Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Once upon a time, in the far-off land of 2003, one summer's day, there was a blockbuster movie coming-out, called Hulk.

The film Hulk had a best friend. Hulk's best friend was called Hype.

Hype told everyone just how awesome his friend Hulk was going to be. Hulk was directed by the great Ang Lee. Hulk had innovative split-screen sequences. Hulk was much better than that rubbishy 1970s TV series The Incredible Hulk.

Despite this, Hulk also respectfully boasted cameo appearances from that series' green-skinned actor Lou Ferrigno and "It's clobberin' time" juror Stan Lee, both playing security-guards. Hulk was that hip.

One of my friends went to see it. Afterwards, he told me that everything Hype had said about his friend Hulk was true.

I believed him, so on his and Hype's word, my other friend Herschel and I paid some money to go watch the film.

Today, I only have a hazy memory of whatever went on that evening. Bits of the film have stayed with me, but of what took place actually inside the cinema during it, I think I have retained only one event.

Herschel consulting his Itchy & Scratchy watch, some time before the end.

Although today I believe I liked the film overall, straight afterwards I think I said that I had found it a little boring, particularly when they had been, at length, testing the Hulk's limits. Although this was really a reaction against all of Hype's earlier claims, the inescapable fact was that it had dragged a bit.

Five years on, it seemed that it had dragged a bit for a few other people too. Still, they made a sequel anyway.

Ah, no, wait, I'm not allowed to call it that. Such was the follow-up team's determination to distance their product from the other similarly-titled film this decade, that they actually packaged the sequel as a reboot.

To help them do this, they re-engaged the services of their reliable old friend Hype.

Hype knew exactly what to tell everyone. The Incredible Hulk was directed by the great Louis Leterrier. The Incredible Hulk had no split-screen sequences. The Incredible Hulk was much better than that rubbishy 2003 movie Hulk.

The Incredible Hulk had also got-in a new backstory, new characterisations, and a whole fantastic new CGI design for the title fella.

Boy, now I really felt cheated by Hype's empty claims five years earlier. If Hype had not been teling the truth back in 2003, then how could I trust such similar claims in 2008? I'm glad I wasn't foolish enough to give Hype my money a second time. Sheesh, Hype made over $306 million out of that trick last time. Not enough, I guess.

However, I must confess that when I watched Herschel's DVD of it this morning, overall I did find The Incredible Hulk to be a much more enjoyable film than I recall its predecessor having been.

My memory of that one, as I mentioned, is somewhat hazy now, so to me there didn't appear to be any disparity between the two's plots. The first one closed with Banner in hiding in South America, and so this one opens with him still there. (though he does seem to have forgotten the local word for 'angry')

These opening scenes look gorgeous. Somehow, the streets of that crowded little town just look so beautiful.

That the story concentrates so heavily on just one character probably makes the whole tale a lot easier to lock-into too. Which is just as well, as this later film even has an entirely new cast, requiring poor old me to figure out who everyone was a second time. Well, almost everyone.

Lou Ferrigno and Stan Lee from that well-loved 1970s TV series have been given cameos again, the former as a security guard. Shessh, it's all looking like a remake now. I'd personally like to suppose that they're actually reprising their roles from Hulk. Granted, Stan's character seems to have retired now, although apparently not gracefully.

The film has some great action sequences, likable support-characters, a funny musical moment (you know the one) and much, much worse CGI. That final act just looks like a computer game to me, I'm afraid.

The oddest moment comes right at the end. I don't know about in the cinema release, but on the DVD I watched, the post-credits tag scene had been shunted forwards to just before the end-titles.

This features Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark from Iron Man, continuing the story-thread begun in the post-credits tag-scene of his film. There are also one or two other background nods to that movie throughout this one, most obviously the use of the Stark Industries logo in the opening credits.

I guess that shared reality is a bit of a double-edged sword, for two reasons:

1. The differences. I spent much of this film waiting for the military to attack the Hulk with that other movie's super-powerful 'Jericho-Bomb'. They didn't.

2. The similarities. Both movies end with the principle character fighting another version of themselves. In the Hulk's case, this makes it even more of a shame that they didn't just call the film Hulk 2.

Still, in true Marvel comic tradition, this shared universe is intended to continue building through Thor in 2011, towards a momentous multi-crossover in The Avengers in 2012.

This sort of cross-title continuity has always been water off a radioactive duck's back in Marvel Comics, however only Hollywood really has to resources to pull-off such a gigantic stunt in motion pictures. Paradoxically, only Hollywood really has the ineptitude to completely screw this up too. For example, whoever becomes a more bankable actor next year might just threaten some of that promised consistency of casting.

Anyhow, given The Incredible Hulk's keeness to distance itself from its own predecessor Hulk, it's ironic that it is so keen to align itself with this different super hero entry instead. In fact, it raises the highly important question of whether the aging security guard who we saw at his fridge in The Incredible Hulk, is also the identical gowned rich dude who we saw Tony Stark mistake for Hugh Hefner in Iron Man.

Maybe after finishing his jury service, he retired from his security job because he'd won the lottery?

Now that really would be incredible.

'Nuff said? Not yet!


2 comment(s):

At 1:20 pm, Anonymous Captain Cameo strikes again said...

I know I'm over 6 years late on this one, but there is a good theory on why that aging security guard looks like the man at his fridge and that oldtimer playboy: Stan Lee actually plays only a single role in all those Marvel movies, even the ones not tied in to the current 'verse. He's Captain Cameo, more formally known as the Watcher.

He watches lives like we read stories, and he's most interested in the most incredible lives. And by the time Avengers 7 rolls around and the stakes are really mounting against our heroes, he might even intervene to impart some knowledge on them that lets them win the day, winning Marvel the award for the longest setup for a reveal in movie history.

At 4:38 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

I am hoping for nothing less.


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