The original movie outing for the Hulk in 2003 was a lot of things, but it wasn't safe. It offered a complex spin on the Marvel character and left many fans disappointed who wanted to see the Hulk smash things and not go into his mind. Of course, with a budget of only one-hundred-million, wasn't really the best place to trying out complex fight and action sequences but director, Ang Lee, was going for something. But in 2008 the sequel/reboot The Incredible Hulk throws all those frills off a cliff and still roars in triumph. It retreats to the core values of the Hulk and while it is a film of low risks and low yields, it still manages to succeed in some shape-or-form on its own silly merits.
The back-to-basics feel of this movie is apparent from the opening sequence which harkens back to the Hulk's television series of the seventies and the movie opens with Edward Norton's -Bruce Banner in retreat in Rio. He is searching for a cure while corresponding in secret with the mysterious 'Mr. Blue'. His South-American exile comes to a shocking end when he is tracked down by Thunderbolt Ross who launches an attack against him. One soldier, Emil Blonsky, is particularly over-zealous and Banner has no choice but to return to his one-true-love in the form of Betty Ross.
In this outing, director Louis Leterrier brings a slick, if not entirely sophisticated, approach to the material. But it takes no chances and gives nods to fans and treats the time between action sequences as something to just be sat through. The leads in the form of Edward Norton and Liv Tyler are fine, even if they are short on chemistry, they, like the audience seem to be waiting for the action to happen. And when that action does finally happen, it is visibly CGI but with a lot of real-world heft.
The Hulk himself looks a lot more steroid-crazed than super-heroic and it looks like the quieter version of his character from the first outing has been replaced with a heavyweight wrestling star. And his opponent, the Abomination is even worse, but it does provide a hint of where his anger comes from as it would appear that Gamma radiation makes genitals magically disappear!
Behind the scenes however it is no secret that Norton and Marvel had a public debate over the final cut of the film. Norton wanted a longer, more character based movie, Marvel wanted the action movie they got. But it is hard to see how a more complex movie could have come from material that hones on the zone of happy compliancy. At the end of the day, The Incredible Hulk delivers the goods and waits for the fans to sign the receipt. And a movie about a character like the Hulk, what more could they really do...