When I was a child, comic books were my escape — my escape from being a 5-foot-nothing munchkin of a boy who tipped the scales at a whopping 80 pounds and was a favorite target of that most horrible breed of real-life monster: the bully.
Retreating to my room after school with a black eye and bruised psyche, I would grab one of my stack of seemingly several thousand comic books and be transported to a land where bullies and bank robbers and bad guys from outer space were vanquished by cartoon pen and ink drawings of extraordinary men and women who could fly, see through walls and lift skyscrapers as is they were empty toilet paper boxes.
    Of all these imaginary heroes, my very favorite was the Incredible Hulk, who had been turned from mild mannered scientist Bruce Banner following an experiment with gamma rays gone awry into a great green monster, who became the Hulk when riled — like when a bully placed a wad of Double Bubble in his hair. I always imagined myself on the playground, being pushed once too often, transforming into the Hulk and throwing my tormentors to, say, Kansas.
    So, I was very interested in the second film adaptation of my favorite comic book,
The Incredible Hulk, directed by Louis Letterier and starring Edward Norton as the title character. I was hoping for a much better showing than the 2003 version, directed by Ang Lee and starring Eric Bana. For one thing, Ang's version of The Hulk had terrible CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) — when looking at the Hulk in that cinematic incarnation, you never believed he was more than a couple of million pixellated dots created by some fat CGI tech who munched cases of Doritos and drank gallons of Jolt Cola while sequestered behind his computer monitor.
    And there was no soul in
The Hulk. Ang Lee is obviously not a comic book fan, and Bana was about as wooden as a Hulk plywood cutout.
    Fortunately,
The Incredible Hulk has great green globs of both soul and amazing CGI.{mosimage}
    Norton, one of our truly excellent, underrated actors, is perfect as Banner, not too wimpy and not too condescending concerning his genius — he's a brainiac for every man.
    We see the Hulk immediately, as the experiment unfolds wordlessly to open the film, showing Norton transferred into his leviathan Mr. Hyde, breaking out of the lab and unintentionally harming fellow scientist and the love of his live, Betsy Ross (Liv Tyler), and her father, General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt).
    A vindictive Hurt spends the rest of the film attempting to capture Banner/The Hulk, so he can dissect him and finalize his plans to create a "super soldier" to dominate the battlefield. Banner, meanwhile, spends his time on the lam, searching for an antidote to his condition, finally ending up in Brazil where he works by day on a soda assembly line and by night communicates via encrypted e-mail with a mysterious Mr. Blue who thinks he can cure Banner of his "Hulkness."
In a plot detail too complicated to explain in this limited space, General Ross finds out where Banner is hiding and sends an elite military unit, including a nasty little gnome of a guy named Emil Blonsky (the always intense and incredible Tim Roth) to bring back Banner alive. The mission fails miserably when Banner turns into the Hulk during the pursuit and opens up a great big green can of whup ass on the elite soldiers. This defeat ticks off Blonsky, who decides he wants to have the same power as the Hulk.
    Banner escapes, walking all the way back to the States and reuniting with girlfriend Betsy. (Liv Tyler, by the way now belongs to the long litany of women far too glamorous to be taken seriously as a scientist, joining the ranks of Nicole Kidman in
Days of Thunder  — nuclear physician; Denise Richards, The World is Not Enough — nuclear weapons expert; and Jessica Alba, The Fantastic Four  — generic scientist babe in God only knows what field.)
After an impressive showdown on a Virginia university campus, Banner and Miss Ross escape to New York where they find         Mr. Blue, a nerdy scientist who uses all kinds of gizmos and apparently "cures" Banner of his green curse. Unfortunately, Roth discovers the good scientists and forces him to use the same technology to give him the powers of the Hulk, turning Blonsky into a 10-foot tall abomination called ... The Abomination, which begins doing more damage to life, limb and New York City than the giant praying mantis/thingamajiggy from
Cloverfield.
    Of course, Banner finds a way to turn back into the Hulk and whips some Abomination booty, saving the day and setting up the obligatory sequel, which will apparently star Iron Man (Tony Stark as played by Robert Downey, who shows up at the end of the film and says he's getting a group together to battle the Hulk — pan out with Downey's mysterious Mona Lisa smile and raised eyebrow).
    Like I said, I really like this flick. It had human touches that soothes the savage, computer-rendered beast, such as when he wipes away a tear from Tyler's face with a green finger the size of a Louisville Slugger.
    Kudos to the director for planting references to the stars of
The Incredible Hulk television series which ran from 1978-1982 and starred the late Bill Bixby as Bruce Banner and body builder Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk. Bixby is seen in a television clip from as Norton surfs the tube, and Ferrigno has a cameo as a security guard.
    Again, human touches that kept this film from being just another lame comic book adaptation.

Tim Wilkins, Associate Editor
COMMENTS? 484-6200 ext. 105 or tim@upandcomingweekly.com


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