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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

The Incredible Hulk

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The Incredible Hulk

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Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Dr. Bruce Banner is back and he’s taking anger management classes. The mean, green, pissed off machine is still ripping his pants, going shirtless, and throwing forklifts around like they were bottle tops, but now he’s learning to take some control of his situation in an effort to tame the beast within. The second installment of the latest Marvel franchise starts with a two-minute recap of the first film, before settling on a colorful but crowded neighborhood in a foreign country.

Banner (Edward Norton) has exiled himself to Brazil, quietly working in a rundown bottling plant by day, emailing a mysterious scientist, Mr. Blue (Tim Blake Nelson) about possible antidotes to his condition utilizing the country’s exotic plant life, and learning biofeedback to control his pulse and impulses. The antidotes yield only short-lived results, as Banner finds looking under a microscope, his green-tinged blood turning back to normal for a moment before suddenly bursting into a green mini-explosion that actually breaks the slide it’s on. Mr. Blue (Banner is Mr. Green) is an egghead scientist trying to find the antidote to Banner’s blood anomaly by growing his own hefty supply back home.

General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) picks up Banner’s blood trail through tainted soda and intercepted e-mails and accompanies a small army to capture him. General Ross wants the power to be used to make soldiers into organic weapons, or what he calls, “biotech force enhancement.” The Army’s going green everyone. Let’s throw a war to celebrate!

Leading the way in the hunt for Banner is Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), a Russian-born, British trained combatant who has a run-in with The Hulk and brazenly asks, “Is that all ya got?” before being slammed into something very hard that shatters his skeletal structure like a hammer to bone china. Even this does not deter Blonsky, who miraculously recovers (I won’t reveal how) and seeks to enhance himself in a similar fashion. He is after all, what General Ross envisions in a future soldier – an organic killing machine, for whom Banner’s curse would become a prize; extreme strength and power transforming even the inexperienced cadet into an unstoppable and ruthless weapon. Blonsky’s already halfway there, and now he wants what Banner’s got.

Escaping to the States, Banner becomes one of the most wanted men in the country, having committed no other crime than being a test subject of a failed experiment. He haunts old stomping grounds, reconnects with Professor Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), an old flame, not to mention the General’s daughter. He meets the mysterious scientist, Mr. Blue, confronts the General, and ultimately battles Blonsky, who has become his own gamma-ray enhanced weapon of destruction, deadliness pumping through his veins like an energizing poison.

Betty Ross is also a scientist, specializing in cellular biology; her eyeglasses verify this, making her look serious and smart. She is a unifying force between Banner and his alter-ego – they both like her – and her father, whom she opposes but shares a blood bond with. She’s a source of conflict for the three and serves as a constant reminder of what Banner has given up. A near sexual encounter almost invites the green guy into the room and must be abandoned.

Meanwhile, Blonsky morphs into The Abomination, a spiky, overgrown creature who dwarfs the Hulk as they battle through Harlem throwing machinery like spitballs and roaring their rage in pure animal agitation through the streets in a grudge match that can level a city block in a matter of minutes. Will General Ross finally realize the dangerous forces he’s attempting to harness? Has The Hulk met his match? Will Banner and Betty ever be happy together? The answers will be made apparent in a slew of future cinematic Marvels to be sure.

Edward Norton has a calm logic as Banner; low-key and careful, extremely smart. William Hurt starts out as a one-track warrior, victory his only goal, but does some morphing of his own. Liv Tyler’s Betty is loyal to her man/hulk, no matter which incarnation he happens to inhabit at the moment. Tim Roth’s Blonsky is a willing guinea pig with a collection of facial expressions, none of them genial.

Director Louis Leterrier (Transporter) keeps the action flowing and the creatures in shadow to lessen CGI detection that can (and certainly did) hurt this film’s predecessor. Cinematographer Peter Menzies lenses the multi-level Brazilian neighborhood as if it were a sophisticated mousetrap; narrow alleys, rooftops, broken steps, and sudden drop-offs make for a dangerously exhilarating pursuit.

Writer Zak Penn (with some help from Norton) gives a nod to Bill Bixby through a televised snippet of The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, and to Lou Ferrigno in a cameo role, both original Hulks. Muppets are also flashed onscreen to remind the very trivia-minded among us that one of Kermit’s famous theme songs is “It’s Not Easy Being Green.”

Bruce could surely print that on a banner of his own.