee apparently spent so much time on this story that he never bothered to check to make sure that the special effects people were holding up their end of the bargain. They were not. Instead of being an epic action film that successfully started a new franchise just as Spider-Man had two years before, The Hulk proved to be a terrible movie with some of the worst special effects known to mankind. Word-of-mouth was as savage as anything ever seen outside of Uwe Boll films.

After opening to a solid $62.1 million, The Hulk managed domestic receipts of only $132.1 million. To that point in box office history, it was the most shocking financial flameout the industry had ever seen. Even Batman & Robin had a better final multiplier (portion of box office after opening weekend). There would be no franchise for Ang Lee and The Hulk. There would be no sequel. His stated ideas for a planned trilogy would never come to fruition. He had done something no supervillain had ever managed. Ang Lee killed The Hulk.

There were occasional rumors about another Hulk movie, but industry analysts universally dismissed them as too ridiculous to be credible. Then, something unexpected happened. Marvel Studios, flexing their newfound financial muscle stemming from the success of other, non-Hulk movie titles, repurchased the rights to the character they had created. Their intention was simple. The Hulk would be redeemed by retelling the story the way it should have been done in the first place. The focus would be on the action and the tone would be in keeping with the comic books as well as the popular 1970s television series. In short, The Hulk would be The Hulk. What a novel approach.

Even with Marvel onboard, there was still reason for skepticism about this project right up until the titular lead was cast. Edward Norton, one of the most respected thespians in the business, expressed an interest in portraying Bruce Banner and his gigantic green alter-ego, The Hulk. His only requirement was that he would get much more influence over the production than is ordinarily given to actors. Excited by the idea of such an accomplished thespian in the title role, the people at Marvel quickly accepted his terms. $130 million later, The Incredible Hulk is in the can and awaiting release.

As a consumer, you are assuredly wondering why you should give this one a shot after being burned so badly by the last Hulk movie. If the casting of Norton isn’t enough to reassure you, consider that this movie has a bad guy who is neither mutant dog nor parent. Instead, The number one villain in the character’s rogue’s gallery, The Abomination, will be the big bad. Even better, Tim Roth has been cast to play the role, meaning that an actor every bit as good as Norton will be his equal in the film. Also onboard are Little Miss Aerosmith, Liv Tyler, as Banner’s sometimes lover, Betty Ross, and Academy Award winner William Hurt as her father, General Thaddeus Ross. So, there is plenty of cause for optimism.

The primary misstep The Hulk made was succinctly stated by BOP’s own Les Winan. Hulk never smashed. Here’s hoping that The Incredible Hulk learned from that mistake and offers tons of explosive action. Given Marvel’s success with their first self-financed movie, Iron Man, we think that their offering will be much better since it didn’t have any studio meddling. Or Ang Lee. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Vital statistics for The Incredible Hulk
Main Cast Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth
Supporting Cast Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell, William Hurt
Director Louis Leterrier
Screenwriter Edward Norton, Zak Penn
Distributor Universal Pictures, Marvel Studios
Trailer Click Here for Trailer
Screen Count 3,505
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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