The Incredible Hulk (PG-13)
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So, this movie came out in 2008. It is in a different continuity from the 2003 movie "The Hulk." (I saw that movie in a theater, I think, and I guess I never wrote a review of it, because I didn't like it that much.) Anyway, I'm finally watching this movie in 2012, because it's part of the same continuity as several other movies featuring various comic book characters, which will ultimately lead to "The Avengers," later this year. So I thought I should see this first. I should mention that I've never really read any Hulk comics, but I've long been at least somewhat familiar with the character. My earliest exposure was probably in The Marvel Super Heroes animated anthology, or maybe the live-action series The Incredible Hulk. But both of those are things I don't remember very well, since I was so young at the time. In later years, I saw the character in animated movies like Ultimate Avengers and Planet Hulk, and animated series like Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Naturally, every incarnation is a little bit different, but the basics are always the same.
This movie essentially skips the origins story, or at least glosses over it. We see images of the experiment which turns Dr. Bruce Banner into a monster during the opening credits, in which he hurts various people, including Dr. Elizabeth "Betty" Ross (Liv Tyler), but there is no dialogue. After the credits, the movie skips forward in time (I'm not sure how long; Wikipedia says five years, but I didn't notice a mention of time in the movie). Banner is a fugitive from the U.S. Army, and currently working in a bottling factory in Brazil. In his free time, he's trying to find a cure for the gamma-radiation sickness which causes him to turn into a large, green-skinned, incredibly strong, rampaging monster whenever he gets too angry (or too excited). He's also learning ways to control his anger (controlling his breathing and slowing his pulse rate). However, something happens which gives General Thaddeus Ross- Betty's father- a clue as to Banner's whereabouts. So he sends a team to retrieve Banner, led by a British soldier named Emil Blonsky (who was on loan to the U.S. Army, for some reason). I'd never heard of Blonsky before, but... he'll eventually go by a name I have heard before.
Anyway, the attempt to capture Banner fails, and he returns to the States, hoping to retrieve data about the experiment that made him what he is. He's been communicating online with someone called Mr. Blue (Banner was going by the name Mr. Green, which is kind of funny, since he occasionally turns green for reals). Mr. Blue said he might have a way to cure "Mr. Green," if he could get the data from the original experiment. Eventually, Banner gets the data, from his former lover, Betty Ross (who is now dating a psychiatrist). But once again, General Ross and Blonsky learn where Banner is, and try to capture him... this time, after Blonsky has been injected with serum that increases his physical abilities (even if nowhere near the levels of Banner's monstrous form, which comes to be known as the Hulk). We actually learn a bit about the experiment that changed Banner, when General Ross explains it to Blonsky, prior to the second engagement. I don't really want to say anything about that, but it does provide an additional reason for Banner to be on the run from the general. Once again, Banner escapes the Army, this time taking Betty with him. They find their way to Mr. Blue, but of course, the Army find them, again.
I don't want to say any more about what happens. So, I'll just sum up my thoughts on the movie. I've never been a huge fan of the Hulk as a character, though in recent years I have developed more of an appreciation for the tragic nature of the whole situation. And I thought this movie did a pretty good job with that. With everything, really. There were some epic battles, there were some seriously funny moments, there were lots of little things that made it all feel sort of real, and little things that were clearly included for fans of the character's other incarnations, and of course plenty of drama and actual emotion-driven scenes. Plus some cool casting (Stan Lee has an obligatory cameo, and it was also fun to see Lou Ferrigno, at one point). This is probably the best incarnation of the Hulk I've ever seen (but of course, I can't speak for the comics, which I mentioned before that I haven't read). And also... at the end of the movie, Tony Stark makes an appearance, which serves to continue building momentum toward "The Avengers" (momentum which began with a bonus scene at the end of "Iron Man", which came out a bit earlier in 2008 than this did). In fact, that very brief scene made me kind of want to rewatch Iron Man, just for the bonus scene. But it's late, and I've had enough to drink. I should go to sleep....