Hulk Smash Competition!

June 16, 2008


There was a lot of speculation (mostly at Universal and Marvel) as to whether or not The Incredible Hulk, the reincarnation of 2003’s failed Hulk, was going to do well. At least some of the fears that the not-so-jolly green giant was going to sink its first weekend have been assuaged by a hefty $54.5 million in box office receipts.

This isn’t to say that Incredible Hulk can’t still blow up in Universal and Marvel’s faces. Ang Lee’s Hulk drew $62.1 million in its first weekend, then proceeded to turn on its creators and smash expectations of a big success with a paltry $132.2 million.

These days a movie’s box office success is largely determined by its opening weekend receipts, but I think the second weekend factors just as largely in predicting a film’s money making potential. It’s during the second weekend that we get to see whether or not everyone who saw it the first weekend decided to see it again or, more importantly, recommended it to people who haven’t seen it at all.

As someone who has watched Incredible Hulk this past weekend, I confess it’s unlikely my appraisal of the film is likely to encourage non-fans of the comic, or comic book movies in general, to provide it with the economic stimulus package it will need to avoid the fate of its benighted cousin.

The film is not boring, which is one of the best things I have to say about it. The pacing starts off rolling and never loses its momentum. This is a very good thing, because the “dramatic” sections of the film – i.e., those sections where people “deliver lines” and “progress the story” – are lacking in, uh, well, drama. It’s my hope that Louis Leterrier directed the action sequences himself and didn’t foist them off on some second unit director (nope!), because all the scenes where people are just standing around shooting the breeze leave you either bored or snickering at the inane dialogue and uninspired performances. The showing I attended elicited more than a few bouts of derisive laughter every time Liv Tyler swooned, “Oh, Bruce,” or, “It’s ok, Bruce,” as if it was her job to resolve every scene’s passionless tension with stale expressions of sympathy.

It’s difficult to knock Edward Norton’s performance too much, if only because he was so miscast to begin with. Whose idea it was to cast a non-star with an ego larger than the monster he played is beyond me. He’s already opted out of doing publicity for the film (since when did this become an option? that's like if I had a bad lunch today and decided to leave at 2:30), and this after he heavily rewrote it. If he doesn’t detract much from the film, he also doesn’t add anything, which leaves me wondering whether the film’s overall quality, to say nothing of its profitability, wouldn’t have benefited from a more cooperative star better suited to the role.

I’ll leave questions such as why the Hulk bears absolutely no resemblance to the man he transforms from, as well as why the film’s effects are just as cartoony, if not more so, as the 2003 version, to authorities better versed in such arcana than myself.

Was the film worth the $8 I shelled out on a Saturday night to see? Yes. Would it have been worth the $10 to $15 some movie goers must cough up? I’m going to say yes to that, as well. I’m of the opinion that if a film is entertaining, and this one is, then that makes up for the inadequacy of its individual parts – even if the whole doesn’t necessarily transcend them.

Should Marvel ever remake a movie that didn’t do well the first time after only 5 years? Emphatically, the answer is No.